Thousands of Hidden Artworks Finally See the Light of Day in Florence

A new public-facing storage facility displays modern and contemporary masters previously locked away.

Depositi Musei Civici Fiorentini. Image courtesy of MUS.E Press Office.

Florence’s Civic Museums run several cultural locations across the city, including the Palazzo Vecchio, Brancacci Chapel, Secano Bardini Museum, Novecento Museum, and the San Niccolò Tower, but in January, Mayor Dario Nardella inaugurated their new depository—a freshly renovated space where visitors will have the chance to view modern and contemporary artworks that had previously been locked away in storage.

The Florence depository is homed in the Santa Maria Novella complex, which was consecrated in 1420. The church and chapter house has a rich history, first as lodgings for Pope Eugene IV in the 1430s, then as a workshop for Leonardo da Vinci. Around 300 artworks are currently included in the new display, but there is potential for this number to grow to over 4,000 artworks in the coming months.

The current works on display come from the Alberto Della Ragione collection, and includes works by Lucio Fontana, Giorgio Morandi and Renato Guttuso, among others. These pieces had previously been kept in off-site museum storage because of a lack of display space. More works from the Alberto Della Ragione collection of 20th century artworks, which the Genoise collector donated to the city of Florence in 1970, will be added to the depository display this year, alongside 19th century works from the collection of the Museo del Risorgimento.

Depositi Musei Civici Fiorentini. Image courtesy of MUS.E Press Office.

Depositi Musei Civici Fiorentini. Image courtesy of MUS.E Press Office.

The Santa Maria Novella depository was created as part of a redevelopment campaign by the Italian Technical Services and Culture and Sport Departments. The rooms now used for the new display had been empty since 2016, before which time they were a Carabinieri Marshals and Brigadiers School. The renovation cost €2 million ($2.16 million), with a further €200,000 ($216,000) expected to be spent for further developments.

Major Nardella said at the depository’s inauguration that “it’s a real pity that in Italy, a country with such a high concentration of works of art, that so many artworks are locked in storage without citizens being able to admire them”, but that they have now “achieved an ambitious goal: these spaces will contain almost 4,500 works from our deposits that will be enjoyed by citizens, scholars and tourists”.

Many museums are currently asking themselves how they can innovate on their current models to bring in new audiences, from the success of late night openings at institutions like London’s National Gallery and Tate, to the V&A seeking advice from pop culture superfans. Florence Civic Museums isn’t the first organisation to put their archives on display, with London’s Prince Philip Maritime Collections Centre archives being open for public visits since 2018, and Rotterdam’s Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen becoming the first purpose-built public storage facility in 2021.

The Florence depository was opened for paid pubic visits in February, and prospective visitors can book their tickets through the Muse Firenze website.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
Article topics