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Brera Art Gallery
art museum
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Brera Art Gallery
art museum
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Via Brera 28
Milano
Italy

cschuster's picture

Sr. Contributor

Recently renovated, with more plans for improvement so you'll actually have a good time with the art.

Until recently, as in April 2016, the museum was run with a very 1800s curatorial mindset. We're talking asylum-chic. Stark white walls with weak lighting emulating conditions under which Renaissance painters would have created most of the museum's collection. For real, there weren't even labels on the paintings. And one of its most famous works was hung less than two feet off the ground so viewers had to kneel to see it, as if that would be fun. The only cool thing about the place (for serious art history nerds) was the glass walled room where you could watch conservationists go about their work, putting a Krispy Kreme spin on poking Q-tips at fine art. Now, with direction from an actual human being with foresight and ambition, the museum is replete with staged lighting and labels so you won't need a PhD to enjoy the art.

The Brera was originally used as a Jesuit college, but re-imagined in the mid-1700s as an art space because of a personal request from Empress Maria Theresa of the Holy Roman Empire. The Brera holds a unique position among Italy's most important museums. Where most opened as private collections and were eventually donated to the public, the Brera's history was more bureaucratic, offering the solution to a problem close to Napoleon's heart. The French imperial army was conquering Europe like they invented it. As such, Napoleon was gathering up loads of war spoils (read: other people's art) without the proper storage space. Luckily, he'd recently promoted himself to President of Italy and the Brera had room to spare. Hey, presto, the Brera was seeded with its first collection of uh-mazing art.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Pinacoteca di Brera

The Pinacoteca di Brera ("Brera Art Gallery") is the main public gallery for paintings in Milan, Italy. It contains one of the foremost collections of Italian paintings, an outgrowth of the cultural program of the Brera Academy, which shares the site in the Palazzo Brera.

History

The Palazzo Brera owes its name to the Germanic braida, indicating a grassy opening in the city structure: compare the Bra of Verona. The convent on the site passed to the Jesuits (1572), then underwent a radical rebuilding by Francesco Maria Richini (1627–28). When the Jesuits were disbanded in 1773, the palazzo remained the seat of the astronomical Observatory and the Braidense National Library founded by the Jesuits. In 1774 were added the herbarium of the new botanical garden. The buildings were extended to designs by Giuseppe Piermarini, who was appointed professor in the Academy when it was formally founded in 1776, with Giuseppe Parini as dean. Piermarini taught at the Academy for 20 years, while he was controller of the city's urbanistic projects, like the public gardens (1787–1788) and piazza Fontana, (1780—1782).

For the better teaching of architecture, sculpture and the other arts, the Academy initiated by Parini was provided with a collection of casts after the Antique, an essential for inculcating a refined Neoclassicism in the students. Under Parini's successors, the abate Carlo Bianconi (1778–1802) and artist Giuseppe Bossi (1802–1807), the Academy acquired the first paintings of its pinacoteca during the reassignment of works of Italian art that characterized the Napoleonic era. Raphael's Sposalizio (the Marriage of the Virgin) was the key painting of the early collection, and the Academy increased its cultural scope by taking on associates across the First French Empire: David, Pietro Benvenuti, Vincenzo Camuccini, Canova, Thorvaldsen and the archaeologist Ennio Quirino Visconti. In 1805, under Bossi's direction, the series of annual exhibitions was initiated with a system of prizes, a counterpart of the Paris Salons, which served to identify Milan as the cultural capital for contemporary painting in Italy through the 19th century. The Academy's artistic committee, the Commissione di Ornato exercised a controlling influence on public monuments, a precursor of today's Sopraintendenze delle Belle Arti.

The Romantic era witnessed the triumph of academic history painting, guided at the Academy by Francesco Hayez, and the introduction of the landscape as an acceptable academic genre, inspired by Massimo D'Azeglio and Giuseppe Bisi, while the Academy moved towards becoming an institution for teaching the history of art. Thus in 1882 the Paintings Gallery was separated from the Academy.

From 1891 the exhibitions were reduced to triennial events, and architectural projects developed their autonomous course. During the period of the avant-garde when Modernism was becoming established, the director of the Academy Camillo Boito had as pupil Luca Beltrami, and Cesare Tallone taught Carlo Carrà and Achille Funi.

The Brera Observatory hosted the astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli for four decades, and the Orto Botanico di Brera is a historic botanical garden located behind the Pinacoteca.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Pinacoteca di Brera.