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Bucarelli, Palma

    Image Credit: Milestone Rome

    Full Name: Bucarelli, Palma

    Gender: female

    Date Born: 1910

    Date Died: 1998

    Place Born: Rome, Lazio, Italy

    Place Died: Rome, Lazio, Italy

    Home Country/ies: Italy

    Subject Area(s): Gender identity, Italian (culture or style), Modern (style or period), and women (female humans)Women

    Career(s): curators


    Curator and Director of the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna di Roma, (National Gallery of Modern Art, Rome) 1942-1975; first woman art museum director in Italy. Bucarelli studied art history at the University of Rome under Adolfo Venturi and Pietro Toesca. After graduation, she joined the department of Antiquities and Fine Arts, part of the Ministry of Education. She remained at the department as fascism overtook Italy. At the height of World War II, she assumed the directorship of the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome, in 1942. Her efforts saved the collection from the air raids. As the Allies entered Italy and the Fascist Ministry moved to Padua, Bucarelli remained in Rome with her museum. She watched as colleagues, including Giulio Carlo Argan were dismissed by the government for failing to take a fascist oath of loyalty. By 1944, she reopned the museum, restoring works by non-Italian artists which had been removed during the Fascist Era for nationalist sentiment. After the War, she organized shows. Bucarelli solicited the advice of prominet art critics and scholars such as Corrado Maltese (1921-2001), Nello Ponente and Maurizio Calvesi (b. 1927) to advise on acquitisions. These included the Futurist movement, Italian mainstream modernists such as Modigliani, Moranti and Savinio, as well as Abstract Art from Italy and the West. She launched a major Picasso show at the Gallery in 1953. Her 1954 Alberto Burri exhibition brought a controversy in the Italian Parliament, when members considered him a foreigner to have a show in the national museum. Other exhibitions included Piet Mondrian in 1956, Jackson Pollock in 1958 (a year before the artist’s death), Casimir Malevich in 1959 and Mark Rothko in 1962. That same year she bought a Van Gogh for the gallery, “The Woman from Arles” only the second held in a public Italina collection. Her catalog on Jean Fautrier, published in 1960, remains an important work. During her tenure she secured Luigi Cosenza as architect for the new wing of the gallery. She married the journalist and writer Paolo Monelli (1894-1984) in 1963. Bucarelli retired from the Gallery in 1975, donating her personal collection of paintings to the Gallery in 1996. She died in 1998 at the age of eighty in a Rome hospital. A striking woman with a fashionable wardrobe, she left her famous clothing collection to the al Museo delle Arti Decorative Boncompagni Ludovisi (Museum Decorative Arts) in Rome. The Gallery mounted an exhibition of her donation and accomplishments in 2009.

    Selected Bibliography

    Esposizione d’arte contemporanea: Roma, 1944-1945. Rome: Galleria Nazionle d’Arte Moderna, 1944; The National Gallery of Modern Art, Rome-Valle Guilia. Rome: Istituto poligrafico dello Stato, Libreria dello Stato, 1954; Jean Fautrier; pittura e materia. Milan: Il Saggiatore 1960; Scultori italiani contemporanei. Milan: A. Martello, 1967; Giacometti. Rome: Editalia 1962; Gustave Courbet (1819-1877). Rome: De Luca, 1969.


    Brey, Ilaria Dagnini. The Venus Fixers. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009, p. 22-23; Margozzi, Mariastella. Palma Bucarelli: il museo come avanguardia. Milan: Electa, 2009; [obituary:] “Palma Bucarelli.” Le Monde July 30 1998.


    "Bucarelli, Palma." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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