ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

South-Asian art in Italy: a historical analysis of the methodologies of museum cultural mediation at the Museo Nazionale di Arte Orientale (now MuCiv)


Contardi Luca - La Sapienza Università di Roma, Rome, Italy


12 – South Asian Collections in European Museums: Examining their acquisition, display, and futures


 The largest South-Asian art collection in Italy is currently held at Museo delle Civiltà in Rome, only partially exhibited and awaiting for a long-needed re-organisation and update of the display design. Its history is not linear. It is part of a larger collection of Asian art, the original core of which consists of artefacts from the archaeological missions to Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan of the Italian Institute for the Middle and Far East (IsMEO), later the Italian Institute for Africa and the Orient (IsIAO), as well as objects acquired in Nepal and Tibet by Giuseppe Tucci between 1928 and 1954. The National Museum of Oriental Art was then established in 1957 and opened to the public in 1958. Its holdings have increased over the years thanks to purchases, exchanges and donations from private individuals and organisations. In 2016, the National Museum of Oriental Art merged into the Museum of Civilisations (MuCiv), and incorporated the Asian collections of the National Prehistoric and Ethnographic Museum. In this research, I propose a historical reconstruction of the exhibitions and an analysis of the methodologies of cultural mediation, from its first location in Palazzo Brancaccio to the current Fascist-era site at EUR, in order to outline a theoretical framework for the design of the future display, in the wake of decolonisation and participatory museum practices, fundamental for the enhancement of the collection.