Torino was the first Italian city to foster a public collection of modern art as an integral part of its Civic Museum, which opened in 1863. The collections were originally housed with the ancient art collections in a building close to the Mole Antonelliana.
In 1895 they were transferred to a building near corso Siccardi (now corso Galileo Ferraris), which had been built years earlier for an art exhibition, and where there they remained until 1942.

After the building’s destruction during the World War II, the current building, designed by Carlo Bassi and Goffredo Boschetti, was erected on the same site and was inaugurated in 1959. The building later became unusable in the early 1980s and was opened to the public again in 1993 after extensive redevelopment.

During the redevelopment the exhibition area was expanded, modern facilities were installed and the whole building was made accessible to disabled visitors. Since 2003 the Museum is part of the Fondazione Torino Musei. 
During the renovation years, extensive conservation and restoration work was carried out on the art collections. The current museum complex comprises galleries for the permanent collection, temporary exhibition spaces and areas for educational activities. The GAM houses the art library and photographic archive of the Fondazione Torino Musei, both of which are open to the public.

After the September 1999 renovation project and the reorganisation of the nineteenth century (second floor) and twentieth century (first floor) sections, and following the refurbishment of the bookshop, café and atrium, the video library was also opened to the public: the library is a major asset for anyone wishing to learn about and study art videos and films.

The collections currently comprise over 45,000 works including paintings, sculptures, installations and photographs in addition to an extensive collection of drawings and engravings and one of the most important European collections of art films and videos. On the strength this array of holdings, the GAM keeps true to its original commitment to contemporary research and fosters on-going interaction between its historical works and contemporary cultural debate by developing its exhibition programme with a view to closely linking the present day and the historical collections. Since late October 2009 the collection’s works have been arranged following 4 themed itineraries that change over time, so visitors can rediscover the collections and refresh their analytical approach to its masterpieces. Hence the work of the main Italian nineteenth century artists, like Fontanesi, Fattori, Pellizza da Volpedo e Medardo Rosso, and of  twentieth century artists, such as Morandi, Casorati, Martini and De Pisis, can return to the present tense and display their depth through close comparisons with works of past international avant-gardes, of which the Museum holds important examples ranging from Max Ernst to Paul Klee and Picabia. It also holds works from post-World War II new avant-gardes and one of the most extensive collections of Arte Povera, including work by Paolini, Pistoletto, Zorio Anselmo, Boetti, Penone as well as contemporary art work, to which the Museum allocates considerable exhibition space.

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