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in Travel, Art & Culture

Villa Panza, between history and contemporary art

A few miles from the lake, a Villa that beholds centuries of history and a fantastic collection of modern and contemporary art

Villa Panza di Biumo is owned by FAI (Fondo Ambiente Italiano), a foundation whose mission is the preservation and enhancement of the Italian cultural and natural heritage.

External view of Villa Panza  - Photo by Arenaimmagini.it , 2013 © FAI - Fondo Ambiente Italiano


The hall of honour - Photo © Giorgio Majno


Nestled in a beautiful park, overlooking the city of Varese from Biumo Superiore, this Italian Villa is world renowed for its collection of contemporary art, put together by Count Giuseppe Panza in the 50s.

"I consider Villa Panza a place which represents the heart of European culture and at the same time, thanks to the Panza collection, the union between Europe and America in its full expression" - Said Wim Wenders, master of contemporary cinema and very talented photographer, who presented at the villa an exhibition of his photos last March.
Installation of James Turrell pushing the visitor towards the limit of perception - Photo by Florianholzheir, 2013  © FAI - Fondo Ambiente Italiano


Built in the eighteenth century with the typical baroque pattern of a "U open to the huge garden that seems suspended over the city of Varese, the Villa was bought in 1935 by Ernesto Panza Biume and later passed on to his four sons, including Giuseppe.

Returning to Italy after traveling throughout America, Giuseppe began to buy his first canvases, enriching the apartment on the first floor with works of American art. His collection was starting to become famous all over the world, attracting scholars and enthusiasts. Real patron of the arts and pioneer in identifying artistic movements at their birth, several years before they received the consecration by critics, Giuseppe Panza has strongly influenced the development of art history, the taste of collectors and museological vision in Italy and in the world.

Having used all the available space on the main floor, Giuseppe Panza used the stables to host installations of environmental art by James Turrell, Robert Irwin and Maria Nordman.

Panza collection counts now about 2,500 pieces, including works and installations recognized throughout the world and requested by the most important museums like the Guggenheim in New York, or the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

Giuseppe Panza donated the villa and the collection to the FAI, which opened them to the public in 2000. Along with the works of contemporary art on display in the halls and in the stables, visitors can admire the striking combination of rich furniture of the XVI - XIX century and important collections of pre-Columbian and African art.


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