Rome’s newest museum: Museo dell’Arte Salvata

Rome’s newest museum: A layover in recovered art’s journey home

A layover in recovered art’s journey home

Rome’s newest museum, the Museo dell’Arte Salvata, gives the public a unique chance to see repatriated ancient artifacts before they head to their final destinations across the country.

The Museo dell’Arte Salvata (Museum for Rescued Art) was established last year as a branch of the National Roman Museum. It is a revolving showcase of “salvaged” art – a term that encompasses art that has been looted and illegally exported, damaged by natural disasters or simply neglected over time.

The museum was created as an intermediary holding space for art and artifacts on their journey home from foreign collections to institutions near their (approximated) original locations throughout Italy. Though a unified Italy is a strong concept today, the country was only unified as a kingdom in 1861 and remains regionally distinct and diverse, hence the emphasis on returning the art not only to Italy but more specifically to their regions.

Italy’s quest to reclaim its art

The return of cultural objects and art to their homelands – repatriation – has been a hot topic in museum and collector circles for years. The Italian government has long been working behind the scenes, through the Carabinieri, to bring art and artifacts back to Italian soil. 

The new Museum of Salvaged Art is not the first time Rome has held an exhibit of repatriated art. In 2007, Italy displayed dozens of artifacts that were returned by US museums.

Italy also pays it forward, returning art and cultural objects to their countries of origin. In 2019, for example, the Italian government agreed to return nearly 800 artifacts to China.

museo arte salvata rome

Museum’s first exhibit showed stolen art

The new Museum of Salvaged Art opened with a showing of 260 artifacts of Etruscan, Greek and Roman origin, most of which were returned to Italy by the US Manhattan District Attorney’s office. Working with the Carabinieri, the United States rescued Italian-origin objects from auction houses, museums and private collectors. 

The museum’s first exhibit highlighted Italy’s big win in recovering the art, giving honors to the investigators involved in Italy and the US.

At the close of the first exhibition, the artifacts are expected to have been returned to museums in their respective regions – primarily in central and southern Italy.

What’s next?

Six months after the museum closed its first exhibit, there’s no news of any upcoming shows. The museum was promised to be a constantly revolving door of repatriated art, widely reported to be able to rotate exhibits every few months due to the ongoing recovery of objects and art.

For now, we wait for details of the next opening, which is likely stuck in the infamous backlog of Italian bureaucracy. 

Museo dell’Arte Salvata (Museum for Rescued Art)

Aula Ottagona, part of the Baths of Diocletian complex

Via Giuseppe Romita, 8

How to get there: Nearest metro stop: Repubblica – 10 minutes walk from Termini

When: Open for special exhibits only.

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