Torino was the first Italian city promoting a public collection of modern art as part of the deed of association of its Civic Museum, started in 1863. The collections were initially lodged with the ancient art collections in a building at the Mole Antonelliana. In 1895 they were moved to an exhibition area overlooking corso Siccardi (now Galileo Ferraris), built some years previously for an art exhibit, and remained there until 1942. After it was destroyed during the second world war, the present building, designed by Carlo Bassi and Goffredo Boschetti, was erected on the same site and inaugurated in 1959. It became unfit for use in the early eighties, and was opened again to the public in 1993, after an exhaustive work of restoration. The undertaking resulted in expanding the exhibition area, providing it with modern equipment, and has made it accessible in all its parts to the disabled. It is part of the Foundation Torino Musei since 2003. In the meantime an extensive job of conservation and restoration has been carried out on the art collections. The museum unit, besides the galleries for permanent display, consists in showrooms for temporary exhibits, and spaces for educational activities. The art library and the photographic collection of the Foundation Torino Musei are located at the GAM and open to the public. After the reorganization project of September 1999, the 19th century section was relocated on the second floor, the 20th century on the first, and work was done in the areas of the bookshop, the cafeteria and the lobby; furthermore, also the video collection was opened to the public, and this is an essential instrument for the knowledge and study of the art video and cinema.
Today its collections consist in over 45,000 works including paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, besides a rich collection of drawings and engravings and one of the most important European collections of art films and videos. Relying on this wealth, GAM holds true to its initial commitment regarding contemporary research, weaving a continuous exchange between its own historical works and today’s cultural debate, and setting a close relationship for its exhibition program between contemporary and historical collections. From October 2009, the works of the collections are exhibited according to four thematic routes that change through time, ensuring the visitor of renewed discovery of the collections and the possibility of an improved analysis of its masterpieces.
The works of the major 19th century Italian artists, such as Fontanesi, Fattori, Pellizza da Volpedo and Medardo Rosso, as well as of the 20th century, among whom Morandi, Casorati, Martini and De Pisis, are restored to their ability of speaking in the present, and to exhibit all their splendour in close comparison with the art of the historical, international forerunners, from Max Ernst, Paul Klee and Picabia, of whom the museum holds important examples, and with the works of the new avant-garde of the second post-war period: Paolini, Boetti, Anselmo, Zori, Penone, and Pistoletto. Also, the museum devotes ample exhibit space to current artistic production.