Profile - Villa e Collezione Panza

Surrounded by splendid grounds extending over 33,000 square metres, Villa Menafoglio Litta Panza looks out over the city of Varese from the hillside of Biumo Superiore.
The Villa changed hands several times after the death of the Marquis, in 1769, until in 1823, the residence and some other surrounding properties were acquired by Pompeo Litta Visconti Arese, a descendant of one of the wealthiest and most illustrious Milanese lineages, who underwrote new alteration and entrusted their realisations to Luigi Canonica, a student of Piermarini and official State Architect during the Napoleonic period. The illustrious master added a Reception Hall and wing of outbuildings, designed to house stables and a carriage house.
After a period of neglect, in 1935 the Biumo complex was purchased by Ernesto Panza di Biumo, a Milanese, who began the fundamental restoration work, entrusting the restructuring to the architect Piero Portaluppi.
After Ernesto Panza’s death the Villa in Biumo was passed on to his children, Giulia, Alessandro, Giuseppe and Maria Luisa. Among the four, it was Giuseppe who lived there and loved the place more than the others, linking the Villa in Varese to his famous modern art collection, now partially distributed among leading international museums.
Since he was a boy, Giuseppe Panza had always had shown great interest in the history of art. In the early fifties, having moved to the United State after graduating from university, he came into contact with pioneers of the abstract expressionist movement and was deeply struck.
When he returned to Italy, he delved deeper into the new American and European trends; in 1956, he began buying his first paintings, immediately orienting his purchases towards work by artists as yet unknown to the general public.
The ample space on the ground floor on the Villa was enhanced by many new American canvases ( Robert Morris, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist ), thus stimulating controversial reactions among the numerous houseguests.
The Panza Collection began to be known, and as the word spread, scholars and admirers visited, paying homage to the prescience and extraordinary artistic sensibility of the owner.
After having used all the available space on the main floor, in the late sixties, Giuseppe Panza was forced to renovate and adapt the spaces in the stables and carriage house so that they could house the installations by the Californian artists James Turrel, Maria Nordman and Robert Irwin. Some of these works- mostly explorations of space and illuminations that tend to re-create new perceptual situations- were designed and realised specifically for Biumo, by the same artists, between 1973 and 1976.
This wing contains many works by the New York artist Dan Flavin, of whose art the Panza Collection boasts the largest number of continuously exhibited pieces.
In 1996, Giuseppe Panza decided to donate the entire property to the FAI, Fondo per l’Ambiente Italiano, with the intention of preserving for posterity not just his home, but also the vast art collection it contained – an European treasure trove of the best American art, recognised as one of the most important movements of the second-half of the twentieth century. In particular the eighties are represented by Phil Sims, David Simson, Ruth Ann Fredenthal, Stuart Arends, Max Cole and others. Artists less celebrated than the previous ones, but in Panza’s view possible trend-setters for future generations.
In the early nineties, as he attempted to distribute his collection organically, Giuseppe Panza donated the thirteen installations by Dan Flavin to the Solomon R.Guggheneim
Museum of New York. Today, after the acquisition of the villa by the FAI and according an agreement between FAI and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of New York, these works have been entrusted to the Italian institution in the form of the permanent loan.
The Villa, which was opened to the public in September 2000, following a thorough restoration, also hosts international art exhibitions.

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