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Writing & Photography by Justin Negard

A gray concrete building sits at the center of a field of wildflowers. It’s a smooth, rectangular structure of modern design, standing firmly in stark contrast to the lush, tall grasses around it. Along the sides are large windows revealing clear views of the avant garde artwork housed within. Silhouettes of human statues can be seen, along with installations of neon, wood, stone and various other creations.

You’d be forgiven for assuming this was the Italian countryside – a stylish haven only minutes outside of Milan among the Vespas and Alfa Romeos. However, this particular museum is right in Westchester County, and it’s a unique museum in our region.

Located in Cold Spring just minutes from the center of town, Magazzino Italian Art houses artwork featuring a variety of mediums. It’s a museum with a style that is hard to find in the United States, and harder still outside of Manhattan. Magazzino declares itself “the only American museum dedicated to Italian Art.” Lovers of the Dia Beacon will notice similarities in this spacious modern institution, but Magazzino has a personality all its own. 

It’s a place for everyone, filled with culture and natural beauty. And, there are also donkeys (but more on that later). So have a cappuccino, fire up the Maserati and pay a visit to the museum you didn’t know existed that’s only forty minutes from Northern Westchester. 

“Stracci italiani” by Michelangelo Pistoletto.

Arte Povera

To understand Magazzino, one would first benefit from learning about Arte Povera (or “impoverished art” in Italian), which the museum focuses on. Arte Povera started in Italy during the 1960s as a direct response to societal and governmental norms, focusing on simple materials such as wood, stone and fabric as a contrast to the modern industrial world.

Magazzino contrasts this work with modern architecture and clean, sparse white walls, a juxtaposition that emphasizes the art itself.

“Efeso II” Carrara marble and steel cable by Luciano Fabro.

A place for art

The main draw of Magazzino is, not surprisingly, the art itself. Here, visitors can enjoy multiple rooms of work that range in tone and mediums. The museum holds everything from marble sculptures and painted canvases to installations of wood and stone. Pieces are hung, propped up, shattered, chiseled, frozen, welded and hoisted over visitors’ heads. 

One piece, entitled “Efeso II” by Luciano Fabro, features a 1,500 pound slab of white Carrara marble dangling by wires over museumgoers as they make their way through the center of the room. Another piece, “Senza titolo (Omaggio a Fontana)” by Pier Paolo Calzolari, is an always-changing vertical installation of frozen water that melts and refreezes throughout the day, creating new icy patterns of frost that grow into thicker icy crystals before melting again.

Currently on special display is “Welcome to New York” by Michelangelo Pistoletto, which celebrates diversity through visual allusions to both the Statue of Liberty and the multiculturalism of the city’s history. Green, blue, white and red cotton strips of fabric cascade down the wall, emphasizing human diversity.

The Robert Olnick Pavilion. Photo by Marco Anelli for Magazzino Italian Art, Cold Spring, NY.

Study spaces

Amongst the many galleries, the museum also offers the Germano Celant Research Center for students, researchers and scholars in residence (several a year). They can reserve the space to study the many Italian art movements represented at the museum, especially Arte Povera. 

The Center also provides thousands of books and technology at every visitor’s disposal – you can read, study and scan the works you encounter, but make an appointment first. That can be done by contacting the museum to reserve the space in advance (bookings vary). 

Germano Celant Research Center.

Architecture, flowers…and donkeys

The main building, designed by Spanish architect Miguel Quismondo, is a 20,000 square-foot structure in the modern style. It’s a building that the owners of Magazzino describe as, “a space in which visitors can engage with, observe, and contemplate the relationship between postwar and contemporary Italian art.”

Beyond the artwork and away from the structures are a series of trails that weave through the surrounding hills – you can hike with the family, enjoy a romantic stroll and/or have a relaxing picnic. These paths are also an excellent space for impatient children who are less interested in Italian art than their accompanying parents (or vice versa). 

And just ten minutes away (by foot) are the Sardinian donkeys who hail from the same part of Italy as the museum’s co-founder, Giorgio Spanu. The museum first brought four donkeys to the property in 2017 shortly after the opening, but they have since increased that amount to fourteen in total. 

Two years ago, the herd received a gift – a commissioned sculpture by Namsal Siedlecki called “Trevis Maponos,” which features a concrete base and hay feeder. The museum proudly celebrates the donkeys as its unofficial mascot.

Sardinain Donkeys. Photo by Marco Anelli for Magazzino Itlian Art, Cold Spring, NY.

Even more art

Starting this fall, Magazzino’s footprint will substantially increase with the opening of an entirely new building only mere steps from the original one. Once again, the museum tapped architect Quismondo, and has designed another concrete structure. 

While there is a great deal of familiarity between this new building and its older sibling, a visit inside the new structure presents many welcome surprises, including an enormous all-white gallery that is two floors tall, along with many other spaces for pop art, sculptures and social gatherings. 

A community space

Magazzino offers more than art, hiking trails and donkeys. There are many seasonal programs and gatherings, including speaking engagements, movie screenings and public events in nearby Cold Spring, all of which are constantly updated on their website. 

With expansions and new exhibitions on the way, we recommend you go for the art and stay for the donkeys.

Magazzino Italian Art, 2700 US-9, Cold Spring, NY

This article was published in the September/October 2023 print edition of Katonah Connect.

Creative Director at Connect to Northern Westchester | + posts

Justin is an award-winning designer and photographer. He was the owner and creative director at Future Boy Design, producing work for clients such as National Parks Service, Vintage Cinemas, The Tarrytown Music Hall, and others. His work has appeared in Bloomberg TV, South by Southwest (SXSW), Edible Magazine, Westchester Magazine, Refinery 29, the Art Directors Club, AIGA and more.

Justin is a two-time winner of the International Design Awards, American Photography and Latin America Fotografia. Vice News has called Justin Negard as “one of the best artists working today.”

He is the author of two books, On Design, which discusses principles and the business of design, and Bogotà which is a photographic journey through the Colombian capital.

Additionally, Justin has served as Creative Director at CityMouse Inc., an NYC-based design firm which provides accessible design for people with disabilities, and has been awarded by the City of New York, MIT Media Lab and South By Southwest.

He lives in Katonah with his wonderfully patient wife, son and daughter.