In 1990 Roberto Memmo, who had always been interested in the forms and expressions of art, established a private foundation, the Fondazione Memmo, of which he became the President, together with 3 vice-presidents: Daniela Memmo d’Amelio, Patrizia Memmo Ruspoli and Claudio Strinati, who at that time was the General Director of the Italian Ministry for Cultural and Artistic Heritage.
Due to his passion for beauty and his understanding of the importance of making its values more widespread, he wished to share the creativity of the great masters with a wider public through the contemplation of works that are fundamental for the history of art. At that period very few museums in Italy had a dynamic and active approach, but the time was ripe for creating new private and public spaces for art in several Italian cities, with many of which the foundation would collaborate over the years.
The President of the Fondazione Memmo organized a series of exhibitions of a high cultural level, in the ample exhibition spaces on the first floor of Palazzo Ruspoli in Rome, some of which were promoted in collaboration with some of the most important museums in the world, such as the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the British Museum, the Egyptian Museum of Cairo, as well as with the cooperation of influential curators such as Morris Bierbrier, Christopher White, Catherine Whistler, Sir Denis Mahon and Felipe Garin Llombart.
The first of these exhibitions, Espressionismo-Da Van Gogh a Klee, was realized in 1990 together with the Thyssen-Bornemisza Foundation of Lugano. This was followed in 1991 by Il segno del Genio: cento disegni dall’Ashmolean Museum di Oxford, featuring an impressive range of drawings by Italian and European old masters such as Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Dürer, as well as sketches by Canova from the Hermitage. In the same year the Fondazione Memmo organized the first solo exhibition in Italy devoted to Lucien Freud, which revealed the President’s foresight regarding the growing importance of this painter.
In 1994 Nefertari – Luce d’Egitto gave the public the possibility to admire the tomb of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti thanks to the new techniques of virtual reality. The next exhibitions were: Alessandro Magno: storia e mito (1995); Fayum – Misteriosi volti dall’Egitto (1996); Cleopatra (2000) and in 2001Velazquez – Il suo terzo viaggio in Italia (realized thanks to the generous and exceptional loan of several paintings from the Prado Museum of Madrid). These shows were followed by Cristina di Svezia. Le Collezioni Reali (2003); I Tesori degli Atzechi (2004); and three exhibitions in 2008 alone: Picasso e la sua epoca, Paul Klee and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
The numbers of people who came to see these exhibitions was absolutely exceptional. For example there were 500,000 visitors to the exhibition Nefertari — Luce d’Egitto, which made it the Italian exhibition with the greatest public turnout in 1994 and the seventh most popular in that year worldwide. Over a period of less than twenty years there more than three million people have come to see the exhibitions organized by the Fondazione Memmo.
At the beginning of the 2000s, Roberto Memmo decided to open a venue of the Fondazione also in Lecce. Worthy of mention is the large exhibition of clothes conceived by the stylist Roberto Capucci, set up in the castle of Charles V. We also remember the restoration of the Roman Theater, which reopened its doors to the visitors.
In 2012 the direction board presented a new exhibition programme, entirely dedicated to the contemporary art scene.
The aim is to contribute to the development of a local cultural texture in a global perspective, connecting international realities and promoting the interaction between the artists and the city of Rome.
Through the organization and production of exhibitions, performances, residencies, talks, conferences, workshops and arts publications, the Fondazione Memmo desires to promote the present time in order to contribute to the development of our future.
The new program started in 2012 with the residency and the exhibition of the American artist Sara VanDerBeek, followed in 2013 by the exhibition CHRON II dedicated to Sterling Ruby and in 2014 by AutoBody Collision, a solo show of Shannon Ebner.
In 2015 a new group show titled Conversation Piece, curated by Marcello Smarrelli, has been presented to the public; yearly editions have followed, involving artists who are at the moment living in Rome and attending foreign academies that play an active role in the city.
In 2016 Fondazione hosted Monday, a solo show by the french artist Camille Henrot; in 2017 the italian artist Giuseppe Gabellone has been invited for a solo exhibition curated by Fancesco Stocchi who has also curated in 2018 Kerstin Brätsch_Ruine and KAYA_KOVO, in 2019 Latifa Echakhch Romance, in 2021 Oscar Murillo spirits and gestures and in 2022 Amalia Pica Quasi. In 2023 opened Dreaming the End, the first solo exhibition in Italy by Sin Wai Kin, curated by Alessio Antoniolli.