Munari and Montessori: touching as a way of thinking

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From the “object” book to “ephemeral tactile messages”, a multisensory journey through the legacy of Bruno Munari and Maria Montessori on display at Palazzo delle Esposizioni.

When we think about the concept of beauty we hardly ever consider it as something that has to do with the sense of touch, but Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome offers a different perspective about this topic thanks to the exhibition titled “Touching beauty” and dedicated to Maria Montessori and Bruno Munari. A title that is far from ordinary, conceived by the artist’s son, psychologist Alberto Munari, for an art show that brings together two of the biggest names in 20th century history: on the one side, the quintessential educator and pedagogical expert, and on the other side the eclectic designer. The exhibit premiered in Ancona in 2019-2020 and was conceived by the Omero Tactile Museum (Museo Tattile Statale Omero) in collaboration with the Chiaravalle Montessori Foundation and the Bruno Munari Association; the show in Rome is coordinated by Laboratorio d’arte Azienda Speciale Palaexpo and will run until February 27, 2022. Over 30 original works of art and publications trace a multisensory path that is built around a number of core themes that take visitors on a journey of discovery of the world through objects that speak of topics ranging from geometry to music up to geography. From shapes to materials up to the “skin” of things; from alphabets to tactile storytelling up to a real table-laboratory.

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Maria Montessori portrait - work Lettere smerigliate courtesy GAM GonzagArredi Montessori

Architect Fabio Fornasari, Art Director of the Tolomeo Museum and curator of the exhibition installation, remarked: “At the heart of the exhibition lies the table ‘Manipulating and Interacting’, where visitors can practice exploring the objects on display with their hands. Here the word ‘interacting’ replaces the act of interacting because people are required to establish a connection. They have to touch the objects, taking their time and using both hands, in order to question the form and quality of matter. Touching something carefully is a way of thinking, not just of seeing. We don’t bring the object itself back home with us, we bring back the gesture that we learned through our tactile exploration of such object. This table changes its objects every month to put them on stage in a multisensory rather than just visual manner”. The importance of touching thus becomes the common thread running through the exhibition, but not only, the concept of book is also revolutionized, and in this case turned into a real object. As illustrated by Silvana Sperati, President of the Bruno Munari Association: “They are books with holes, windows, small tactile doors that turn into real experiential objects that Munari himself called active books and that he created when his son was only five years old, during World War II. In a time when people had other issues in mind, attention to culture was nonetheless already a topic for the artist. While he was promoting the laboratory of books, Munari himself posed the question: “Can a book without words exist?”, “Can a book without images exist?” The answer is yes, because he viewed the book as an interesting object, due to its materials, binding and formats”. “In particular– Silvana Sperati continued – I’d like to focus on Munari’s role as a teacher, since, during the last years of his life, following his work at the Pinacoteca di Brera in 1977 and through his labs for children, he responded to the museum’s needs, turning it into an active space that generates and promotes culture. Thanks to a method based on learning by experimentation and action, the show gives us the opportunity to connect with this aspect of the visit”. The museum has always been a place that blends together design with art, the senses and beauty, especially in this exhibition, but we wonder how the audience will respond to the world of art. Andrea Socrati, Special Projects Manager of the Omero Tactile Museum (Museo Tattile Statale Omero) stated: “We can proudly say that the show has been highly appreciated by the public at large and has attracted great interest from an extremely wide audience, ranging from academics to researches up to art lovers, without forgetting teachers, students and families with children of all ages. Specifically students and kids were the categories that showed greatest engagement and curiosity about the show, thanks to its interactive and compelling nature. We believe that giving them the opportunity to enjoy an experience like this one, which entails participation, discovery and amazement, is one of the most effective educational actions and ways to make the wonderful world of art enticing and attractive to the little ones”.

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Bruno Munari portrait - work Volto, 1993 courtesy Corraini, Mantova

Exhibition Info:

Title: Touching beauty. Maria Montessori Bruno Munari

Venue: Palazzo delle Esposizioni – Piano Zero [TM1] – Via Milano 13 - Rome

22 June 2021 – 27 February 2022

Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 11.00 AM - 08.00 PM. Closed on Mondays.

Practical Info:

Promoted by: Roma Culture ( and Azienda Speciale Palaexpo

Information and opening hours:


Bruno Munari Association




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18 August 2021