welcome to the international tarot museum 

the international tarot museum: History

There is a special place in Italy, on an ancient medieval transit route between Pistoia and Bologna, in the small village of Riola, which has become an important center of cultural reference for Tarot lovers from all over the world. In this small mountain village, during the 2007 Summer Solstice, arose the International Tarot Museum, thanks to the initiative, dedication and determination of two great scholars who have collaborated since 1994: Morena Poltronieri and Ernesto Fazioli. These two researchers have written more than forty books on history, ancient philosophies, anthropology, the role of divination in different eras, hermetic art and culture, and finally have founded a specialized publishing house. From this research activity of Poltronieri and Fazioli, the desire for a stable location adjacent to their homes was born, to host works of art and Tarot decks from all over the world. 

The place chosen was a large and impressive historic stone building of the sixteenth century in the Bolognese Apennines, which was restored so as to become the first museum in the world dedicated to Tarot as an art form in the infinite variety that artists have given it throughout the world, from its beginnings to the present day. Here are housed the original works of great artists who have dealt with the themes of the Tarot: Renato Guttuso, Franco Gentilini, Enrico Baj, Hermann Haindl, Osvaldo Menegazzi, Arnell Ando, Renato Meneghetti, Andrea Picini, Jacob Kunstmann, Cathia Plate, Will Parfitt, Rachel Pollack, Robert Place and many others, forming a truly unique international collection. There are also collections of decks from all over the world: from India of the seventeenth century, from Africa in wood, from multiple continents, decks both historical and contemporary. 

The great variety of works and objects, styles and artistic methods present in the rooms can only amaze: collage, sculpture, painting, graphics, photos, videos, reports of impromptu performances and even music, all techniques used to express and celebrate the archetypes of the Tarot. There is no shortage of antique books and editorial publications by the Mutus LiberHermatena publishing house: a rich catalog of thematic books and Tarot packs by artists in limited editions and with the artists’ original signatures, often embellished by interventions executed by hand. 

The Museum often organizes cultural events, Tarot festivals, exhibitions, and guided tours, in a kind of forest of symbols that fascinates and stimulates the emotions with its particular atmosphere. 

In fact the Museum is not very large, but one has the feeling of getting lost in it, as if in an enchanted forest, such is the quantity and quality of the works on display. Nearby grow the trees of the mountain forests, made sacred by the Etruscans in ancient times and crossed by pilgrims in the Middle Ages. Not far from here, in the Renaissance courts of the lords of Bologna, Florence, Ferrara, and Milan, six hundred years ago, the culture of the Tarot was born. And precisely here today the Tarot finally regains its cultural, artistic, iconographic, narrative, historical and anthropological dimension in a structure unique in Italy and the world. The visitor can admire hundreds of Tarot decks of every era and origin, rare books and prints, manuscripts, objects, and symbols, in a context that is not only architectural but gently instilled with the Arcana themselves and their history.  

As a whole the Museum stands as a philosophical bridge between the initiatory and esoteric art of the medieval and Renaissance world, and that of modern culture and our own time. The interpretative and expressive methods of the various contemporary artists manifest themselves by adherence to the original symbolic tradition, yet also by unusual means. Alongside classic Tarot cards to be admired by sight (painting, graphics, sculpture, video, performance), there are others for which eyes are not needed: Arcana to taste and savor, Arcana to touch and recognize by touch, Arcana to smell and even Arcana to listen to, in the first musical deck ever made in the world, Le Voci degli Arcani (The Voices of the Arcana), composed by Giovanni Pelosini and interpreted by Giovanni Imparato.

A database for the conservation of the historical and cultural heritage, a library of over two thousand volumes, a bookshop with the books and decks of the publishing house, all enrich the Museum, which also offers seminars, workshops, conferences, workshops for children, and thematic itineraries. There is also a display cabinet that modestly conserves the erotic images of some decks of the Arcana made on this theme. The universe of the Tarot and its symbols has for too long been relegated only to the ghetto of media and popular divination, losing meaning and credibility in the maximum externalization of its less noble and more superficial aspects. In the twenty-first century the Tarot Museum recovers, with authority and cultural depth, all the dignity deserved from centuries of history. Italy is the nation where the culture of the Tarot was born and which has seen its greatest development from its fifteenth-century 459 beginnings; it is no coincidence that the first international center aimed at enhancing contemporary art on this subject arose here. All this has been achieved thanks also to a network of international correspondents: Swati Prakash (India), Arnell Ando (USA), Fern Mercier (New Zealand), Giovanni Pelosini (Europe). 

Text by Giovanni Pelosini