This grandiose palazzo was built in the second half of the 17th century for the Pesaro family, to a project by Baldassare Longhena. When Longhena died in 1682, the family called in Gian Antonio Gaspari, who concluded it in 1710. The interior of the palazzo still contains some of the original fresco and oil-painted decorations, although the family's great collection of Renaissance paintings was auctioned off in London by the last Pesaro before he died in 1830.
The palazzo passed through many hands until its last owner, Felicita Bevilacqua La Masa, bequeathed it to the city. Into it went the city's collection of modern art, gleaned from the Biennale. The museum now covers a century of mainly Italian art, from the mid 19th century to the 1950s. The stately ground floor is used for temporary shows. At the foot of the staircase stands Giacomo Manzù's tapering bronze statue, Cardinal.
The first rooms on the piano nobile contain atmospheric works by 19th-century painters and some striking sculptures by Medardo Rosso. In the central hall are works from the early Biennali (up to the 1930s), including pieces by Gustav Klimt and Vassily Kandinsky, alongside more conventional, vast-scale 'salon' paintings. Room 4 holds works by Giorgio Morandi, Joan Mirò and Giorgio De Chirico. After rooms devoted to international art from the 1940s and '50s, the collection finishes up with works by notable post-war Venetian experimentalists such as Armando Pizzinato, Giuseppe Santomaso and Emilio Vedova.