Thursday, June 3, 2010


MAXXI (The National Museum of Art of the 21st Century) opened in Rome this week and we were fortunate enough to visit it last Wednesday. It will showcase international contemporary art and architecture in Iraqi architect, Zaha Hadid's, sensational building.
The facade of the new museum at Via Guido Reni 10, in the Flaminio neighbourhood of Rome is understated but once you enter it's gates you are presented with a fresh and challenging vision of architecture of the future.
The opening exhibition is a retrospective of the work of Gino De Dominicus, a controversial and mysterious Italian artist. John and I didn't know his work at all. De Dominicus was born in 1947 in Ancona, Italy and  died in Rome at the age of 51 in 1998. Even his death was greeted with suspicion because he sometimes claimed to be dead during his career. His sculpture of a  huge, large-nosed skeleton (L'Immortale ) greets visitors outside the main entrance to the building and several galleries inside present a retrospective of his work. We weren't familiar with his oeuvre but found it in turns; humorous, conceptual, sometimes occult and often, in his paintings and drawings, outright beautiful. Fascinating work. It perfectly matches Hadid's disorientating and playful building.
After buying your ticket at the entrance booth, Zaha takes you on a merry ride.
At the entrance to the museum on the ground floor there was a gallery featuring De Dominicus's early work and a show of the work of Turkish video and installation artist, Kutlug Ataman. He seems to play with hidden and unspoken meaning as well as storytelling. It all seems to be about the inability of language to communicate true meaning. In the work above a column of TV sets shows the faces of rural Turkish poor who stare out at us in powerless silence.
John and I took the elevator to the third floor and found ourselves in a fun-house of stairways, platforms, ramps and runways that connect to the various galleries and look down upon each other.
We become very aware of the inner space of the building, its layers and of the rest of the visitors traveling through the maze.
Even the galleries themselves often have sloping floors and the presence of both artificial and natural light sources further accentuate the fun-fair feeling. It's both confrontational and amusing.
 The large-halled galleries have sweeping vistas and ceilings.
Walls of glass, sometimes screened, other times clear, are matched by dark walls with projections.
When you descend, at last, after seeing the special exhibition galleries and the rooms holding MAXXI's permanent collection of contemporary art, it's a bit like descending into the underworld.
Finally the light in the distance draws the visitor back to the entrance, cafe and bookstore areas.
Before leaving we glimpse the maze of floors and passageways above us. Hadid's building is a fascinating work of art in itself and a clever and playful structure in which to display contemporary art. We congratulate the architect, Italian culture and Rome. We loved it! Go see!


  1. Wow thanks for the stellar photos! I haven't even found other articles about the new museum yet - you are first!

  2. These are all Bill's pics. Aren't they fabulous? What a great museum -- as Bill said, "a funhouse". We were also trying to scoop the New York Times Magazine that our friend Nancy Woodruff reads every Sunday -- so far, they are still mum.