MAXXI, Museum of 20th Century Art

MAXXI, or the Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI Secolo, (in English:  the National Museum of 20th Century Art), is located far away from the historical center of Rome. For this reason, very few tourists make the trip out to the museum via metro and tram because it is inconvenient during a short stay. However, if you are interested in contemporary art, MAXXI is a real treasure. MAXXI is a newcomer to the Roman art scene, only built in 2010, but it is enormous and includes 29,000 square meters of space for art, a bookstore, a cafeteria, and an auditorium. Those interested in architecture will love the modern design of the museum with it’s floating staircases, and unique appearance which makes it look like a cross between a spaceship and a millionaire’s mansion.

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Although MAXXI does have a small permanent collection. the majority of the museum space is dedicated to temporary exhibits. The largest and best temporary exhibit on display until November 8 is in conjunction with EXPO in Milano and is called “Food; dal cucchiaio al mondo”. Party due to my obsession with and love for EXPO, of course I had to see this exhibit! Again, much of the art in the exhibition was directed at fighting imbalances and transforming opportunities for improvements for our entire society in relation to food scarcity, hunger, and famine. The exhibit was organized into six different thematic “spaces”, including the human body, the home environment, the street, the city, the landscape, and the geopolitics of the world’s scenarios. In each space, various paintings, photos of architectural projects related to food, short films, sculptures, and other forms of artwork illustrated the importance and influence of food.

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One of my favorite things in the exhibit was an actual copy of a “store” taken from a subway station in South Korea. When at the subway station, shoppers can take a photo of the bar code label for the products they wanted, then the items would be immediately delivered to their home. Often, the items arrive to the shoppers apartment before they do! The service saves shoppers time on going to the store to purchase basic essentials like toothpaste, shampoo, washing detergent, flour, and other household goods.

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Advertisements about food conservation during the World Wars were also intriguing, as was a photo series of the last meals chosen by prisoners on death row. In creative ways, many artists have made their own statements about the role and place of food in our society.

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There were 2 other temporary exhibits happening at MAXXI when I visited. One was really strange; called “Good Luck” by Lara Favaretto, the artist dedicated a collection of cenotaphs (empty tombs) to missing persons from around the world. For example, one of the cenotaphs was dedicate to Amelia Earhart. The cenotaphs were made of wood, brass, and earth (dirt!). The main question posed by the exhibit was “Is it possible in today’s digital world to disappear without a trace?” and “Does anyone have a right to anonymity?” These are interesting questions, expressed in a very weird method by Favoretto’s works.

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The other temporary exhibit on display was photography by Olivo Barbieri. His photographs include a wide range of subject matter but he is most well known for his photos of urban city centers, capturing the iconography of places like Las Vegas, New York, Hong Kong, Beijing, and of course, Rome. Barbieri plays with the lighting, colors, and clarity of the photos to present famous sites in a new light. I only wish the exhibit displayed more of his city and outdoor works and less of those related to everyday life.

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If you enjoy contemporary art which poses questions and makes you think, then do not miss a trip out to MAXXI while in Rome. You could easily combine a day on the Piazza del Popolo side of the city with a visit to the Galleria Borghese, the Borghese Gardens, the Villa Giulia Etruscan Museum, the Galleria Nazionale d’Art Moderna, and MAXXI, or any combination of those listed. In fact, after visiting MAXXI, I walked about a mile and a half to the Galleria Nazionale d’ Arte Moderna… More on that excellent museum in another post!

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