Rome’s MACRO museum of contemporary art reopens for Museum Night
By Rachel Spence. Published online: 06 May 2009
VENICE. MACRO, Rome’s civic museum of contemporary art, will reopen on 16 May after a year’s closure. The date marks Museum Night, when the city’s museums stay open around the clock. The long-awaited new wing, designed by French architect Odile Decq, will also be open for the first time, although it is still under construction.
The reopening of the museum, which is in Rome’s Porta Pia quarter, coincides with the appointment of director Luca Massimo Barbero, who was previously the associate curator of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.
His appointment fills the gap left by Danilo Eccher, who did not have his contract renewed in May 2008 by the newly elected right-wing City Council. Mr Eccher denies rumours that the new administration felt he was too close to the previous left-wing council.
The choice of Mr Barbero has caused a certain amount of surprise. “Anyone who knows me knows I am not from the right,” he said, adding that he deliberated for five months before accepting the contract. “It is a risk for me but it is also a test of their [the administration’s] commitment to an important museum.”
Mr Eccher ran the museum on a meagre €1m annual budget. According to Rome’s cultural assessor Umberto Croppi, €1.5m is available for Mr Barbero’s first year. After that, the plan is for a foundation to take over MACRO’s management, in line with practice in Turin and Venice. “This will allow the museum to benefit from sponsorship forbidden to municipal institutions,” said Mr Croppi. An annual budget of €6m for the foundation, which was forecast by the previous council, is under review.
Next month’s inauguration will be low-key. “Don’t expect to see fireworks,” said Mr Barbero. “We simply want to give the museum back to the city and an international public.”
The event is an opportunity to display the permanent collection, rarely seen under the previous management, which includes works by Carla Accardi, Mimmo Rotella and Pino Pascali as well as younger artists such as Paolo Canevari. New extended loans include works by Lucio Fontana and Cindy Sherman.
New libraries for books and videos will also be opened. Temporary installations include works by French light artist François Mourrellet and Indian artist Hema Upadhyay, whose piece is a metaphor for the building work underway in the new wing.
That venue is now slated to open in mid-2010. Construction started in 2004 but has been plagued by funding crises (the original forecast budget of €12.5m climbed to €17.5m), difficulties with contractors and the discovery of archeological remains.
“It has been very, very slow,” Ms Decq told The Art Newspaper. “We were without a director for ten months. But now I am feeling positive. The new director and I are comfortable together and work is going well.”
The 16,000 sq. m venue will have concrete walls, a glass roof and a walkway that overlooks the foyer, exhibition hall and lecture room. A 3,000 sq. m roof garden, which doubles as a public space, features a retractable roof and a central 400 sq. m fountain described by Ms Decq as “an oblique glass tube”. On 16 May, a laser-art installation by the German-born artist Arthur Duff will unite the new and existing spaces.
Meanwhile Rome’s Maxxi museum of 21st-century art, designed by Zaha Hadid, is due to open in spring 2010.
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