Rome’s MACRO museum of contemporary art reopens for Museum Night

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.

More from The Art Newspaper


20 Sep 09
14:14 CET


Rachel - thanks for the explanation... we've heard so many for why it was closed for so long. MACRO has always been one of our favorites. The exhibition opening selections (apart from the Duff installation) seemed uninspired... we thought maybe it was a conservative curator. What do you think? Dianne and Bill, authors of Rome the Second Time: 15 Itineraries that Don't Go the Coliseum

Submit a comment

All comments are moderated. If you would like your comment to be approved, please use your real name, not a pseudonym. We ask for your email address in case we wish to contact you - it will not be made public and we do not use it for any other purpose.


Want to write a longer comment to this article? Email


Share this