MAXXI, Rome’s National Museum of XXI Century Arts, is one of Europe’s most important contemporary art centers, but that is not enough, it aims to increase spaces and functions with innovation and eco-compatibility. Presented with the attendance of European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen, the Grande MAXXI project will be implemented over the next 4 years. As MAXXI Foundation’s president Giovanna Melandri said to Mag, “We rushed so we could run the design contest won by Italian-French firm LAN. We obtained around 40 million euros in funds and now we are ready to get started.”
What will the project do? “We got our inspiration from a saying by Ghandi: 'be the change you want to see in the world.' We asked ourselves what an important national institution such as MAXXI can do right now. The answer was simple; we can try to be the change that our artists and architects have been urging us to look at for a long time.”
“We have planned four actions,” Melandri explained. The first is a new sustainable and multifunctional building that will house an urban regeneration research center, a place like nothing currently in existence, where artists, architects, computer engineers, scientists, and urban planners will work together to redevelop our cities.
Secondly, Italy’s first ever microclimate island will be built. According to Melandri, “the area outside the building along Via Masaccio will be renaturalized and demineralized. The road surface will be removed, and the subsoil will be studied, together with its absorption capacity, the winds, and plants with the highest capacity to retain moisture. The resulting island will have a temperature 10-15 degrees lower than the external environment." Therefore, it would be able to mitigate the increasingly frequent torrid heat waves of Roman summers. Belgian architect Bas Smet will oversee the project; he previously created a similar park for the Luma Foundation in Arles, France. Additionally, he was commissioned by French President Macron to redesign the landscaping of Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral.
The third action will be the energy requalification of the MAXXI building, which Iraqi starchitect Zaha Hadid built 20 years ago. “We are planning to install a large photovoltaic system that will cover the entire roof with transparent panels. We are also working on a powerful symbolic initiative; an energy community involving us and the Military Property next door. We signed a protocol and will soon start contacts with the new Defense Minister, Guido Crosetto.
Lastly, the fourth action will be a technological and digital upgrade to make MAXXI accessible to everyone, by removing all barriers, and increasingly more intelligent. “Maxxi is already a 5G museum. We are reflecting on the metaverse and the creation of a VR room for augmented reality.”
After serving as Minister of Cultural Heritage during the D'Alema and Amato governments, Melandri has been at the helm of MAXXI since 2012. In which ways has the museum changed in these ten years? “We have become much more than a museum. We like to call ourselves a research and future laboratory, so much so that, during the pandemic, at which time we were closed but still active, we imagined the Grande MAXXI project. We also decided to open another office in L'Aquila city. We recovered a building in the historic center, a wonderful experience of interinstitutional collaboration with L'Aquila’s public administration and system of cultural institutions.” The experiment has been successful so far; 30,000 people visited MAXXI L'Aquila from May 2021 to May 2022.
In the years that Melandri has been president, the museum hosted 135 exhibitions dedicated to challenging current issues and increased its budget with the support of 250 companies and 230 private patrons. It also made constant acquisitions for its National Collection, going from 235 to 599 artworks by great twentieth century masters as well as young Italian artists, winners of the biennial MAXXI Bulgari Award sponsored by the Roman museum and the famous jeweler.
As Mejadra points out, “MAXXI is not an art gallery that hosts exhibitions made by others. We produce our own research and exhibitions; our team works for months and travels abroad to build projects, which we often export to other countries. Therefore, we are an international Italian brand.”
The Roman museum’s other pillar, its architecture collection, has also been growing. “We keep the archives of great architects, such as Carlo Scarpa, Aldo Rossi, and Pierluigi Nervi, which allows us to produce very important projects. For example, the recently completed exhibition “Buone Nuove. Women in architecture" is now on a world tour."
MAXXI plays a major role as a cultural diplomacy tool. As Melandri proudly claims, “Over the years, we have investigated the points of view of many artistic and creative communities in the Euro-Mediterranean area, with important exhibitions on Lebanon, Iran, Turkey, Africa, the Balkans, and recently Ukraine.
What happened with the museum during the pandemic? “During the lockdown, we became broadcasters. We understood that we should convey our content on social networks, and we discovered that we have incredible communication potential. We reached close to16 million views thanks to our artisanal products. We have formed alliances with audiovisual professionals for further improvement.”
Our visitors show that they appreciate all the work we have been doing. This year, we predict ticket sales for over two million euros, the highest by far since the museum opened. Is 2022 MAXXI’s golden year? “It certainly is,” the president concludes.
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