Ever since the Guggenheim and Frank Gehry managed to turn a not-particularly-interesting regional capital into a must-see art destination, cities major and minor have been clamoring for their own contemporary art palace designed by a starchitect. Rome’s contribution to the trend is the Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI secolo, or MAXXI, a colossus of glass, steel and concrete designed by the prima superstar del momento, Zaha Hadid. Several weeks ago we were fortunate to horn in on architecture writer and Rome Prize winner Cathy Lang Ho‘s tour of the unfinished building. The 20,000 square meters of exhibit space (more than 200,000 square feet) were still full of forklifts, cables, and bellissimi Italian construction workers; nonetheless, we have to admit that we were head over heels for the clean, open spaces, curved walls, and louvered ceiling panels of Ms. Hadid’s “Cultural Space for the [sic] 21st Century Arts.”
The only problem, as we can see it, is that the museum doesn’t have much 21st century art. Or much art of any century for that matter; its collection is tiny. We are hoping that the €80,000,000 price tag (that’s $108 million greenbacks) of the building hasn’t eaten up the entire art budget. If it has, they might consider turning the museum — chock full of graceful ramps — into the world’s most spectacular skatepark.
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