Friday, 9 November 2018

Contemporary Art at Maxxi

Near the entrance to Maxxi, the Zaha Hadid-designed art museum
After we had our fill of classical art at Galleria Borghese, we took a completely different turn and went modern at Maxxi, a national museum of contemporary art and architecture in Flaminio district in Rome.

Inside there are numerous staircases and rooms to enter
The museum is also appropriately housed in a building designed by the late Zaha Hadid, who was chosen from among 273 candidates from around the world.

We didn't really get a good look of the outside, but inside it was very sleek, lots of curves and straight lines, nothing symmetrical either.

While the building was a piece of art in itself, the contemporary art was hard for us to understand! There were lots of strange videos one would see at Art Basel and leave you wondering:

a) How did you come up with this idea?
b) Why did you come up with idea?
c) What does this mean?
d) Does it really take art to another level?

Chinese characters and French words written in sheet metal
When we visited Maxxi, the exhibition "African Metropolis. An Imaginary City" was on. Again most of it we didn't really understand, but a few pieces were very interesting.

One of them was called "Wo Shi Feizhou/Je Suis Africain by Francois-Xavier Gbre. It's a series of mixed media, but what was particular interesting was what was written on sheet metal.

It was a triptych of three dark pieces of sheet metal and there were Chinese and French words written in three columns.

The ones on the far left were Chinese characters in simplified Chinese, followed by French words, then more simplified Chinese characters in parentheses. For a Chinese person living in Africa, this was a kind of cheat sheet. The word they wanted to say was on the far left, but was pronounced in French like the characters on the far right.

A close-up of the words and pronunciation!
For us who could read some Chinese this was very funny but also interesting!

Another work we liked was a photograph by Kiluanji Kia Henda with the title "Le Merchand de Venise" or the Merchant of Venice.

In the description the artist pays homage to the play by William Shakespeare by having a Senegalese musician dressed in brightly striped clothing and on his arms are what at first glance look like designer bags, but in fact are fake; this is his way of trying to make a living in Venice, much like many other African street vendors.

Henda's photo looks striking at first, but when you realize what is going on it's actually very ironic, but in a subtle way.

The Merchant of Venice by Henda
We pretty much finished going through the museum in an hour and waited for others in our group by hanging out in the museum shop that also had a cafe that served fantastic coffee for 1.50 euros!

Afterwards we took the tram back to Flamino metro station and then took the train back to our hotel.

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