Postcard from... Rome


If you’re visiting or living in Rome and have had your fill of old stuff – ancient, renaissance and baroque - there’s the Maxxi Museum for 21st Century art.

It’s new – built this century. It was designed by a “starchitect”,  Zaha Hadid. But for those who make the trudge north from the centro storico, disappointment awaits. The building is what you’d expect from a starchitect. But shouldn’t a stratospherically famous designer construct what you wouldn’t expect?

Unfortunately, the building is the best bit. The last time I went to the Maxxi, I was unable to recall a single exhibit I’d seen within half an hour of leaving. London’s Tate Modern - the museum the Maxxi so obviously wants to be - was criticised for the slim pickings on display when it first opened. Compared to its Roman would-be rival, however, it was a treasure trove. Hou Hanru, the Maxxi’s artistic director, has announced he will “restart” its exhibition programme in October by stripping the museum “naked” for six weeks. He plans to focus on contemporary artists from the Middle East and China and even wants sound installations, performance art and concerts. But let’s hope he also finds some stimulating 21st Century Italian and Roman art. Otherwise the Maxxi risks becoming Italy’s Millennium Dome.