"Silvery boa" museum brings contemporary art to Rome

Thu May 27, 2010 1:12pm EDT
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By Silvia Aloisi

ROME (Reuters) - It took Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid 11 years, 150 million euros and six Italian culture ministers to build Rome's first state museum for contemporary art -- one of the few futuristic spaces to rise in the ancient city.

"Every time there was an election and I had to come here to meet the new minister, my heart dropped and I nearly panicked," Hadid recalled as she finally inaugurated the MAXXI -- the Museum of Art for the XXI Century, her biggest project to date.

"When I first came to Rome as a child in the 1960s and posed for pictures in front of the Trevi fountain, I never thought I would be here today."

The coiled, concrete 27,000 square meter structure -- dubbed "the silvery boa" -- houses two museums, MAXXI Art and MAXXI Architecture, as well as spaces for live performances.

Its collection contains around 300 works by the likes of Alighiero Boetti, Anish Kapoor, Anselm Kiefer and Andy Warhol as well as designs by 20th-century architects and engineers.

Built on the site of a former army barracks, the vast complex contrasts sharply with the surrounding residential area -- and a Baroque church just a few meters down the road.

A giant human skeleton by Italian artist Gino De Dominicis, to whom the museum is dedicating an ample retrospective, lies just outside the entrance.

Inside, steel stairs and columns twist to become walls and ceilings, creating multiple layers, corridors and smaller viewing rooms within the galleries' wide open spaces.   Continued...

<p>A woman walks in front of a creation by Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor at the Maxxi, Italy's first national museum of contemporary art designed by Zaha Hadid, in Rome May 27, 2010. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini</p>