Tag Archives: Madamuseo

Rome and Contemporary Art…and Neon Lit Bathrooms

You all know me and contemporary art….

We visited two different contemporary art museums on our sixth day in the lovely city of Rome and were accompanied by Shara Wasserman, Professor of Contemporary Art and Gallery Director, Temple University in Rome, and visiting Critic Cornell University in Rome.  She was delightful, a very honest and witty guide to the city of Rome.  I’m sure Charlotte (our professor) appreciated a little break from insane tour guiding.

The first museum we visited was MAXXI (Museo Nazionale dell’arte dell XXI secolo) which was designed by Zaha Hadid.  For those of you who don’t know who that is, she is an extremely well known architect, who more recently designed the performing arts structure for the Saadiyat Cultural District in Abu Dhabi which I wrote about earlier.  Some of you may also know my thoughts on modern architecture and my feelings toward this building were not extremely favorable.

MAXII

Modern architecture is dirty.  Modern architecture contains a lot of interesting looking, but filthy little crannies. This structure had all open grated walkways and stairways built over lights so when you looked down all you saw was what seemed to be nearly impossible to clean spaces filled with dust, lint, and pennies.     Another interesting point, there was NO seating built into the structure.  Hmm.

Architecture at MAXII

Another aspect of this museum that I found interesting was that the Director of the museum is a government employee from the Ministry of Culture, they do not come from a museum background.  I’m beginning to find it more and more interesting (and challenging) to think about big company CEOs and business people taking over museums with no knowledge of how we roll, just the business aspect of thing.  However, one of the exhibitions that was on display was particularly interesting, both the exhibit itself and peoples’ reactions to it.

The exhibition was The Plexiglas and Mirror Paintings by Michelangelo Pistoletto.  It was a collection of mirrors that had been painted on with various scenes/people as you can see in the photograph below.  It was interesting to see people more interested in their own reflections and doing silly things in the mirror than actually paying attention to the art itself and the effect it created as a whole.  On one end of the exhibition was a very large mirror that reflected back over several of the other mirrors, creating depth and an intricate interlacing of the stories depicted in each individual mirror.  The thing I really disliked about this exhibition was that it was displayed in a very long rectangular exhibit space and though the mirrors were placed seemingly at random throughout the room, the text panel for each was on one of the room’s walls.  They were quite distant from their respective works.  No good.

Pistoletto Exhibition SpacePistoletto Exhibition

Second we went to MACRO (dell’Arte Contemporanea Roma), architecture by Odile Decq.  Again, very modern and you can see some similarities between the inside of the buildings.  One piece of art here that I found particularly interesting was by Ernesto Neto called When Nothing Happens. See the photograph but it was this incredible hanging THING. The hanging sacks were filled with various spices including black pepper, cumin, cloves, ginger, and turmeric.  Not only did it smell lovely but the colored spices also made the sculpture that much more interesting.

MACRO

MACRO Inside

Ernesto Neto Piece

This little drawing on the wall I felt could have been a portrait of me by Dan Perjovschi part of The Crisis is (Not) Over. Drawings and Dioramas. 

Also, MACRO had slam bangin’ bathrooms.  Usually it is socially unacceptable to wield a camera in a public restroom…but we all did it anyways.

We spent much more time in here than necessary.

The evening brought us to the Colosseum  at night.  BEAUUUUUUUUUUUUUUTIFUL.  I always wish there weren’t so many tourists everywhere I wanted to be a tourist… and enjoy myself peacefully.


The Vatican, ooof.

Vatican City from the Outside

The VATICAN! Need I say more? Readers, if you are interested in this sort of thing and plan to take a trip to Vatican City then I advise you block at least one entire week just for this little city. We spent an entire day there and I was so overwhelmed by the end we went almost immediately home. No more sightseeing was to be had.

The Vatican collections are vast, elaborate, beautiful and… well very very shiny. To use part of a quote from an anonymous Monsignor I had the opportunity to chat with, “we have an embarrassment of riches.” Embarrassment, I’d say. The Vatican has more money wrapped up in its artifacts and in the display of them that you could feed the world forever I think. We had an incredibly interesting meeting with Dott.ssa Alessandra Uncini, Head Registrar in the morning before beginning our walk-through.

The Royal Collection held at the Vatican was not a museum BORN as a museum, in 1506 Pope Julius II acquired the first statues that would later begin the collections. Collections were built through personal commissions of the Popes, Cardinals etc and also many artifacts were brought back by missionaries after travels to foreign lands. Like I mentioned with the Borghese collections, in 1798 when Napoleon overthrew the Pope and the museums many of the artifacts were taken away to Paris not to return until 1815 after Waterloo.

The Vatican Museum

This return was curated by Antonio Canova, a sculptor, and the Vatican Museums’ first curator. If you ‘d like to talk about a curator’s nightmare, absolutely no catalog was in existence for the more than 150,000 artifacts until the 1950s. The cataloging system was designed specially within the Vatican and allows them very careful tracking of the movement of any artifact. The Museum has an interesting setup which includes many employees but seven very specialized registrars who all report to ministry. Anymore there is very little acquisitions within the museums, and even less deaccessioning as in keeping with Italian common heritage and cultural identity – you DO NOT deaccession your own history. Best parts of the day – Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. Both incredibly beautiful and true must see places if you go to Rome.

Outside of St. Peter's Basilica

Inside of St. Peter's

Inside of St. Peter's

Okay, earlier in this blog I may have lied but I COMPLETELY tried to block out of my mind what happened after the Vatican that day. A couple of my fellow classmates and I did a little souvenir shopping in some shops across from Vatican City. One of them you super stereotypical shop with key chains, shirts, hats, toys etc. was run by a little Asian family. We went in and were browsing and I saw a bottle opener key chain in the shape of Italy that was red, white and green. The perfect cheesy gift for my sister, right? I pick it up with intentions of buying it, and get super distracted by some scarves, I set the magnet on a shelf and immediately try them on for Luciana to approve.

We do this for like ten minutes, my pre-buying sense of my post-buyers remorse kicks in and I say NO and we walk out (myself forgetting all about the magnet). We’ve been down to a couple of other stores and are walking back the other way to catch a bus and WHAM, little Asian family is accosting me in the street and trying to tear my purse open. TERRIFYING, none of us had any idea what was going on, nor could we understand.

Then I realized they thought I stole the magnet, I walk back into the store with them still attached to me, the woman trying to unzip my purse, pick the magnet up off the shelf and hand it to the man who was screaming at me and pointing at the ceilings (about cameras I think). He stops, the woman…still trying to get into my purse, lucky for me she weighed maybe 100 pounds less than me, I knock her off and walk out of the store. Luciana and Erin staring on in pure terror. I’ve never been accosted like that before, especially after spending an entire day in one of the holiest places in the world. Honestly, I don’t steal and if I was going to it wouldn’t be at the risk of a 2 euro magnet. Notice Jenni, you never received this magnet. Ahhh, Rome.


The Science of Museums – Rome Day 3

Just when you think you’re beginning to get homesick, you find a little piece of home right around the corner from your hotel.  Nothing like Atlantic City, Rome style.

Atlantic City in Rome?

The best part of day three was to get to see museum science in action.  I LOVE THIS STUFF! I mean I have considered being a conservator just so I can discover the history and original form of objects…but I guess I love designing exhibitions more.

Courtyard of Villa Medici

First stop was at the Villa Medici with a tour of the AMAZING garden and labyrinth.  Inside we saw the special exhibition “Poussin and Moses: From Drawing to Tapestry” and something that was very interesting about the exhibition space was a fairly steep incline with “stairs”.  They were really stairs though because each rise was only a few inches and the flat of each stair was a few feet. Charlotte’s (my professor), husband, Derek, enlightened me as to the origin of such stairs.  Villa Medici is built on a large hill and horse stable was located farther up the hill, the stairs were built to be useable by the horses. Learn something random all the time.

Terrible panoramic, beautiful view

The structure was built in 1564 on the ruins of a 2nd century villa,  the walls and structure were ornamented with 1st and 2nd century antiquities, like the piece of freize from the Ara Pacis (you’ll hear about that later) who now has a replica piece.  The Medicis made their start in banking and devised double entry ledger writing.  Along with bringing in a fortune Lorenzo began bringing many artists and musicians to the household until it became a sort of school, which it still is.  Twenty-four artists come from France at a time to stay at Villa Medici, now the French Academy, in order to study in Italy.

The garden is very typical Italian, notice there are no flowers.  Original Italian thought was that man is the center of the universe so he should have complete control over his things.  Bushes you can prune and control, flowers you cannot. Thus the lack of flowers.  My favorite thing in the gardens was the mini sculpture garden depicting the massacre of Niobe’s children.  Essentially Apollo and Artemis were jealous that Niobe had been able to have fourteen children so they killed them all. For a much more informative and romantic version of the story read here.

Sculpture Garden of Niobe Massacre, Villa Medici

The first interesting piece of science for the day you’ll see below.  A room in one of the towers of Villa Medici where you can see they have literally peeled through time back through consecutive layers of paint.  It’s like Christmas and unwrapping the same present with a million different layer of paper, the suspense!

Paint Layers

Next we wandered down the Spanish Steps (actually built by the French) to the Keats-Shelley Museum where we had a tour by the most darling little Irishmen.  Saying that makes him sound old, he wasn’t but he was just pint sized and spritely.  This was the final home of John Keats, the poet, who died from tuberculosis after a truly tragic life.

The Spanish Steps

Those of you who know me, know how I feel about the mixing of the old and new. Incredibly torn.  Sometimes I love it, but most times I really hate it. One instance where I really disliked it was the Museo Ara Pacis Augustae where the Ara Pacis (Alter of Peace) dating is enclosed in a piece of architecture by Richard Meier.  It’s just a big empty, stark, waste of good museum space.

Ara Pacis, Alter of Peace

The interesting thing about marble in Rome is that when you see it now it’s whites, tans and browns.  Had you seen it when it was created a large majority of sculpture and architecture would have been brightly painted.  You can’t get much of the context from this photo but it shows the science of trying to find out what colors would have been used on which areas of the Ara Pacis.

What the colors on the outside of Ara Pacis would have actually been.

View from Janiculum Hill

Next, another of the Roman hills, this time Janiculum Hill where they have restored sculpture for the the 150th Anniversary of the unification of Italy.  Another BEAUTIFUL view.  We finished the evening at the American Academy in Rome.  It serves a purpose similar to that of the French Academy at Villa Medici.  Students and/or artists may reside here to study and practice in Rome and enjoy the Italian Culture.  As it was an open house we were able to view many of the current residents work and studios.

Dinner tonight was at La Tana dei Noiantri inTrastavere which seems to be the hopping place for the teens to thirty somethings crowd.  Pizza, again. Delish. I can’t help it.


The Grand Tour

Hello again friends! I was supposed to write about Rome while everything was fresh in my mind.  You can see that that has happened.  Work, school, moving into a new apartment and the manfriend have all sort of sucked up most of my spare time.  BUT, three weeks later, here is day two of Roma.

Markets of Trajan

Day two in Rome was simply out of control; so much amazing stuff and insane amounts of information to attempt to digest.  Beginning in the 1660s young English and Northern European Aristocratic men would undertake a  journey they referred to as The Grand Tour. The Grand Tour was the name given to the ideal way of obtaining one’s education: they would travel all through Europe, ending in Italy and on into Rome: soaking up the language, sport, art, manners and culture as they went in order to become a “properly” educated citizen of the world.  This day felt like my grand tour and I feel like I did as much in a day that they did in several months to years.

We began at the Markets of Trajan and the Museum di Imperiali.  This location was basically the very first indoor shopping mall.  A large portion of the structure has been turned into a museum.  The really interesting thing is how well they have modified the space to be a working museum without imposing too far on the original material of the structure.  The once open doorways and windows are covered in clear plexi-glass and ramps are built in but not permanent.  By ethical standards of adaptive reuse in historic structures, no alterations should be made that are not reversible without harm to the building.  From the top level of the market we got another excellent view of Rome and the Forum below.

Plexi Entrance Wall

You could really see the effects of time on all the structures, including a part of the market structure where medieval dwellings had been built to create another floor of the already existing building.  Next to the market is the Column of Trajan, spiraled with a beautifully detailed relief telling of the military history of Trajan.  Makes you think, whatever happened to craftsmanship?  So much effort used to go into everything and now we are blessed with things like tin-sided churches.

Column of Trajan

Greeted by two large horse statues, the protectors of the city, we visited Capitoline Hill which is known as the “city center”.  Here you see a lot of Rome’s most renowned sculpture including the classic Julius Caeser on his horse, the over-sized head, hand and foot of Constantine, the she wolf suckling Romulus and Remus and many, many, many more.  Much of this sculpture wasn’t moved to the Capitoline until the 1470’s when the Pope returned them to the city and its people from the papal collections.  At this point the sculpture became one of the first really “public” collections in history. I’m not sure why it struck me so, but one piece I found oddly beautiful in the Musei Capitolini was of the satyr (you all know I LOVE satyrs!) Marsyas.  He made the awful mistake of challenging Apollo to a music competition and for that lost his hide and his life.  This statue is carved from a deep purple veined marble which was to represent the many lashings he received for his folly.  Though sad, the statue is very beautiful and moving in a way.

Protectors of the City

Marsyas

Something I found throughout my entire time in Rome was the fact that in Rome it is IMPOSSIBLE to separate the old and the new, everything is all tossed together and built up next to each other.  I. LOVE. IT.  Rome touches on so many museum issues for me that I could write a million blog posts.  Hopefully posts will come someday about reconstruction versus preservation and also more on the integration of the old and new in Roman museums and galleries.

We did a ton of interesting stuff on day 2 but I can’t elaborate on everything or this would be as long as a guide book.   Enjoy the photos of things we saw/did and I’ve added some external links in if you’d like to read more about something.

Mattei Family Sculpture Garden, an extremely expensive display of self-wealth.

Palazzo Mattei di Giove

Palazzo Mattei di Giove

Piazza Navona includes some AMAZING Bernini fountains/sculptures, that guy was just fantastic at what he did.  Here, this fountain represents the four rivers.

Piazza Navona

The Four Rivers by Bernini

We saw a LOT of churches whilst in Rome and not being my favorite bit I’m not going to elaborate on all of them though I might pop a few pictures in.  We ended up at the Pantheon (Temple of the Gods).  There is still much that is left unknown about this structure and its purposes which made it a little hard for me to get into, but it’s still one of those “must see” sites.

After class hours we wandered off to the Forum, dinner and the Trevi Fountain. You could spend an entire day wandering around the Forum reading about all of the different structures that are there.

After, we ate at a L’Archetto, a macaroni joint that boasts more than 100 different sauces/gravies.  It was delicious.  As for the Trevi Fountain it is enormous and beautiful and I loved it.

The Forum

L'Archetto, YUM!

Trevi Fountain


Again with the catch-up

More than two months since my last post, tsk tsk.  This semester has really gotten away from me.  I promise my lack of blogging isn’t because there aren’t many fascinating things happening in the museum field, because there are.  It’s simply because at I spend 40 hours a week playing manager at a local gourmet foods market, 20 hours a week as a graduate assistant and go to class three night a week.  I daresay I’m just a bit busy.

Excuses aside, the semester and finals are winding down but things in general won’t be slowing down at all. I do hope to have more time for blogging though.  I have several posts written, I just need to type them up and post them.

Tasty Eggplant Parm!

Posts coming soon from this last semester:

  1. The Barnes Foundation
  2. The Hunterdon Art Museum
  3. Classes and projects
  4. Historic houses & a possible thesis topic
  5. Tasty posts about food because of an amazing boyfriend who loves to cook! (and go out)

Plans for this summer that I hope to be blogworthy:

  1. International Foundation for Art Research evening “What Frames Can Tell Us” at Christie’s
  2. May term week in ROME!!!!
  3. Lots of summer shenanigans
  4. Summer project/class: Producing an Exhibition for the Walsh Gallery
  5. Lots of amazing eats and recipes with the man!

There you have, 10 FASCINATING things to look forward to!


A word on blogging

The only thing productive about Pub Trivia is delicious wings.

I’m doubling on this post, I originally wrote it for the Seton Hall MAMP Newsletter. Thought it might be of interest here!

There are an estimated 150 million blogs (Blogpulse) on the web and it is likely at least another ten will be created while you read this article.  So then, why should you write a blog?  It’s just another thing to do – sort of like having homework, right?  Instead, you could be watching Mad Men, reading Cosmo or attending pub trivia.  It is a difficult decision.

When I first started my blog, years ago, it was a way for my family and friends to keep tabs on me while studying abroad.  Now, much later, it has become one of the best learning tools in my career.

Five reasons why every museum student/professional should keep a blog:

1. It keeps you informed of issues and news.

You can write on any topic that interests you. Research the topic for 10-15 minutes, gather your thoughts and write about your perspective.  You might be surprised, both at how well you stay informed and at the conversation you start.

2. It hones your writing.

Who doesn’t need a little writing practice?  Beginning a blog is one of the best ways I’ve found to learn a happy median in writing for experts, enthusiasts and the general public all at the same time.  This is a skill many of us must use at work every day.

3. Provides excellent networking opportunities.

As you begin reading and commenting on other blogs, those writers will inevitably start to reciprocate.  Before you know it, you’ve connected with somebody you may not have met otherwise. Likewise, it is an excellent way to continue conversation with professionals you’ve met at conferences or seminars.

4. Makes you aware of events and exhibitions (and potentially gives you inside access to institutions and their “muselebrities”).

“I’d love to feature your institution or talk about this topic in my blog. Would it be possible to interview you about behind-the-scenes operations?”

5. It facilitates self-branding and boosts your résumé.

Maintaining a blog shows potential employers that you’re diligent, aware and tech savvy.  If you’re looking to add something to your résumé that will set you apart from the crowd, an interesting blog might be just the thing.

If you’re self-conscious about your writing or about beginning a blog, than start small.  You can keep a blog private, or only give the link to a handful of friends until you feel comfortable enough to let it go public.  Another excellent option is to test the waters by writing a guest post.  Contact the writer of a blog you enjoy and make a suggestion, or consider guest-writing for the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums blog. They are always looking for students/professionals who would like to write about anything that might interest readers.

Five blogs I think every museum student/professional should read:

1.       Center for the Future of Museums

2.       Museum 2.0 – Nina Simon

3.       Know Your Own Bone – Colleen Dilenschneider

4.       Thinking About Exhibits

5.       Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums

Blogging is a worthwhile investment of your time and a great way to bounce around ideas.  You’ll find plenty of other great tips and tricks at (http://weblogs.about.com/od/bloggingtips/tp/TipsBeginnerBloggers.htm).


Castles full of treasures

Recipe for Disaster..I mean ADVENTURE!

A Baker’s Dozen of Donuts

Bagels & Cream Cheese

2 sets of Mapquest directions to the wrong address

4 Museum Professions Students

1 Phone GPS Lady who can’t even locate my car

Mix all of these ingredients together in a boat/car named Veronica and you end up with a beautiful scenic drive to the Mercer Museum and Fonthill in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.  Caution: Finished product may arrive 15-20 minutes later than planned.

I love fieldtrips and our trip for History and Theory of Museums to the Mercer and Fonthill was no exception.  A VERY long story short, Bonnie was in charge of navigation. Bad idea.  We just happened to go several exits past the one we wanted and ended up taking a much more scenic drive through NJ/PA along the Delaware River.  It was a beautiful drive, freckled with quaint little towns, which I hope to go back and visit someday.

The Mercer Museum was created by Henry Mercer: tile-maker, antiquarian, artist, writer, world-traveler and archaeologist.  This place is incredible! Mercer completed his museum in 1916 to provide a home to his large collection of everyday American objects.  Mercer saw an importance in preserving the everyday objects at a time when industrialization was sweeping America.  Their brochure invites you to see “dramatic displays,” DRAMATIC is probably the most appropriate descriptor.  You’ll have to go see for yourself but it looks a little something like this…

Mercer Museum

There is literally stuff attached to ceilings and walls in random fashion.  My fellow students and I quite enjoyed checking out the actual gallows they have, along with other interesting ‘death and crime’ instruments.

Fonthill

Fonthill is Mercer’s home located just miles away from the Museum. Imagine a castle: towers, terraces and all, completely adorned inside with hand-crafted tiles.  My only regret is that I can’t stay there for a weekend simply looking at the walls. Personal favorite: in one of the home’s 44 rooms there is tile layout depicting Mercer’s travels to a cannibalistic colony.  We museum people are known to have a bizarre sense of humor.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to tour through the tile works building, but that’s definitely on my list of things to do next time.

Finney's Pub

 

As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes the history of the museum is as interesting as the artifacts in it.  The Mercer and Fonthill are definitely these types of museum and I recommend them to anybody traveling in or around Doylestown.  Finney’s Pub on Main Street is also worth a try, they serve up a pretty mean cheese steak!