Domus’ translated version of their interview with Hou Hanru, artistic director of the MAXXI — though transparently a promotional article for the Roman museum — introduces new, more participatory roles of the museum contemporary art world. Hanru eloquently describes his vision of the new museum as an “agora for the arts,” providing not only federally-funded housing for contemporary masterpieces, but also encouraging controversy and dilemma in order to charge political and philosophical discourse within the walls of the institution.
Hanru’s vision, though lofty, is ideal in the sense that as an institute for widespread engagement (not only from tourists, but local immigrant and otherwise marginalized populations), it becomes a sanctuary for creative discourse and production, thereby integrating more thoroughly the art institution into the daily life of the Italian citizen. (This somewhat reminds me of the multifaceted Centre Pompidou in Paris, which boasts an art house cinema, a massive library, distinctive architecture, and a design store.) This integration also allows the art institution to be not only adaptable, but complicit in the changing political and economic climate of the Italian populations. I will have to wait to meet Mr. Hanru and visit the museum myself to judge definitively, and though I am often easily convinced by promotionals, the MAXXI’s model seems to be an effective catalyst of a positive contribution.