l'art d'être · laureen andalib



In re-contextualizing the city of antiquity– the notion of contemporary Rome has always been curious. While the city may seem to be a “guinea pig” in testing the weight of becoming a potential center of a global contemporary world, the development in doing so must, and always, lead to trial and error. In constantly having to learn a new, contemporary vocabulary while considering the vocabulary that already describes Rome so prominently, the establishment of an enduring, contemporary “heart” of Rome is always beginning and ending as a provocative cycle of yearning modernity. With this being said, contemporary Rome, when described in this context, is a collaboration of effort, curiosity, understanding, and reusability.

Unlike other centers in Europe, Rome has a vast accessibility of reusing historical spaces, when understanding its function within the city, and when curated in a meticulous and eventful way. In this way, a historic space elevates an opportunity to document, interact, and react to contemporary elements in unmatchable ways. Whether it is graffiti art on the street, the glossy boutiques of fashion houses, renovated housing spaces, or the use of a palazzo to be the “pedestal” of a contemporary exhibition– Rome has the constant potential to work with contexts which not only already exist, but also have the ability to be both renewed and preserved. Although one may compare other European cities like Berlin– which has converted bunkers into galleries, or how France has turned a major train terminal into a global museum, these cities capitalise on a specific category of historical reusability by both appreciating and dismissing the importance of a structure during a specific period, and accordingly, as a new house for contemporary art. In Rome, a contemporary art space can reveal itself through the content of a historical space, whether emptied or detailed, through the environment it is built in– neighbourhoods, port centers, gentrified sites, battlefields, and spaces both royal and holy which have had a cyclic nature of use and abandonment by different periods and different generations— which change the meaning of contemporary art altogether as an embodiment. In this way, by taking advantage of the recourses that Rome has to offer, and with the willingness to understand public laws and governmental consciousness in such a sensitive city, one has the immense power to work with a space of classicism or antiquity– even if not necessarily directly onto, but in proximity with, which is an unmatched, international luxury among other, “developing” centers and cities of antiquity, especially in being a part of Europe.

When understanding the contemporaneity of other industries outside of the art world in Rome, such as in fashion, food, culture, and architecture, Rome has already demonstrated an eager approach to reinvent numerous qualities of the city. From Zaha Hadid’s construction of the MAXXI, to the Città dell’Altra Economia’s interventions in “modern agriculture” (“alimenti biologici” and “stylish” yet “avant-garde” food in Testaccio and Pigneto), to the savvy (now digital) micro-environments built to house fashion brands on Via del Corso— Rome’s call for renovation and competition in such a historic center of the world is constantly under construction and excitement in also dealing with a city that constantly responds to tourism.

Yet, how do we deal with these challenges? If contemporary Rome is a collaboration of effort, curiosity, understanding, and reusability– a development of a thriving, contemporary art world first starts with a core of sustainability. As visitors to the city of antiquity scatter themselves for days in exploring the immense web of the city, if, in the “starting years” of contemporary development, Rome is able to shift or relocate to a prominent site to serve as a temporary arts center and founding marker,  this will become an inspiration for sustaining the development of a bold, interdisciplinary, public, permanent multi-faceted arts center in Rome. This will not only be for emerging, young international artists, but also for collectively relocating the potential of a thriving, contemporary “heart” within the capital of Italy. As the site will extend its borders to artists globally, it will introduce to Europe the beating of a contemporary vocabulary in one of the most ancient, wondrous, and constantly growing cities of the world.


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