10 years of MAXXI, a huge future focused research laboratory

10 years of MAXXI, a huge future focused research laboratory

The National Museum of 21st Century Art (MAXXI) was officially opened on May 28th 2010. On June 18th 2020, the futuristic contemporary art and architecture exhibition space designed by Zaha Hadid celebrated its 10th anniversary with the “A Story for the Future” online festival. The festival shares its name with the exhibition curated by the museum’s artistic director Hou Hanru which will open next autumn. A day-long event featuring speeches, readings, performances and debates to help us reflect on what has been achieved over the last 10 years and what needs to be achieved in the future and, more generally, how the whole concept of the institutions we know as museums will have to be imagined in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.

A laboratory for the future

“We are celebrating the MAXXI’s first 10 years to develop ideas, proposals and models for the next 10,” declared MAXXI Foundation president Giovanna Melandri as she got the work under way. “Over the last 10 years, the Museum has been a huge research and future-focused laboratory. We are more convinced than ever now that it is time to strengthen the social, educational and research spirit of our cultural institutions. In this post-lockdown phase, we want to continue to act as a bridge between different organisations, a place to create new ways of building the new world that we need more than ever to attempt to imagine”.

Melandri then thanked the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism (MIBACT) and founder members of the Foundation, Enel (the first private member) and the Region of Lazio underscoring the essential role they played over the years in guaranteeing the quality and broad range of the Museum’s cultural scope. “The MAXXI has been a key player in internationalising what Italy has to offer on a cultural level and also as a cultural ambassador through exchange of exhibitions,” explained the Minister for Cultural Assets and Activities Dario Franceschini, who stressed how the building of the Museum has proved to be a farsighted moved and how the crisis must be used as an opportunity to continue to invest in the future.

A shared, open space

Enel CEO and General Manager Francesco Starace remembered with great satisfaction the very precious experience our Group has enjoyed in its five-year involvement as the MAXXI Foundation’s first private member. In recent years, the Museum has consolidated its essential role as a cultural laboratory both for Rome and the entire country: an open space that experiments with and influences different languages consistent with our open vision of creating shared value. “We think the MAXXI is the ideal place to for us to reflect on and discuss together the future we want to have,” Starace said.

A success story

Over the last 10 years, the MAXXI has attracted more 3.5 million visitors to a total of 106 exhibitions, 32 focus shows, 82 special projects. That’s without even mentioning educational projects involving over 125,000 young people.
Melandri also pointed out that this work continued right through the lockdown with 13.8 million views of the Museum’s online programme with the result that the former “turned into a broadcaster, thanks to contributions from artists, architects and intellectuals who enabled us to keep on producing and communicating ideas”.

The “A Story for the Future” online show provided an opportunity to celebrate the milestone moments in the Museum’s history, ranging from Sasha Waltz’s dance performance in 2009 in the just-finished museum, to recent exhibitions such as “Gravity,” an investigation of the world of post-Einstein experimental physics, “Low Form”, on the relationship between AI and aesthetics, and the latest, “At Home 20.20”, which reopened on June 18 with a new focus on living in the Coronavirus era.

Melandri also drew attention to the new initiatives planned such as the opening in the coming months of the new Aquila Exhibition Space, which not only strengthens the MAXXI’s activities but also “sends out an important signal to that badly devastated part of the Italy”.

Post-Covid-19 Museums

But most significantly of all, June 18 was an opportunity to reflect on the future. Representatives of the Italian institutions, artists, architects, curators, individuals from the creative arts, scientists and experts discussed the role, social function and potential, digital and otherwise, of museums in the light of the pandemic as they attempted to imagine new ways and methods of using these institutions.

“Museums have to be open to all, they have to enter into dialogue and, increasingly in the future, also be capable of being local, national and international, all at once,” stressed the President of the Italian Parliament, Roberto Fico. Many of the experts who were taking part remotely, including Alexandra Munroe, Curator of the Guggenheim Museum in New York and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director of the Serpentine Gallery in London, spoke at length about the local character of the big global museums after the Covid-19 crisis as a way of responding to the needs of their communities.

But all of the heads of the world’s leading contemporary art museums agree on one thing: the crisis will lead to a huge broadening of the digital dimension of Museums, what they offer and how it is used. This, however, will be offset by live exhibitions and other initiatives because, as Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn stressed in his heartfelt appeal, art cannot be separated from reality, from confrontation, from contact with others. The pandemic crisis will also lead to the themes of sustainability and social inclusion featuring more prevalently in both art and architecture.
“Architecture has always drunk from the spring of necessity,” commented Renzo Piano who was speaking from Paris. “This crisis has laid bare just how fragile our planet is: if young people now want to rewrite the language of architecture, they need to seek inspiration in dialogue, lightness, sustainability and in consuming less energy”.

The themes of inclusion and sustainability, which underpin our Group’s philosophy, have also been central to our collaboration with the MAXXI over the years. This has been expressed through socially constructive projects to encourage students and their families to take part in the Museum’s activities and initiatives which have, for instance, resulted in it equipping itself with more efficient, sustainable and innovative lighting. It’s a partnership that will continue to enhance MAXXI’s role as a touchstone for contemporary art. An open space in which we can get together to imagine and use the universal language of art in order to communicate with each other about new sustainable development models for the planet.