Few people go to Rome for contemporary art. It’s just not really the draw. But there is actually a LOT of modern and contemporary art there, and a fair amount of really great/nutty/great contemporary architecture. MAXXI the national museum of 21st century art has both: modern art and great/nutty/great architecture.
Designed by Zaha Hadid a fancy contemporary architect, MAXXI is perhaps MOST famous for its architecture. I also feel honor bound to point out that Zaha Hadid is an extremely successful female architect and part of me wants to give her all the props in the world because architecture still tends to be a man’s game and that WILL NOT STAND. But I can’t. Aside from looking really, really cool, MAXXI is a terrible art museum.
Few people “get” or like modern/contemporary art, especially when we’re talking about non-representational/abstract/conceptual stuff. So if such things are being presented to the public, it behooves the museum to do it in a straightforward, accessible way. Which MAXXI does NOT AT ALL. The museum is designed like a maze, with rooms hidden behind other rooms and criss-crossing staircases, so it seems nearly impossible to even FIND the damn art, let alone understand it when you do. This is NOT wise. And it was born out by the fact that there were very few people there and most of the people I know in Rome (who are almost universally art historians) have never been there. Not great, Bob.
The NYTimes just published an article about contemporary architecture in Rome, and while I applaud the author’s suggestions to look beyond the ancient (and Parco della Musica is AWESOME), I can not agree with their assessment of MAXXI. It’s a lousy art museum. Fancy as hell, but lousy. So… go for the architecture? I guess? Maybe?