Monday, April 27, 2015

If you build them they better bloody well come

About 10 years ago Te Papa had a destination art gallery designed up by a Dutch firm. The goal was to shut down all the complaints about it never showing art. In the spirit of transparency it was done in secret and never amounted to anything. That was a lucky break. The Dutch came up with a design that was all sweeping vistas, ramps, and aggressively architectural spaces.

We saw the Mothership of this style in Rome in the form of MAXXI the art museum that opened in 2009. If we can pinch a perfect phrase, 'it’s all view and no do'. Zaha Hadid (the architect) said MAXXI was designed to “reflect the chaos of life.”  Thanks Zaha. Even more bleakly the current director described the building as being “based on a very clear vision of neo-liberal capitalism – it’s all steel and concrete and glass; it could easily be an airport building, or a shopping mall”. So you can see this is a museum that is going to struggle when it comes to showing art. A couple of years back it nearly closed but now, thanks to (by the look of it) an endless stream of school students, numbers are creeping up.  Ironically the best exhibition we saw there was Architecture in uniform (architecture in war) shown in a series of conventional display spaces built within a swooping expanse. It was ever so.

The same miserable record seen in its most extreme form at MAAXI pretty much holds in New Zealand, but the good news is the building boom is almost over.
Images: MAXXI