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A museum to imagine the future: Interview with Luca Lo Pinto

Almost a year ago, MACRO, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome, reopened its doors after exceedingly difficult times. Under the direction of Luca Lo Pinto, with the overall project called Museum for Preventive Imagination, the institution has regained the credibility and support of the Italian art world. Additionally, despite the difficult period, the Italian capital has responded much better than other cities in the country in the area of culture. We asked Lo Pinto what were the key moments of this unprecedented Roman scene, and what are his thoughts on the future identity of museums.

 

Matteo Bergamini – Despite the “coronacene”, the octopus, i.e. MACRO’s guiding image, continues to move its tentacles: can you tell us how your first year as director was, in these very complicated times?

Luca Lo Pinto – It was certainly not the start I had imagined when, two months before the pandemic, I took office. I now recognise that our octopus, with its tentacular identity, helped us to move forward, making us adapt quickly to such a significant change. Leaving aside this metaphor, the initial idea was to experiment with an alternative museum model, following an editorial approach: to rethink MACRO and its spaces as if it were a living magazine, with a pre-fixed grid, where heterogeneous contents, capable of reflecting the complexity of the present, would be hosted. This allowed us to react with speed, discovering new formats coherent with the first project. We never stopped. In July last year, we had the inaugural exhibition, imagined as an editorial, and now – while we hope to reopen as soon as possible to the public – the eight exhibitions that simultaneously inaugurate the museum’s sections are taking place. Each will be updated independently, following its own rhythm, to arrive before the summer at a palimpsest of eight new shows. In addition, we have had Lawrence Weiner’s solo show “Traces” in the sky on the coast of Rome, the first exhibition in Italy by Phanos Kyriacou and also two publications.

MB – Can you tell us how the idea of developing your Museum for Preventive Imagination as a magazine was born?

LLP – The idea of the magazine was born when observing the complex architecture of the museum: on one side we have areas of industrial archaeology, of the former Peroni brewery, and on the other, we have the new wing designed by Odile Decq. I wanted to create an organic and articulated route, with a structure that would allow different languages to be included, in a constant redesigning motion. It was natural to think of a three-dimensional magazine, articulated in a series of rubrics corresponding to the museum’s rooms, through which the visitor can wander freely.

MB – Among the Italian cities, Rome is the one that seems to have responded best in culture during the pandemic, also thanks to MACRO’s new route. What is working properly right now?

LLP – Rome had a reaction that chose some unexpected paths, precisely in contemporary culture. I also think of other places that belong to the Azienda Speciale Palaexpo, such as the Exhibition Palace, the Mattatoio and the Quadriennale. Even with all the difficulties, there was a particularly good energy that, as far as possible, was also able to attract spectators from abroad.

MB – What would Italian politics have to do to help the art sector?

LLP – First, I hope that museums can reopen, as well as cinemas, theatres and other cultural places. I think it is possible to do so safely, considering that at MACRO we use measures that allow 50 people to enter every hour, in a total area of 10.000 square metres. Having said that, I wish that the social role of museums is recognised, and not only the cultural function, something even more important in a difficult and confusing moment. A free museum, like ours, can be for young people – for example – an important reference, a free space where it is possible to nurture the imagination.

MB – Before the official reopening in July last year, MACRO had developed a virtual programme, which is still active. How do you imagine the museum of the future?

LLP – We have been thinking of the digital as an exhibition space, which is not only a transposition of the physical space to the virtual one. We think of a parallel space, with digital formats for the web and social media. However, the digital is not the only dimension where we experiment with alternatives: last summer, as I said, Lawrence Weiner’s exhibition took place for ten days in the sky, through several plane banners, flying over the coast between the cities of Ladispoli and Anzio – a project about which we will present a documentary soon. We are currently inaugurating an augmented reality exhibition by Darren Bader, which is activated only in a physical dimension, through several demonstrations around the city. I believe that the museum of the future will have to continue experimenting, looking for ways to reach the urban space and conquer new audiences.

Matteo Bergamini is a journalist and art critic. He’s the Director of the Italian magazine exibart.com and also a collaborator in the weekly journal D La Repubblica. Besides journalist he’s also the editor and curator of several books, such as Un Musée après, by the photographer Luca Gilli, Vanilla Edizioni, 2018; Francesca Alinovi (with Veronica Santi), by Postmedia books, 2019; Prisa Mata. Diario Marocchino, by Sartoria Editoriale, 2020. The lattest published book is L'involuzione del pensiero libero, 2021, also by Postmedia books. He’s the curator of the exhibitions Marcella Vanzo. To wake up the living, to wake up the dead, at Berengo Foundation, Venezia, 2019; Luca Gilli, Di-stanze, Museo Diocesano, Milan, 2018; Aldo Runfola, Galeria Michela Rizzo, Venezia, 2018, and the co-curator of the first, 2019 edition of BienNoLo, the peripheries biennial, in Milan. He’s a professor assistant in several Fine Arts Academies and specialized courses. Lives and works in Milan, Italy.

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