Rome Update

Today is the city of Rome’s 2759th birthday. For this special occasion, the new Ara Pacis Museum was opened to the public after seven years of construction work. The brand new building is designed by Richard Meier.

Ara Pacis Museum
The new Ara Pacis Museum. Photo: TMK, April 2006.

Unfortunately, the construction work has not been completely finished and two large cranes still loom over the site. Only a very small area of the new didactic museum has been opened. The completely white building may appear very exotic in the historic heart of Rome, but it would not look out of place in a Scandinavian city. I’m in fact reminded of similar, contemporary art museums in Denmark. It is also somewhat ironic that Meier also did Los Angeles’ Getty Centre, considering their current legal battles with the Italian government over the acquisition of illicit antiquities.

The new museum from the Mausoleum of Augustus. Photo: TMK, April 2006.

I was never able to get inside the old museum, so it was a particular treat to finally see the Ara Pacis up close. There is also a new Electa guide to the site (€19), authored by Orietta Rossini, available in both Italian and English. It’s a very sober guide book that focuses on the sculptural decoration, but also deals with the monument’s re-discovery and its modern setting.

Agrippa as he appears on the South procession frieze, Ara Pacis. Photo: TMK, April 2006.

The Mausoleum of Augustus was also open for the special occasion. It is to be hoped that the two, neighbouring monuments one day will form a coherent archaeological park showcasing Augustan dynastic art and architecture as well as the modern, political use of the past.

Inside the Mausoleum of Augustus. Photo: TMK, April 2006.

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