The MAXXI Present

by Danilo Brunetti

Four exciting new exhibits go up at Rome’s only museum dedicated to 21st-century art. Tiffany Parks takes a look.

An exhibition of the works of contemporary Italian photographer Gianni Berengo Gardin, titled The Eye as Vocation, explores humans and their social spaces through the eyes of a photographer. The show presents more than 150 images, including Berengo Gardin’s most famous and lesser-known shots, as well as previously unpublished ones, presenting a unique visual heritage from the post-war period to the present day, from flooded Venice to industrial Milan, from tiny Italian villages to earthquake-hit L’Aquila. Through a fluid and non-chronological itinerary, the exhibition offers a reflection on the distinctive features of Berengo Gardin’s research: the centrality of man and his place in the social world. 

Simultaneously, the MAXXI’s new major exhibit What a Wonderful World brings together installations by 14 international artists, including key works from the museum’s permanent collection, as well as others commissioned for the occasion. The title refers to today’s reality and hopes for tomorrow through the visionary gaze of an artist, evoking—sometimes ironically—our times, riddled as they are with uncertainties, challenges, and multiple human and technological possibilities that drive us towards the future. The works on display investigate the issues of scientific and technological progress that challenge the contemporary era. 

In the open piazza of the museum, Cameroonian artist Pascale Marthine Tayou’s installation Brainforest dominates the space. The dynamic and colorful tree, placed in the center of a fountain, represents nature blooming from the heart of the Eternal City. Tayou’s art focuses on the urban environment, and the use of everyday elements often returns in his work, as he transforms them into iconic contemporary monuments, revealing the critical aspects of our present with an appealing pop aesthetic.

Lastly, Nedko Solakov’s A Cornered Solo Show #2 is showcased in the museum lobby. The Bulgarian artist creates a dialogue between drawing, writing, and the environment to recount intimate experiences and thoughts between reality and ction. >Find out more at