I was delighted to find out about the newly opened contemporary art museum called Musja. Located in the center of the “eternal city” admired by everyone for its ancient and classical art, Musja is a gift of contemporary art to Rome by the recently gone entrepreneur and art collector Ovidio Jacorossi. It was first opened in 2017 as a private collection and reopened as a museum this October of 2019.
To my pleasant surprise, the exhibition that starts this new chapter of Via Chiavari number 7 in Rome, is curated by Danilo Eccer, an art lover and critic who was behind the three successful group exhibitions at Chiostro del Bramante (you can read about Enjoy & Dream in my previous posts). This present exhibition “Who’s afraid of the dark?” is the first part of the trilogy called “The Dark Side”. It will be followed by the “Fear of Loneliness” and “Fear of Time”.
The museum’s space is perfect for the subject of fear. The thousand square meters that it occupies are distributed between the numerous smaller spaces and narrow corridors that are all built on the ancient ruins of the Teatro di Pompeo.
The exhibition starts with glass tunnel temporary covered and converted to the imaginary museum that suffered from fire. German artist Gregor Schneider performed a real fire to the real paintings from Jacorossi collection initially displayed at this fictional gallery. The feeling of post-tragedy is genuine and even the smell of fire can still be felt while walking across the space. At the end of the tunnel I was met by three papier-mache creatures sculpted by the British artist Monster Chetwynd. I stepped inside the mouth of the largest one and found myself in the gallery with multiple chandeliers by the Florentine artist Flavio Favelli and an impressive charcoal drawing of a cross on fire by New York artist Robert Longo.
Since the beginning of the exhibition I had my headphones on, with the information about each of the artists and their works. I am not a huge fan of the portable guides but in this case it allowed the designers of “The Dark Side” to focus on the art only, without the necessity of wall spaces for written descriptions, this way maintaining the feeling of wandering around the private collection and not visiting a typical museum.
On the lower level of the exhibition space I encountered a mysterious ritual-like installation by the famous Austrian artist Herman Nitsch. It consists of six works from the different periods of his carrier with a very strong feeling of the “dark side”, and not only because of its dominant black color…
The exhibition goes on with a site specific dark room (“Camera Scura”) by a local Roman artist Gianni Dessì, a red curtained room with “The Chair of Transformation” by a legendary American artist James Lee Byars and following with one of my favorites – a room with moths projected on the laundry reminiscent sheets by the french artist Christan Boltanski.
Another of my favorites was an installation by the Indian artist Sheela Gowda. At first sight it didn’t attract my attention as I miss judged the material but later I discovered hundreds meters of rope braided from human hair covering walls of the corridor with ethnic masks in different sizes tangled up inside the hair in a truly nightmarish way. Distant whispers from the next room added to the creepy feeling about it.
Finally my visit to “The Dark Side” brought me to the last rooms with site specific “spider webs” by the Japanese installation artist Chiharu Shiota, video projections of whispering human faces by the American pioneer of “new-media” art Tony Oursler, large scale painting by the mysterious Italian artist Gino de Dominicis and powerful leather belt art works by the also Italian artist Monica Bonvincini.
At first, the thousand square meters of the new museum sounded like a huge space to me and now, that I am writing these lines, I realize how tiny it is considering the intensity of art displayed by the artists who could easily fill the museum with their own art only. I definitely enjoyed “The Dark Side” and will be waiting for the second part to see what other brilliant artists will Danilo Eccher bring together.
This first part of the trilogy will be on view until March 2020. Musja Museum is open daily except on Mondays (11am-8pm). I visited it on Tuesday lunchtime and enjoyed it without crowds. For more information visit the official website here.