It is said that Stendal, the French romantic author of the early 19th century, noted that Rome was an extraordinary city because 1/3 of its population were women, 1/3 priests and the rest antique statuary. Percentages may have changed, but one thing is certain, the Eternal City still possesses an infinite amount of antiquities and one of the problems the city faces is not having a large enough museum to hold them all.
But where to see the best examples of the silent population of athletes, gods, amazons, nymphs, warriors, maidens and emperors? It is a question that led me to find the Centrale Elettrica Montemartini, the first electric power plant to serve Rome now reconditioned as a permanent exhibition space for treasures from the Capitoline Museum. To this day, it is almost a secret in the city’s museum circuit.
Decommissioned in the mid 1960s the power plant, much like the Bankside Power Station that later became the Tate Modern in London, inspired Italian officials into transforming it for usable space with the long-term idea of converting the oldest industrial area of Rome into an Arts Center to include the old gas plant, markets, slaughter house and docks.
I must say, I find the Museum to be a brilliant way of displaying the aesthetic contrast between antiquities and the immense machines of the industrial age – both wonderfully beautiful in their own ways. If you then consider that these machines are our modern archeological artifacts, their proximity to the statuary is simply perfect! And in a way, this pairing of technology and art perfectly paints the duality of life today – religious but skeptical, eternal and ephemeral.
image credits: Musei Capitolini – Centrale Montemartini, Rome
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