Julian Schnabel calls Ara Pacis Museum “an air-conditioning unit”

Frankly, I think Schnabel is a blowhard (from Italy Mag):

Well-known artist Julian Schnabel on Thursday provided heavy ammunition for the many critics of Rome’s new home for the Roman Empire’s most famous peace symbol.

Speaking on the sidelines of a new show he is giving here, Schnabel called the Ara Pacis museum, designed amid fierce polemics by his eminent countryman Richard Meier, “an air-conditioning unit”.

“Modern museums are all the same, all glass and marble.

“They’re soulless,” said Schnabel, whose first-ever Rome show will be at the famous Palazzo Venezia from May 4 to June 26 before moving to Milan.

“People have to realise we’re just ghosts, we’re going to be leaving pretty soon, so we have to seek beauty in the present and use the things we have, not novelties,” said the 55-year-old New York artist and film-maker, whose works dot the world’s leading museums.

Schnabel was flanked by a delighted Vittorio Sgarbi, the outspoken art critic, now Milan cultural chief, who once urged students to bomb the building and accused the American architect of “knowing Rome like I know Tibet”.

Knowing his paintings I think the phrase "seek beauty in the present and use the things we have, not novelties" is especially egregious. And having your building called “an air-conditioning unit” could be considered a deconstructivist compliment actually.



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4 Comments

Richard Meier's only mistake at the Ara Pacis Museum was casting pearls before swine. Like all his architecture, the structure is pristine, light and exquisitely proportioned -- a modernist jewel-box to protect (without overwhelming) its treasure. It exemplifies the dictum of good design, form follows function, contrary to other recent museums resembling shards and squiggles.

And Julian Schnabel? He's as misguided about the museum's merits as he is about his own.

As a very fortunate long-time former resident of Rome, it is not only an embarassment for the city, it is shameful to know that an American was commissioned for this important project. Next to all of the wonderful and historic architecture, it gives the appearance of a glorified gargantuan Volkswagen dealership.

Although Meier is an accomplished architect, he did not take enough consideration of what surrounds the piazza when he designed this eyesore. It should have been far more modest in proportion, as it now dominates the space in which it occupies.

Furthermore, whoever the Italian authority was that approved this design to be constructed in the historic district of Rome ought to be ashmed.

I sincerely hope that it is disassembled piece by piece.

The building works in the surrounding space, and the scale is appropriate. From within the building, the neighborhood is delightfully framed, focused, and celebrated.

The surrounds of the building are used by locals for leisure, as a meeting place, and so on. I have watched these occur. In other words, Ara Pacis has established itself comfortably as a part of the neighborhood landscape.

Thank goodness that there was a community vision, and commitment, involved, in creating this building, which did not require that a modern, or post-fascist, pandering to classical architecture (though I love it well) be installed.

My one negative thought regarding the building has to do with its interior use. Particularly in proportion to its foot print, it is under-utilized.

Realize (heh) that this probably isn't quite your thing, but it's such a relief to see someone using British punctuation because they're actually writing in a British style.

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