The Romanian National Museum of Contemporary Art has opened in a wing of the
Romania's new National Museum of Contemporary Art has opened to the public in
Wing E4 of the vast Palace of the Parliament, popularly referred to as
"Ceausescu's Palace". At 270 by 244 metres the building is the second largest
building in the world (after the Pentagon).
It was built by Nicolae Ceausescu, dictator of Romania from 1965 until his
public execution in 1989. Construction began in 1984, but the massive structure
was never completed. To clear land for it, Ceausescu bulldozed 7,000 homes and
26 churches in southern Bucharest and relocated over 70,000 people to the
outskirts of the city.
Utterly kitsch in its anachronistic dictatorial neo-baroque style, the palace
Ceausescu wanted was never inhabited by him or his government; after the 1989
revolution Ceausescu was tried and executed. The palace was abandoned and there
was talk of a possible demolition. However, in 1994 it became the site of the
new Parliament of Romania. In 1998, the parliament voted to create a Romanian
Museum of Contemporary Art and install it in the palace, most of which still
Mihai Oroveanu, an ex-jobbing photographer, who is now director of the museum,
has been a supporter of the project from the beginning. "This museum had a long
gestation. It is thanks to the interest of the Prime Minister, Adrian Nastase,
himself an art collector, that we obtained a portion of the Palace of the
Parliament. Politicians never considered the museum a priority, and I would not
say that there is a real cultural policy in Romania, but nevertheless they put
money into the project", he told The Art Newspaper.
The museum occupies a modest 4% of the gigantic palace. Its interior contrasts
sharply with the palace's bombastic exterior: a series of stark white rooms are
distributed over four floors. "The part of the palace allocated for the museum
was not yet completed, so we finished the construction and got rid of the
decorations, to make the space as neutral as possible", explained Mr Oroveanu.
He will use the gallery to promote young Romanian artists and also host
travelling exhibitions from foreign museums. The opening line-up includes a
show of Romanian artists who have made work on the theme of the palace itself;
an exhibition of Chinese video artists curated by Swiss-born curator Hans
Ulrich Obrist, which travels from the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris;
and an exhibition curated by Nicolas Bourriaud, director of the Palais de Tokyo
in Paris, that includes work by artists such as the South African Kendell Geers
and French installation artist Franck Scurti. The latter two shows are
sponsored by the French embassy in Bucharest. The museum's board of trustees
also reveals strong French support: it includes Mr Bourriaud, and Catherine
Millet, the influential French art critic and curator.
Mr Oroveanu has no illusions about the new museum's difficult position: "The
location of the contemporary art museum inside the Palace of the People is a
controversial one, and I am very aware of that. But due to the severe economic
situation in Romania it was not possible to build a new museum; we would have
had to wait at least 20 years".
Dan Perjovschi, a Bucharest-based artist, is among the harshest critics of the
new museum. Passionate and disillusioned, he explains: "My generation is
ideological. We survived the system. I cannot forget that one quarter of the
city of Bucharest was completely demolished to build that palace. It is the
visualisation of the ugliest fantasy of a dictator we loathed. For me it is bad
enough that the Palace was accepted as a political icon for today. It is like a
bad joke. Art is being used again as propaganda. The most suitable thing to do
would have been to open a historical museum to display Ceausescu's weird
The opening exhibition, "Romanian artists, and not only, love Ceausescu's
Palace!?" (until 25 March), focuses on the controversial building and includes
works by Romanian artists, beginning with portraits of Ceausescu from the
museum's collection of over 2,400 depictions of the late dictator.
By Marina Sorbello
"Let me, at least, to know that she'll try
Then she'll be a true love of mine"
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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