The Romanian National Museum of Contemporary Art has opened in a wing of the 
vast building 

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 
lies empty.

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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