A new museum of contemporary art was inaugurated at the Aranciera in Villa Borghese on 10 May as part of the city authorities project to recover and make public use of Romes historic buildings. The Museo Carlo Bilotti hosts a permanent collection of 22 paintings, sculptures and drawings that have been donated by the Italian-American entrepreneur and modern art collector Carlo Bilotti. Giorgio de Chirico is especially well represented in the donation, but there are also works by Larry Rivers, Giacomo Manz and Andy Warhol. In addition, the museums ground floor is dedicated to hosting temporary exhibitions of modern art and is currently showing specially commissioned works by Damien Hirst, David Salle and Jenny Saville.
The addition of this jewel of a museum takes us further towards our goal of establishing Villa Borghese as the park of museums, Romes mayor Walter Veltroni said at the inaugural press conference. Rome residents and tourists can now enjoy an extraordinary range of art. I say to everyone: dont come on holiday to Rome. Come on holiday to Villa Borghese.
The Aranciera was initially built around the start of the 17th century as a family residence before it became the Casino dei Giuochi dAcqua and housed feasts and performances. The building underwent heavy cannon fire in 1849 during the French occupation and was subsequently adapted as a storehouse for jars of oranges in winter. The city of Rome took possession of the building at the beginning of the 20th century and until its new incarnation as a museum it was used for offices.
Bilotti himself set the theme of the temporary exhibition at the museum, commissioning the three artists to produce works by imagining an exhibition space that was more mental than physical, and which could put you in a good or a bad mood. Hirst has taken the four evangelists as his theme, creating dark canvases speckled with coloured butterflies, pills and pages from the gospels. Salle has contributed reconstructions of the Michelangelo frescoes in the Sistine Chapel with a modern, cartoon-like twist, while Saville has produced three large and bold paintings portraying reflections on human suffering.
My desire to bring part of my collection to Rome was partly for sentimental reasons, Bilotti, who studied in Naples and Palermo before moving to New York, added at the press conference. I hope it will be greatly prized within a few years.
Damien Hirst, David Salle, Jenny Saville. The Bilotti Chapel (11 May-1 October). Il Museo Carlo Bilotti allAranciera di Villa Borghese, Viale Fiorello La Guardia, tel. 0682059127. Tues-Sun, 09.00-19.00.