Pope opens new contemporary art gallery in historic Vatican library

The Vatican is making a new foray into contemporary art with the launch of a space dedicated to exhibitions of works by 21st century artists. The new permanent place is housed in the 15th century apostolic library. “The [library] inaugurates a new exhibition hall to support the culture of encounter, ”Vatican librarian Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça said in a statement. The move comes after the Vatican Museums canceled a 2018 exhibition of Andy Warhol’s works that aimed to explore the “spiritual side” of the pop artist.

According to the Catholic newspaper Node, the inaugural exhibition—Everyone: humanity on the move (until February 25, 2022) – features centuries-old geographic and allegorical maps in the library’s collection interspersed with new works by Rome-based artist Pietro Ruffo.

Ruffo also transformed the library’s Sala Barberini room into “a lush rainforest,” organizers say, placing coiled botanical prints on 17th-century shelves. Other Ruffo cartographic works on display focus on migration. “The map is a fixed element that is crossed by different people,” the artist told the local press.

“I appreciate this attempt to open a dialogue. Life is the art of meeting. Cultures get sick when they become self-referential… when they exclude rather than integrate, ”Pope Francis said at the launch of the new exhibition space. In the wake of the pandemic “we need a new beauty”, he added.

The library’s exhibition space is funded by the heirs of American film studio mogul and philanthropist Kirk Kerkorian; according to Forbes, he was worth $ 4.2 billion in 2015 when he died at the age of 98.

In 2018, the Vatican Museums were in talks with the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh to host an exhibition of the pop artist’s religious works in 2019. But the exhibition was canceled after Warhol’s show collided with the 2019 Vatican blockbuster Leonardo da Vinci. In 2018, the Vatican participated for the first time in the Venice Architecture Biennale, unveiling ten chapels by international architects in the rarely visited forest of the island of San Giorgio.


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