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The contemporary museum. A book about structures, spaces of exhibition and cultural policies  
Giuseppe Carrubba
ISSN 1127-4883     BTA - Telematic Bulletin of Art, 11th Dicember 2005, n. 416

The book L'architettura museale dell'ultima generazione written by Ornella Fazzina and published by Lombardi publishers, is a necessary book that gives depth and value to the debate on the problems dealing with the relationship between contemporary art and the places of exhibition, keeping and cultural production. An important book, rich in models and benchmarks, that helps us to understand the structural problems of the museum and the political and behavioral dynamics implied by its management within the social and geographical context.

Through a thorough analysis of the design and of the spaces and programmes related to it, the museum typologies are described as shapings of a space symbolizing the present time. Writing a book about museums means not only discussing problems related to the design, the town planning and the geographical area, but also going back to the origins of our cultural identity. We work out the present through the past and the memories, as a conquest and a progress in theories and creativity which implies a linguistic reorganization. Museums have become the places above all others where things are on display, I mean objects and their changes, set in a regular layout showing the elements of material and spiritual culture. Nowadays it is the place of community and happening, where art is considered as an instrument of research within a spasmodic and obsessive change investigating the symbols of cultural representation. In recent times contemporary art museums and city galleries have sprung up and are all linked in the Net to become benchmarks for their geographical area 1. A global community of sectorial operators has risen creating a web of relationships between market and institutions within a dialectics between economy and creativity.

The architectural space of contemplation has changed into the critical and social space, linked to perception and aesthetics, where the metaphysics of strong powers plays an important role in emphasizing the inventions and the minds, as well as in creating artists and art works.

The book L'architettura museale dell'ultima generazione makes a picture of the situation through a historical and etymological survey going from the origins, from the first idea of collection in the classical age - the treasures hoarded in Delphi sanctuary or in Athens acropolis - to present times, describing the development of museums, from "art temples" to "present time cathedrals".
The essay dwells particularly on the Eighties, the years when, at an international level, the new museum architecture started and the subject "museum" was treated with haste and concern, both for the creation of new art works and for the preservation of old ones.

Beyond traditional problems, the contemporary museum has assumed new and different meanings, as its design and building, especially abroad, have been affected by an extreme formalism; therefore it has lost its original function of container and has been considered as an art work itself.

In the central pages of the book have been analyzed in detail some models of Italian museums of contemporary art: the Rivoli Castle, the Modern and Contemporary Art Gallery of Bergamo and the Centre for Contempotrary Art "Luigi Pecci" of Prato.

In the last chapter have been examined contemporary art museums in Sicily and has been traced a map of the most important Sicilian realities.
After having characterized the basic functions of the contemporary art museum - keeping, exhibition, production - Fazzina discusses in a didactic way, with a historical and scientific study in depth and a refined intellectual clarity, the problems concerning museology and museography.

Therefore she explains that two important features of contemporary museums are the display and the arrangement of communicative tools to make enjoyable what is on display, through explanations and cultural contextualization, within a path involving space, people and objects. A museum should have an educational function, it should be able to influence and create processes of qualification and requalification of urban areas, where the building-structure-shape together with the activities performed within produce processes of symbolization and identification.

Museology and museography are disciplines concerning meanings that can be understood through the classification of objects and the preparation of an exhibition, which implies movement in a space and interaction with objects on display. Even though these two terms are subordinate and linked one another, museology deals with the classification and keeping of cultural goods and museography deals with the architecture and the display criteria; the last one has psychological, pedagogical and sociological elements, as far as it concerns dialogue and communication through visual forms.

The essay ends with some remarks about the impossibility to define a museum typology changing according to time, places and social and political situation; it can be a mere container, a complex monument or else an architecture able to be in touch with its content.

There are also lots of particularly meaningful remarks, all lively and stimulating, from the point of view of survey and knowledge; we just remind the one stressing the idea of contemporary museum as a "living structure", a place where we can make social activities dealing with the cultural system, as well as with interaction and education, a museum with an educational and play function, deeply rooted in the functional and symbolic organization of cities.

Therefore it is an important institution, not only for its architecture but also for the quality of its cultural proposals, defining the civil, cultural and symbolic level of the area it belongs to. Nowadays museums have an informative function expressed by the moments of communication with visitors and an elitish feature revealing itself in research and innovation.

Paraphrasing Rudi Fuchs 2 Ornella Fazzina asserts: "The museum is a place where there is no common object; on the contrary, it is the place of variety, where it is possible to observe something you cannot find anywhere else in the world, where you can meet the unique object that is to be preserved just as it is so".

Translation by Angela Solimando (from Italian into English).


1 The AMACI, Italian Museum of Contemporary Art Association has the task of coordinating and linking together the most important Italian museums of contemporary art.

2 He is an international editor and art critic. He was art director of Documenta7 at Kassel in 1982 and ran the Contemporary Art Museum at the Rivoli Castle from 1984 to 1990.


Ornella Fazzina, L'architettura museale dell'ultima generazione. Alcuni esempi di musei d'arte contemporanea, introduction by Francesco Gallo, Siracusa, Lombardi editori, 2004
17X24 cm - pages 192, Euros 24,00
ISBN 88-7260-150-9

Ornella Fazzina graduated at the DAMS of Bologna and teaches Art History, History and Methodology of Art Critics and Cultural Goods at the Fine Arts Academy of Palermo. Together with her students and colleagues she acts as culture promoter in museums and cultural institutions in Italy and abroad. She also works as an art critic and an editor of cultural events and contemporary art exhibitions. E-mail:


Palazzo Fernandez, Via Papireto, 18/20 - 90134 Palermo
Tel. 091 580876 -fax 091 583746
Secretary of studies:
Web site:
Headmaster: Prof. Umberto De Paola

MIUR - Ministry of Education, University and Research Art and Music High Education/Fine Arts Academy,asp?cf=4&IstCat=39


New entry into southern Italy publishing, Lombardi publishers make use of the experience of the well-known and prestigious Arnaldo Lombardi Publisher, nowadays no more existing and partly follow its cultural choices, research projects and deeply rooting in its venue.
Lombardi publishers, fortified by this more than ten-year tradition and by its presence all over Italy, open to new experiences, taking an interest in alternative trends and action fields. It is no more a publishing house that publishes only books concerning Sicily, but it enriched its catalogue with Italian and foreign non-fiction works. The new publishing house has also developed a specialized line dealing with designs for exhibitions and display events as well as with the printing of catalogues and advertising material.

Lombardi editori, via dell'Olimpiade, 4/d - 96100 Siracusa
Marco Goracci tel. 0931 759689, Bruno Magliocco fax 0931 468848
University Bookshop Unilibro - page Lombardi Publishers books


COMUNICATO STAMPA L'architettura museale dell'ultima generazione, presentazione del libro e tavola rotonda su uno dei suoi temi, la museografia, in "La Sicilia", Siracusa, 14 aprile 2005.

CARRUBBA, GIUSEPPE, L'artista e lo spazio contemporaneo, in "BTA - Bollettino Telematico dell'Arte", 24 maggio 2005, n. 400
ISSN 1127-4883

CARTIA, CORRADO, L'architettura museale dell'ultima generazione, in "Libertà", quotidiano di Siracusa, sezione Cultura e Spettacolo, Siracusa, 19 aprile 2005.

FINICELLI, LOREDANA, La Macchina Museo. Dimensioni didattiche e multimediali, in "BTA - Bollettino Telematico dell'Arte", 6 maggio 2005, n. 397
ISSN 1127-4883

TONELLI, MASSIMILIANO, La Sicilia contemporanea si dà appuntamento a Siracusa, in "", comunicato e commento al convegno sulle istituzioni d'arte contemporanea in Sicilia, Museo e comunicazione. Le realtà museali d'arte contemporanea in Sicilia, curato da Ornella Fazzina, 15/16 dicembre 2001.

GRANATA, VANIA, Ultime generazioni museali, recensione in "Arte e Critica" n. 42, Roma, aprile-giugno 2005.

Book cover

Fig. 1
Book cover
In the photo a detail of Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao (exterior).

Courtesy photo by Lombardi publishers.



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