Rome: Art is MAXXI-mus

In Rome, art and history is all around you, enriched by food, shops, people-watching. It’s my favourite capital city because simply ‘being in Rome’ is more than enough happiness. But, its only on recent visits that I discovered the contemporary art home of MAXXI.

On approach, you know you’re somewhere special. The building was designed by Iraqi-British architect Dame Zaha Hadid (1950-2016). When you walk into the foyer of MAXXI your eyes are looking up and around with the realisation that those strips of light are stairways to exhibition spaces. Everywhere, you’re visually guided to the next space and the next. A bit like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for contemporary art lovers.


Getting there: On my map, it looked straightforward. In fact, a straight line along Via Del Corso from my hotel to Piazza del Popolo, then continue on. I love walking, I love Rome,  I’ll stroll. I walked and walked briskly for well over an hour, in not the most picturesque of surroundings, each time thinking it has to be “around the next corner.”  Along the way, I was aware of the many passing trams travelling the same straight line, parallel to me.  Just where the tram (finally) curves around…there it is, MAXXI.  Afterwards, I caught the ‘straight line’ tram back to Piazza del Popolo, better informed for the next trip.  Don’t make my mistake.

Where to start with the art? All new to me (with the exception of a Gilbert & George photography exhibition on my last trip). The curation, as with the architecture, makes ‘space’ as important as the works.

So….”come with me, and you’ll be, in a world of pure imagination…” *

Photos: Letizia Battaglia’s powerful photojournalist images; striking gold curtain from the collective Zapruder; “Does this Mirror have a Memory 8” (collaboration with Sophia Lehulere); installation by Micol Assaêl.

Photojournalism is my favourite photographic style. Discovering Letizia Battaglia (born 1935 in Palermo, Sicily) was ‘explosive’.  Working for the left-wing newspaper L’Ora, Battaglia took around 600,000 images, focussing on the Mafia, its infiltration and assault on Sicilian life and society.   Extraordinarily, she could be at four or five murder scenes in one day.  Letizia Battaglia photographed so much death that she is quoted as saying, “Suddenly, I had an archive of blood.

“Take a look and you’ll see, into your imagination.
We’ll begin with a spin, traveling in the world of my creation” *


And then…. I found Yona Friedman, born 1923 in Budapest (Hungary), his works defined as mobile architecture and people’s architecture.  A truly exquisite experience, his exhibition was an education, literally, as he notes philosophies for creation around the walls, e.g.
–        Mobile architecture implies trial and error process
–        It is the layman’s planning procedure
–        It starts with improvisation
–        and it continues with improvisation
–        irregular structures were conceived for the layman – the improvisator
–        they can be shaped by the hand (most of them)
–        they don’t involve exactitude of execution
–        but they can be objects of art.

Now in his mid-nineties, Yona lives in Paris, he’s still working and clearly “as bright as a button”.  I’d encourage you to have a look at his website to explore his life and works.

Photos: the ‘floating’ magnificence of Yona Friedman’s people architecture; around the walls, “there are 3 pre-conditions for ‘people’s architecture’. It must be easy to assemble for a layman. It has to be an assembly of inexpensive technical components and easy to dis-assemble and re-assemble into a different pattern.”

I had a fun time “sketching like Yona”, practising his six circles make a box lesson. When I returned home to Melbourne, I started following him on Instgram  Coyly, I posted the photograph of my sketch at his MAXXI exhibition, adding @yona_friedman.  Kindly, he wrote a comment, “Thank you Pamela. How nice to see this! I love your sketch”
…..I think I’m in love, sigh!

“There is no life I know, to compare with pure imagination”,  from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
* Songwriters: Anthony Newly, Leslie Bricusse © Universal Music Publishing



© Pamela Reid 2018







Art and about Europe: Paris Style

Photo:  Steps of Palais de Tokyo, Opening of 2017 Paris Fashion Festival

Who doesn’t love Paris (a rhetorical question)?  The city of romance, art and architectural history, fashion, people-watching. Films, books, songs, cruising the Seine, strolling the Champs Elysees, sitting on the steps of Sacre Coeur, wining and dining. Everybody loves Paris!

A recent trip with my sister was a return to Paris – we hadn’t visited together since (way back) in the Seventies. How fortunate that we arrived on, and found ourselves in the midst of, the Opening of 2017 Paris Fashion Festival at the Palais de Tokyo. So many ‘beautiful people’, paparazzi and plenty of attitude.  The very best of Bienvenue à Paris!


Usually, I commence “Art and about Europe” blogs with my morning walks.  In the city of love, Cupid rises at daybreak, his bow and arrow aimed at brides and their grooms, with the Eiffel Tower as a romantic backdrop.  


Art is in abundance in Paris….the big decision for the day is where to start?  As everything ‘now’ was fashion, how exciting to see an exhibition of Irving Penn’s photography at Le Grand Palais.

Photography by Irving Penn:  Three Dahomey Girls, One Reclining (1967); Large Sleeve (Sunny Harnett), New York (1951); Spencer Tracy, New York (1948); Carl Erickson and Elise Daniels, New York (1947); Audrey Hepburn; Irving Penn’s camera equipment.  

It’s a short stroll, along the Seine riverside, from Le Grand Palais to the Musée d’Art Moderne, exploding with colour and contemporary art.  

Photos: Larger-than-life Robert Delaunay’s Rythme 2 (1938); Narcisse – Jean Gabriel Chauvin (1939); Jean Besnard’s Synthèse Humaine (1930); Rivière Blanche, a massive string of pearls (Murano glass) by Jean-Michel Othoniel (2004); Alberto Giacometti’s Aika (1959); Portrait of Carmen Baron (1944) by André Derain.

Photo:  Out and about – Paris style.

The neighbouring Le Petite Palais houses the Museum of Fine Arts. An impressive “look up” experience (built for the 1900 Universal Exhibition), it is based on a trapezium shape, made up of four wings around a semi-circular garden bordered by a richly decorated peristyle. It is a welcoming mix of traditionally elaborate and open spaces to explore.

Photos: The winged angel in Le Petite Palais entrance; Large ceramic works around the garden; Soir Antique – Alphonse Osbert (1908); large male sculptures.

There’s much to see when wandering Paris…..and wander we did:
Photos:  Striking sculpture by Anna Quinquaid, outside the Palais de Tokyo;  A diminutive ‘me’ outside the very grand entrance to Le Grand Palais; art instruction inside Musée d’Art Moderne, of course we cruised the Seine; night light’s in a neighbouring building.

Some “must do” totally tourists photographs:
Photos: the impact of old and new outside Le Louvre; riding The Metro; Sacre Coeur, Montmartre; the best view of Paris……..and fromage!

Photo: Brides and fashion photoshoots combine as dawn breaks behind the Eiffel Tower.


© 2018 Photos and text Pamela Reid/tPRo  (excluding those of artists/photographers’ works)





Day & Night: At the National Gallery of Victoria



Xu Zhen’s enormous Eternity Buddha in Nirvana floats under the Leonard French glass ceiling in the Great Hall.

It’s my daughter, Annie, and her husband Sam’s first wedding anniversary. The gift for this occasion is ‘paper’, a symbol of the strength that comes from the interlaced connection of paper’s individual threads. How fortuitous then, that the National Gallery of Victoria has an exhibition by Louise Paramor, “Palace of the Republic” – wonderful vibrant paper sculptures, along with a room of her colourful plastic assemblages.   A smart lunch,  followed by a day at NGV Australia, was the perfect Anniversary gift.

The much larger-than-life paper sculptures are new works using the ‘honeycomb’ technique which the artist learnt during a one-year residency in Berlin, 1999. The plastic assemblages are constructed from found objects.  There’s fun in identifying all those bits’n’pieces, the building blocks of each sculpture. 
Photos: Annie and Sam, “Palace of the Republic” by Louise Paramor. Exhibition is on at NGV Australia until 12 March, 2018.

There’s always room to roam around the contemporary space of NGV Australia. Currently, when you enter the foyer, you immerse yourself in “Spirit and Memory” by Japanese born Akio Makigawa (1948-1999). He moved to Australia in 1974. Described as ‘Zen-like’ (they are), his sculptures are constructed from primary materials, including stone, steel and wood. Makigawa’s works are presented on each floor, they call your attention as you arrive by escalator.  A beautiful sight!
Photos: “Spirit and Memory” by Akio Makigawa. Exhibition is on at NGV Australia until February 2018.

A powerful video installation by Mel O’Callaghan,  “Ensemble”, is at NGV Australia until 12 March, 2018.  Australian, Paris-based, Mel’s work explores human behaviours in relation to ideas of resistance and endurance.  “Ensemble” is a two-channel work depicting three firemen turning the hose on a man who pushes forward against its force. Previously Ensemble 2013 was shown at the Centre Pompidou, in both Paris and Malaga, and the Institut d’Art Contemporain Villeurbanne/ Rhône-Alpes in Lyon, France in 2016. NGV Australia has acquired this work.
Photos: “Ensemble” – Mel O’Callaghan

Across the road at NGV International, the inaugural NGV Triennial has just opened. This massive exhibit features work of over 100 artists and designers from 32 countries, a “festival” of contemporary art/design, presented across technology, architecture, animation, performance, film, painting, drawing, fashion, tapestry and sculpture.

It was coincidental that I had booked to attend an evening forum in conjunction with the opening of the NGV Triennial. Hosted by Matt Anderson, International Culture Editor of New York Times, the topic was “Are Artists and Designers Agents of Change?”. Speakers were six of the artists/designers whose work is showcased at the Triennial: Alexandra Kehayoglou, Brodie Neill, Josephine Meckseper, Richard Mosse, Simone Farresin (Formafanstasma) and Elliat Rich. They each gave insight to their purpose and outcomes.
Photos: Matt Anderson hosts “Are Artists and Designers Agents of Change?”; Gallery foyer installation, Estudio Campana; The gallery café has been transformed into a Moroccan theme by artist Hassan Haijaj; rear Neo-classical sculpture and head of Xu Zhen’s Eternity Buddha in Nirvana.

The forum was after gallery hours, which meant exhibition spaces were closed, but it did give us the opportunity to peek at those works around the immediate foyer/ground NGV level.  There’s an explosion of impact as soon as you step inside: Chinese artist, Yu Zhen’s, “Eternity Buddha in Nirvana”, its more than 14 metres in length, a reclining figure surrounded by replicas of Greco-Roman, Renaissance and Neoclassical sculptures – the Dying Gaul, Farnese Hercules, Night, Day, Sartyr and Bacchante, Funerary Genius, Achilles, Persian Soldier Fighting, Dancing Faun, Crouching Aphrodite, Narcisse Couché, Othryades the Spartan Dying, the Fall of Icarus, A River, Milo of Croton.

For Japanese style and sparkle, there’s the Nendo exhibition of fifty chairs. Each Manga-inspired chair plays with the element of design and line.

There’s so much to see.  Thankfully its on until April, with a summer nights program (19-28 January, 6pm-midnight) that includes a food fest presented by Supernormal Natsu as well as the Moroccan café.  Plenty of opportunities and times to enjoy all aspects of NGV Triennial.

…..can’t wait!

“Spirit and Memory” by Akio Makigawa  – NGV Australia


© Photos and text Pamela Reid/tPRo 2017




There’s an Art in People Watching

Photo: Ai Wei Wei exhibition – National Gallery of Victoria

I’m a people observer: watching, drawing, photographing. It’s a long-time pleasure of mine, whether I’m lying on the local beach or sipping coffee in a favourite city – have I mentioned Rome already?  I find particular enjoyment studying people within an art space. The presence of one person can alter and enhance the mood aesthetic, creating an interesting photographic composition through colour, line or body language.

Photos: Tate Britain, London;  Bruce Armstrong exhibition at National Gallery of Victoria; MONA, Hobart, Tasmania; MAXXI, Rome.

Sometimes I see a person walking towards an artwork or object and I quietly will them to move in a specific direction or proximity (it doesn’t always work).

Photos: MAXXI, Rome; National Gallery of Victoria; Jupiter Artland Sculpture Gardens, Edinburgh; MONA, Hobart, Tasmania.

Or, I’ll stroll through a gallery looking for people contemplating an artwork.  Their body language is still and I have to be quick to capture that moment before they move on.  There’s elation in the ‘gotcha’, the approach has to be discreet.
Photos:  Dancing Umbrellas – Heide Museum of Modern Art, Victoria; National Gallery of Victoria; Ai Wei Wei – National Gallery of Victoria; Fundacio Joan Miro, Barcelona, Spain.

Gallery staff at work present other photo-opportunities. Their presence in the space is often “I’m here, but pretend you can’t see me.”    I’m watching.
Photos: Glasstresse, Venice Biennale 2015; MAXXI, Rome; Tate Britain, London: A conservator at work, National Gallery of Victoria.

Observing around public art places also offers pleasing and complementary scenarios.
Photos: Street art, Oporto, Portugal; around the cloisters, Monastery of Pedrables, Barcelona, Spain;  Hosier Lane, Melbourne;  me being silly, “circular selfie” Heide Museum of Modern Art.

Photo: Inge King Sculpture exhibition – National Gallery of Victoria

 © Photos and text Pamela Reid/tPRo 2017

Art and about Europe: There’s no place like Rome

Photo:  Italian style in The Vatican

Years ago, I tore an editorial out of a women’s magazine. It was titled “Forty things to do before you die”.  Number 40 was “Sip coffee in Rome”.  I’d never been to Rome and held onto this press cutting until, finally, I did just that. I sipped coffee in Rome.  Until then, Paris to me was the beautiful European city with a reputation for sitting in cafes, people watching.  But Rome!  This is the city for walking and watching.  The coffee is good (of course, it’s Italy), but strolling those streets day and night, exploring the sights and watching the people, capturing those moments through my camera lens –  this for me is now Number One on my itinerary each time I travel.

Walking Rome: It doesn’t matter where you start, this way or that? I have ‘my’ regular Hotel on Via Del Corso. When I turn right for my morning walk, there’s few people out at daybreak, but those who are sharing the experience are like-minded. The early-risers.

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Photos:  Towards The Colosseum; vegetables are delivered to a restaurant; off to work (my photo homage to Jeffrey Smart); local cafe.

If I turn left, I can stroll shopping galore until I reach Piazza del Popolo, a large, symmetrical piazza, with its central obelisk and magnificent architectural surrounds.  The church of Santa Maria del Popolo (built 11th century, then reconstructed in the early Renaissance) is adorned with artworks including: two by Caravaggio, Saul on the road to Damascus and Crucifixion of St Peter; Adoration of the Child by Pinturicchio who also painted the ceiling and frescoes within the church. The Chigi chapel was designed by Raphael…and so much more. Piazza del Popolo is also popular for people watching.

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Photos:  Shopping for scarves, fresh fruit daily, fashionably Fendi; arriving at Piazza del Popolo.

I googled the definition of “people watching” – the action or practice of spending time idly observing people in a public place.  Idle?  I don’t think so!  My late, dear friend, photographer Rennie Ellis, built a creative career and lifestyle from observation, recording social, photographic commentary. Nineteen books of his works since the Seventies have been published, including three posthumously. There have been many “Rennie” exhibitions over the years in Sydney, Canberra, around Melbourne as well as “Everyday People” at State Library of Victoria and the upcoming,opening next week. I worked for Rennie for three years and learnt much from him.   Back to…. The absolute pleasure and excitement in people watching around Rome.

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Photos:  Trading on Ponte Garibaldi; Policeman on duty; tourists around the Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona.

This is one of my favourite photos, taken outside restaurant Prosciutteria Coronari.  For me, it depicts this leisurely pursuit.


…and some around Vatican City.
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Photos:  Family outing; Nuns in the neighbourhood; a beggar woman on steps just outside the city; mucho Il Papa merchandise.

Rome is also the reason for foodie fotos.  When you’re sitting in your favourite piazza, with that glass of prosecco or spritz, a small bowl of olives, a salad, the oil and vinegar bottles on the table – you’re “in heaven” and life doesn’t get any better.
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Photos:  Happiness is….. with daughter, Annie.

All of this, and that’s just the daytime. When the sun goes down, continue walking, watching, dining. Experience Rome.
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Photos:  Around The Pantheon; complimentary cold tomato and oregano soup at Babette Restaurant; Vivaldi’s “Le Quattro Stagioni” recital in Church of All Saints; looking out from Castel Sant’Angelo.

Photos:  Along via del Corso

© 2017  tPRo/Pamela Reid