A colossal mattress covering more than 100 square meters is not something you would typically find in a leading art museum. However, on the second floor of MAXXI Museum in Rome, on view until September, viewers will find just that.
There, in gallery five, one of the darlings of Italian contemporary art, Paola Pivi, has created a monumental public art installation in the form of a massive bed that people can literally crawl in.
Curated by Hou Hanrou together with Anne Palopoli, the monographic showing of Pivi’s work builds on earlier themes in the artist’s work, namely, subverting what they call “the classical confines between public space and intimacy.”
Entering the space, one is immediately confronted with new works installed on the ceiling. Colourfully connected textile knots form along the ceiling, their playful ambiance giving the space the feeling of an anime film set, I thought.
The exhibition connects many of the major themes that have characterized Pivi’s career since winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 1999, surreal experiences that develop along a theme of what the artist has referred to in the past as “magical realism.:
At MAXXI in Rome, Pivi’s installation breaks from some of her earlier forms by applying comic and whimsy to a piece of domestic design, the bed.
In Ancient Rome, well-off citizens slept on beds made out of wood that were decorated with shells, ivory, gold, silver or bronze, the ornateness of beds as a status and class symbol was not lost on me falling in and around the installation. For less well off members of society, beds would have been made of pea shucks, straw, or sometimes feathers, stuffed into coarse ticks, and covered, if you were rich enough, with lush materials like velvets, brocades and silks.
By contrast, Pivi’s works are mostly synthetic, an ode perhaps to minimalism but also to cost and access.
Climbing inside the mattress sculpture, an evacious unease takes over. Will others enter too? How will I/should I react? Thankfully, the mattress is large enough to accommodate several dozen people at once, so my unease of being next to unknown strangers in a bed soon gave way to a genuine sense of playfulness.
Leaving MAXXI, I remembered that art can and should appeal to a sense of play and pleasure, and that it should do so more often. Pivi’s latest project in Rome is certainly something to bounce through if you find yourself in the Italian capital this summer, because, I can now say, the bouncier the art, the bouncier the heart.
03 April 2019 – 08 September 2019. PAOLA PIVI. WORLD RECORD
Also published on Medium.