Palazzo Merulana gallery inundated

9,000 visitors in two months new Rome space has been open

(ANSA) - Rome, July 9 - Rome's newest "art salon", Palazzo Merulana, has been open for just two months and is experiencing a surprisingly high number of visitors.
    The space was built by Claudio Cerasi together with his wife Elena, founders of the Cerasi Foundation, to put on display their collection of 90 masterpieces of 20th-century Italian art.
    "I didn't want it to be a museum where you observe paintings and sculptures, but a place that seemed a bit like my home, a space where you can relax, converse, pass some time without rushing," Cerasi said.
    The Foundation is located just steps from Piazza Vittorio on Via Merulana, in the great 1929 building that during fascism hosted the Office of Hygiene and was then abandoned for years.
    The building was nearly demolished in the 1970s, but the city's superintendency blocked the order, recognising the building's historic and architectural value.
    The Cerasi family, Roman builders who have worked on important structures such as the city's MAXXI museum, decided to renovate the building in 2002 after winning a tender for project financing.
    It took until 2015 to get the go-ahead for restoration, which was entrusted to the architect Carlo Lococo and carried out by SAC, the Cerasi family's construction company.
    The result is a four floors spread across 1,800 square metres for exhibitions and a 260-square-metre terrace for events.
    The palazzo, which is owned by the city, has been granted for 88 years to the Foundation, which has entrusted management to CoopCulture.
    The centre of the collection is on the second floor, which houses the golden sculpture "The Director of the Stars", a recent work by Jan Fabre.
    It creates a strong contrast with the other masterworks housed there, by artists including Balla, Depero, Donghi, De Chirico, Casorati, Capogrossi, Cambellotti, Severini, Martini, Sironi, Mafai, Campigli, Funi, and Pirandello. Cerasi, 85, created the Foundation for a specific reason.
    "I didn't like the idea that after my death the collection could be divided among my three children, because I think it's one collection and unified in its entirety. So I spoke with them, and they understood and encouraged me," Cerasi said.
    photo: Giacomo Balla, War (1916)