Mimmo Paladino and Brian Eno at the Ara Pacis Museum

Mimmo Paladino Scuplture at the Ara Pacis Museum in Rome
Richard Meier's dazzling white modernist building, which is both a museum housing Caesar Augustus's Ara Pacis (altar of peace) and an art gallery showing temporary exhibitions, took ten years to complete and was met with a mixed reception from Romans. I'm one of those people who actually really like the glass and travertine marble structure and have been therefore appalled by Rome's new mayor Gianni Alemanno's suggestion that he’ll be holding a referendum to allow Roman citizens to decide the fate of the Ara Pacis museum - if it gets the thumbs down the neo-fascist politician will take down the $24 million building and move it to the suburbs. Rather embarrassingly this outburst from Alemanno has made headlines all over the world - all of them posing the question He can't be serious...right?

Meanwhile, the current installation at the museum is a perfect demonstration of what works best about the structure and brings together the work of sculptor Mimmo Paladino and musician Brian Eno. Paladino fully exploits the crypt-like lower floor of the building with his recumbent figures and charred disembodied torsos taking on a distinctly archaeological feel as if surrounded by broken fragments of burial goods. Hints of something much darker, perhaps augmented by Eno's music, pervades the entire installation with associations with the Holocaust inevitable, particularly in the piece with hundreds of old wooden shoe lasts with small bronze birds attached to them which covered an entire wall. Brian Eno's music uses the auto-repeat and random-shuffle controls on numerous CD players placed throughout the exhibition to achieve infinite permutations of sound in space, with a variety of speakers installed - including Eno’s trademark speaker flowers.

The photograph show the upper floor on the beautiful sunny day I visited with sunlight streaming through the glass walls. It also shows how busy it was - in spite of Alemanno's protests, L'Ara Pacis is now the third most visited site in Rome.