Lonely Planet Writer

An abandoned factory in Rome has been transformed into a free 24/7 art museum

A factory that has been abandoned for nearly 60 years in Rome has been transformed into a stunning art project. Despite being in a prime location, the only people using ruins of the Mira Lanza factory since 1959 have been squatters. Now the Ex Mira Lanza Museum is open 24 hours a day, with no entry fee, toilets or gift shop.

Visitors can explore this on their visit to the Ex Mira Lanza Museum.
Ibi Deficit Orbis (Deficit Ring). Image by Seth / 999Contemporary / Stefano S. Antonelli

It started last year when the non-profit organisation 999Contemporary asked a French street artist called Seth to camp among the ruins and create colourful artworks. While there, he created large-scale installations with paint and other materials he found in the rubble. The project presented particular challenges for the organisation, who had to clear areas previously used as toilets.

Absit Reverso Vero (Far to be returned to).
Absit Reverso Vero (Far to be returned to). Image by 99Contemporary / Stefano S. Antonelli

Due to the open nature of the space, the fragile artworks are already starting to show signs of disintegration, but they have remained untouched to enhance the warning message about the city’s urban decay. There is also an active artist’s studio on the site. Visitors can come and go as they please, or book ahead for a free guided tour with the curator, Stefan S. Antonelli.

Pakmyre was inspired by Syria's Palmyra.
Pakmyre was inspired by Syria’s Palmyra. Image by Seth / 999Contemporary / Stefano S. Antonelli

For Antonelli, the art installations work on many layers, one of them being a comment on Rome’s chequered history of urban planning. “Former Mira Lanza is one of the most beautiful example of industrial archaeology Rome has”, a statement on the website says. “It’s also an ideal bridge between Marconi and Ostiense districts but residents don’t even know Mira Lanza still exists. To abandon such wealth, such symbol of our history, isn’t a form of vandalism?

Brickseat (Brexit) installation.
Brickseat (Brexit) installation. Image by Seth / 999Contemporary / Stefano S. Antonelli

New life has been breathed into the factory, and not just by the artworks. A family of Roma migrants now live amongst the ruins and help maintain the site. The father, Filo Tito, welcomes visitors to the space as museum manager and art lovers can purchase a book of the artworks from him for €30. With the elements rapidly erasing the artworks, it may be the only way to experience them in the near future.

 

As for the building and the Ex Mira Lanza Museum itself, it remains unclear what will become of it. In 2015, Rome’s mayor was due to sign an order allowing the site to be cleaned up and stage an exhibition, but after he resigned, the plans have fallen aside.

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