ROME – Nowadays, visitors to the website of one of Italy’s most prestigious contemporary art museums receive a double invitation: “Book your visit in advance” and “Book your vaccination”.
Once a palace of the Savoy dynasty, Castello di Rivoli recently became one of several Italian museums that joined the country’s vaccination campaign and followed in the footsteps of cultural institutions across Europe.
With the reputation of “Art Helps”, the museum near Turin has reserved its galleries on the third floor for a vaccination center run by the local health authorities. While they are recording, patients can enjoy the murals by Swiss artist Claudia Comte.
Comte worked with composer Egon Elliut to create a soundscape that evokes “a dreamy feel” and lulls vaccine recipients as they move from room to room before and after the recording.
“Art has an extremely important influence on well-being,” said Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, the museum’s director. She said that she couldn’t commission a “more perfect” setting than Comte’s work for a “space to merge the art of healing the body and the art of healing the soul and spirit”, noting that the words in Italian for “to heal” and “curator” came from the same Latin word “curo”. In history, she said, some of the earliest museums were former hospitals.
Some of the first people to be vaccinated last Thursday at Castello di Rivoli could no longer have agreed.
Currently, only people who live in the area served by the local health authorities, such as Patrizia Savoia, a pensioner who is within walking distance, can be vaccinated there. “The fear of vaccination disappeared in these beautiful rooms surrounded by music,” she said. “It was very relaxing.”
Comte’s show – “How to grow and still keep the same shape” – opened in autumn 2019 and was supposed to end in February last year. Instead, the gigantic murals, partly inspired by some of the building’s decorative motifs from the 18th century, are “the longest-running exhibition in the history of the Castello,” said Christov-Bakargiev.
May 4, 2021, 6:45 p.m. ET
The show by Nigerian-born, Antwerp-based artist Otobong Nkanga that was supposed to take her place has been postponed until the end of September. The artist was “extremely cooperative,” said Christov-Bakargiev. “I called her and thought, ‘What is she going to say? ‘And she was super happy and’ Are you kidding? I am so happy that the rooms are being used for a vaccination center. ‘“
Speaking from Madrid, where she was installing a show at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, which opens next week, Comte said she was glad her work of art had a double life. “I love to imagine people stepping in and really experiencing this immersive and total audiovisual experience,” she said.
A performance piece that Comte had planned for the Rivoli show had been canceled due to the pandemic. She saw the people being vaccinated against the backdrop of her murals as “activating the space more fully and meaningfully,” she said.
“What artists should be doing is speaking for our time,” she added. “It’s spot on.”
Marco Bottaro, an office worker who lives in Grugliasco, a nearby town, received a vaccine last Thursday. “It was a very impressive experience,” said Bottaro. Although he is only 27 years old, he was eligible because he lives with his father, who has health problems. Like many who grew up not far from the Castello, he often went to school trips. “With the times we are living in today, when people in general are concerned it was great to arrive in Rivoli and find a relaxed environment,” he said.
Christov-Bakargiev said she had the idea of using the museum in this way after the death of Fiorenzo Alfieri, the chairman of the museum. He died of Covid last December when the museum closed. The number of visitors fell by 70 percent last year, and the museum lost a million euros, said Christov-Bakargiev. “I thought if the museum has to close to the public, we can at least serve the community and solve the pandemic,” she said.
It took several months – mostly due to a vaccine shortage, she said – before the hub finally opened on April 29. In the meantime, other Italian museums joined the action. In Naples, for example, recordings are being made in the city’s contemporary museum, Madre, which has set up a special exhibition of works of art from the collection. In Naples, for example, recordings are made in the city’s contemporary museum, Madre, which has a special exhibition of works of art from the collection; Citizens of the city are also encouraged to get vaccinated in the museum and in the Royal Park Capodimonte with the slogan: “Let beauty infect you.”
In Milan, vaccinations are carried out in the shadow of Anselm Kiefer’s impressive installation “Seven Celestial Towers” in the Pirelli HangarBicocca.
Rivoli Mayor Andrea Tragaioli said he wanted to vaccinate as many people as possible and the museum was a welcome addition to the city’s hospital, the other center. “The Castello is known all over the world. It’s a source of pride for us, ”he said.
The center operates on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. About 100 people are vaccinated every day. Vaccinated people can visit the rest of the museum for free.
The Castello’s staff have been trained to give those who come to the hub a special welcome because they may feel anxious, Christov-Bakargiev said. “We want people to feel like they are contributing to a bigger cause that is the collective and social cause of getting out of this pandemic,” she said.