Inside MAAM: Rome's Illegal Museum

Forget antique paintings in gilded frames, cordoned off by velvet ropes and helpfully accompanied by a number for the audio guide – you won’t find any of these at MAAM. The Museo dell’Altro e dell’Altrove, or the Museum of the Other and the Elsewhere, contains installations from over 300 contemporary artists and street artists, including Giovanni Albanese, Iginio de Luca, Sten & Lex, Alice Pasquini and Borondo. Not just a space for modern art, MAAM is also an illegal squat and home to around 200 people, many of them migrants who arrived in Rome in search of a better life.

Located in a former salumificio, where animals were slaughtered and turned into salami and other cured meats, MAAM is not the first industrial site in Rome that has been transformed by art. The MACRO Testaccio art museum was once a sprawling slaughterhouse while San Lorenzo’s Pastificio Cerere went from producing pasta to housing artists studios.

What makes MAAM different is that art hasn’t been used to give the site a completely new purpose, but to enhance it and draw attention to the plight of the residents who occupy it (similarly, an ex-military barracks in Ostiense, now adorned with vibrant street art, is today a centro sociale, which encompasses both a squat and self-managed cultural centre).

MAAM is only open to the public on Saturdays, meaning the site is, first and foremost, a home to the community that lives there. Known as Metropoliz, it houses around 200 people, including 60 families with children, hailing from all around the world. The inhabitants, who arrived here in 2009 from places such as Peru, Romania, the Ukraine and Morocco, often refer to themselves as ‘Metropoliziani’, highlighting the sense of community afforded to them by this space.

Giorgio de Finis, Creator of MAAM, says: ‘MAAM is no longer my vision. It was only mine for a moment when I suggested bringing the reality of the contemporary art museum to the slum – a place that nobody wants to see – and creating this type of short circuit…now it’s everyone’s.’

Techinically, the Metropoliz squat is illegal, but the artworks within it and museum it hosts every Saturday help to legitimise the space and provide residents with some protection from the threat of eviction.

MAAM is located in the eastern suburbs of Rome on Via Prenestina, 913. Public transport routes are limited but the easiest options are to take the train from Tiburtina to Tor Sapienza followed by a 20minute walk, or, take metro B to Ponte Mammolo then the 508 bus.

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