Deutsche Akademie Rom Villa Massimo / Rome, Italy

Deutsche Akademie Rom Villa Massimo / Rome, Italy

for Creatives within the disciplines of:
fine arts, literature, music/composition and architecture

This residency stipend is one of the most important awards of Germany for outstanding artists

Villa Massimo, short for Deutsche Akademie Rom Villa Massimo or Italian: Accademia Tedesca Roma Villa Massimo, is a German art institute in Rome. The entrepreneur Eduard Arnhold established it in 1910. Several buildings belong to the complex embedded in a neo-classicistic park, which is maintained in the finest. It is located only three metro stops east of central station ‘Roma Termini’ near Piazza Bologna.

The tradition of art and culture patronage of Academies as an elite promotion model, has worked well for more than 100 years. (See Angela Windholz: ET IN ACADEMIA EGO*, also considering e.g. the Académie de France Villa Medici or the American Academy on Janiculum Hill.)
It is an anachronistic phenomenon regarding art historical periods and movements in the 20th and 21st century. Yet the attraction of art practitioners to this form seems perpetual.

*Angela Windholz: ET IN ACADEMIA EGO – Ausländische Akademien in Rom zwischen künstlerischer Standortbestimmung und nationaler Repräsentation 1750 – 1914. Regensburg 2008, ISBN: 978-3-7954-2060-4, 472 pp.

The sheer number of applications proves it:
Villa Massimo annually receives approximately 1.600 applications for 9 places available, plus the stipends for a three months stay at Casa Baldi in Olevano Romano, a village south-east of Rome, about one hour away.
To cope with this huge amount of submissions, fine artists, who form the biggest group of applicants of all disciplines, have to apply on country level, whereas all other artists need to submit their intent on federal level.
Facing times of neo-liberalism for decades, many creative professionals are scouting for an escape. Those artists are intensely seeking for the safety of an institutional patron to be relieved from the economic pressure of continually producing.

Despite this, the Academy historically favours established and renowned artists, who might not be at the bottom of the food chain.
The statue on the column shows the profile of Eduard Arnhold and a plaque to honour him, the founder of the villa.

Who would not love to receive the honour of a stipend like this? Spending an entire year devoted to inspiration and practice, resting at a magnificent, paradise-like place, just enjoying the scent of pine and cypress in the air and the flickering light breaking through tree leaves.

Just imagine being handed over such a bright apartment, completely empty – fully reset to zero – not even a salt shaker in the kitchen remaining from the predecessor. Not to mention the capacity to bring over family – the two-storey studios are large enough and the scholarship includes a monthly stipend of 2.500 Euro.
Moreover, other artists and experts can be suggested for an invitation of a week of interaction, staying in one of the noble guest apartments in the main building.

Jazz musician and percussionist Paul Lovens maps out his brain on his desk, the day before leaving his studio here. With 50 years experience of touring the world and more than 200 audio releases, he set a special interest in music improvisation.
The two photos in this column give an impression of the studio of Thilo Folkerts, landscape architect and founder of 100Landschaftsarchitektur, who specialised on experimental gardening concepts. He let us sneak in and was so kind to open the park-fronted doors.

Those residents who are interested in certain architectures, excavation sites, particular museums and archives only need to communicate their ideas to the Artist’s Relations Coordinators.
The gentle team, with its connections and special contacts, can make exceptional things possible. For example, they organise trips and tours with expert guides, who open
gates that, for the ordinary audience, normally remain closed.

Almost inevitably, the fellows witness the cultural policy of Italy. The centre of the great Roman Empire and cradle of the arts is currently reducing opening hours of monuments, or closing down exhibition venues completely. Institutions and NGO’s face ongoing financial cuts and ambiguous private funding guidelines.
With a stoic fearlessness, the director of Villa Massimo, Dr. Joachim Blüher, assesses this current situation.
He explains his perspective within the historicist conception of progress – the importance of artist and research residency programmes for the constitution, confirmation and modification of cultural identities.
The director also expresses his appreciation of other German ‘Künstlerhäuser’, like Villa Concordia, Schloss Balmoral or Centro Tedesco di Studi Veneziani, and other institutions with which Villa Massimo has entered into a composite.

What a contrast – to come back to the broad park of the villa on 36.000 sqm, secluded from the outside world by high walls and a heavy iron gate. A trench opens up, not only between Romanesque improvisation and German management logic, but also between the ‘island’ situation of the Creative and the entire production process.
On one hand, the artists are remain among themselves within this locked park, on the other hand, they are encouraged to deliver creative output that is linked with or refers to the region and the locals.

Well known on the cultural agenda of the Romans are the divers events taking place at the villa, like lectures, concerts or exhibitions. Just to mention the ‘Sander-Lerski exhibition’, the kick-off for ‘fotografia’, a show series curated by Ute Eskildsen,
that draw a broad public. Or the ‘Electric Campfire’, which attracted especially the younger local audience.
The photo above shows the ‘Mosaik-Saal’ getting prepared for another evening event the same day.

But what is expected from the artists in return?

Certainly, it is an adherence to a philosophy of a high profile organisation, representing a state like an embassy, and the behaviour in consciousness of cultural diplomacy.
Deutsche Akademie Rom Villa Massimo is under the jurisdiction of the Federal Ministry for Cultural Affairs and Media, of the Chancellery of the Federal Republic of Germany.

For the artists, that also means not producing an artistic intervention, which could be interpreted as offensive to any social group or religion.
Following an extensive three-year restoration, in 2003 the Academy started a renewed commitment to nurturing culture in Rome and in Italy. For 2016, a climate-sensitive conversion is planned, interrupting the residency operations, which will be taken up again in September – from then on following the academic, instead of the calendar year.

Those Creatives to whom these structures sound obsolete and outdated perhaps should rethink their intent to apply – at least for the annual residency. There is also another short-term scheme running, the so-called ‘practice-scholarships’.
With this programme, the director appoints fellows without any selection jury attached. They will be accommodated in the same modern studios of the lane houses, numbered 1-10, that have a rear garden for residents only.

Undoubtedly, there is an agreement on the value of arts and culture for society and the consciousness about the privileged situation in which Germany is to be able to sustain its artists. We all can be grateful for that.
A heartfelt thank you for welcoming me.

Photos: A.M.; Interview with:
Dr. Joachim Blüher, Director, Sylvia Metz and Julia Trolp, Artist Liaisons,
Deutsche Akademie Rom Villa Massimo
Rome, 24th September 2014.