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Way back in 1999, I remember walking up to the pile of rubble and marble that was the Ara Pacis and feeling amazed that such an ancient monument had been left so lonesome on the banks of the Tiber to weather the elements. Most of the rest of Rome’s monuments were under scaffolding at that point, getting ready to shine for the new millennium and the Jubilee.
Shortly after that, it was announced that the Ara Pacis would undergo a huge refurbishment by American architect Richard Meier. His winning proposal would envelop the Augustan memorial under an ultramodern glass and steel structure.
Romans were outraged, the project was on-again-off-again-on-again. Finally, in spring 2006 the Ara Pacis complex opened to mixed (mainly negative) reviews.
According to Newsweek, by way of this Ara Pacis blog, “the building has become a flashpoint for…disaffection for efforts to modernize the ancient city.”
This is one reason why it seems fitting to me that the Ara Pacis will host an exhibit about a man who has singlehandedly kept Rome on the map through his modern approach to traditional style: Valentino.
From today (July 6) to October 28, visitors to the Ara Pacis will have the chance to enjoy “Valentino a Roma: 45 Years of Style.” The exhibit will display more than 300 of the design legend’s garments and other items spanning the last 45 years.
Of course, the anniversary itself is being greeted with all sorts of fanfare in Rome, including fashion shows at Santo Spirito in Sassia and at the Villa Borghese. For those not on the guest list, a stroll by the Valentino mother shop at Via Condotti 13 will not be disappointing because it, too, will be decked out for the occasion. Not that Valentino or its affiliates need any occasion to be decked out — that’s haute couture for you.
Romans can argue all they want about how Meier’s Ara Pacis complex destroys the cityscape with its modernity. But then those Romans who complain about “the new” don’t deserve the innovative designs of their native son.
(I am a huge Valentino fan, so I am wont to laud him here in hopes that I can get on the guestlist for the 50-Year retrospective. Please oh please. Oh yeah…and throw in a dress, too. Thank you.)