A new art space is opening in the Vatican with the aim of ‘reflecting diversity’.
The Vatican’s Apostolic Library - home to ancient manuscripts and rare books - will now house contemporary art exhibits in a combination of old and new.
Open to the general public from February, the inaugural exhibit, “Tutti”, is inspired by Pope Francis’s 2020 appeals for environmental sustainability, greater human fraternity and a more just-socio economic order post-pandemic.
Rome-based artist Pietro Ruffo, who works on themes of maps and migration, has turned one of the library’s halls into a tropical forest. Another room plays host to an ancient map of the Nile that Ruffo has made a contemporary reworking of.
Citing the need for new maps after COVID-19, Pope Francis said,
"In this epochal change that the pandemic has accelerated, humanity needs new maps to discover the sense of fraternity, of friendship and the common good.
"We need a new beauty, that isn't the usual reflection of power of some but a courageous mosaic of everyone's diversity."
Pope aims to engage with the outside world
The exhibit is part of Pope Francis’ vision of opening the Vatican up to the world. In this vein he has also opened the papal summer residence Castel Gandolfo as a museum to the public.
The subject-matter of the new artwork is in line with the many high-profile interventions on social justice issues Pope Francis has made since he was elected in 2013.
In October he co-signed a joint climate appeal with other faith leaders ahead of climate summit COP26 in Glasgow. This followed a speech earlier this year on global warming in which he stated ‘creation is groaning’.
The pontificate has also urged catholics to get the COVID-19 vaccine and backed a waiver on intellectual property rights during the pandemic.
The exhibit, which runs through Feb. 22, is open Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons and provides visitors with a unique way to get into Vatican City that would otherwise be off-limits.
Visitors must request admission in advance online, and the 15 euro admission fee includes the catalogue.