Industry is the backdrop for divinity at the Centrale Montemartini in Rome. Formerly the first public electricity plant, the Giovanni Montemartini Thermoelectric Centre has been reimagined as a museum. The power station first opened in the industrial Ostiense Marconi area in 1912 and gave electricity to much of the city from its place on the Tiber River, until it was closed in 1963.
During restructuring of the Musei Capitolini in 1997, ancient Greek and Roman sculptures were moved to the Centrale Montemartini for temporary display. The exhibition of gods and machines was so successful it became permanent, and the plant continues to house classical art among the old electrical production machines.
Compressed air canisters line both sides of the ground-floor atrium, which worked the diesel engines in the machine room above. Pillars of reinforced cement and one of the boilers they supported fill other galleries, where statues of Hera, Athena, Artemis, and Aphrodite circle the machines. Two huge diesel engines are joined by a steam turbine, while before their switches and dials Achilles holding a dying Penthesilea.
The contrast between the white sculptures and the dark machinery is a reflection of the many identities of Rome, from a spiritual center where the power lay with the gods to a modern city run by steam and steel.
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Underground Line B – Garbatella stop