His point was emphasized by his surroundings. The entrance-floor atrium, designed by the French artist Daniel Buren, evoked the blockier shapes of early Pompeian wall paintings but its mirrors added a fun-house dimension announcing that here the ancient and the contemporary would be bouncing back and forth, the old would seem new and the new old.
Mr. Buren’s atrium, commissioned by the museum in 2015 for its 10th anniversary, is a site-specific piece that has become part of the museum’s permanent collection. Those rooms, mostly on the elegant museum’s first floor, are now repurposed as a modern reimagining of a Pompeian Domus, or home. The galleries are furnished with first-century artifacts on loan from the archaeological park’s storehouses.
In an airy room painted with Neapalitan and Pompeian themes by the Italian artist Francesco Clemente, an ancient phallus sculpture hangs from the ceiling, and tables and reclining chairs create an updated triclinium, or dining room. In another room streaked with paint by Richard Long, the excavated pots and pans seem to be sitting amid the kitchen’s splattered backsplash.
The then and the now conversed fluently where the British sculptor Anish Kapoor’s meters-deep black rectangular hole in the ground yawned underneath busts of Pompeian divinities that connected the underworld and the heavens. They practically chattered in a white room featuring “10,000 Lines,” red and blue wall drawings by LeWitt, set against an intricate, ancient mosaic that curators placed on the floor between them.
Mr. Viliani explained how ancient artisans followed rules to assemble the mosaic the same way the assistants followed LeWitt’s studio instructions to create his drawings. “It’s absolutely…