Everybody has a talent, every nation has a character. Sometimes I feel Italy is a bit too comfortable in its natural and historical beauty and doesn’t really make the effort of updating its fortune. Contemporary art has had some pioneers here who struggled to shake our endemic somnolence toward artistic innovation but public institutions have often turned down their expectations. Having to manage 70% of the world’s artistic heritage they might have thought to avoid further headaches!
Lately though there is a great emphasis on contemporary art and its exhibition spaces, partially pushed and supported by private foundations. Among the pleasant transformations that accompanied the Milanese Expo we had the opening of the new Prada foundation in May.
Between 1995 and 2010 Miuccia Prada and her husband Patrizio Bertelli have organized 24 solo shows in their previous exhibition spaces in Milan, inviting worldwide known contemporary artists such as Anish Kapoor, Sam Taylor-Wood and Steve McQueen. As I was saying in May this year (2015) they inaugurated a new 19,000 m2 (205,000 ft2) exhibition area south of Milan, located in a former distillery, dating back to the 1910’s.
The area was conceived by Rem Koolhass (who won in 2000 The Pritzeker Prize, the Noble for architecture, and was put by Time magazine in their top 100 of The World’s Most Influential People) and has within seven buildings renovated and three new ones: a cinema, a gallery and a tower almost completed.
The structure includes a kids’ area designed by a group of students from the École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Versailles, and a bar where director Wes Anderson has recreated the typical mood of old Milan cafés, the Caffe’ Luce.
This is the objective description of the place and now I’ll give you the emotional one, addressed to women and to those who have a preference for their right hemisphere. The Prada Foundation in a way emerges from the desolated suburbs of Milan (excuse the strained comparison) as San Pietro in Rome must have looked when it was built, popping up out of a sudden from the maze of narrow streets surrounding the massive church together with its hyper colonnaded square that anticipates it to the visitors. This was happening before the fascistic agenda of the 30’s totally upset the original arrangement but the concept was to take the pilgrims by surprise. In order to induce the Baroque astonishment (and here somebody will say I’m crazy) Rem Koolhaas has used gold, but not gold paint, 200.000 leaf of pure gold, patiently applied on walls of the Haunted House, the real aesthetic icon of the entire set.
There would be much more to say about this unique “art dome” but I prefer to stop and hope you’ll have the chance to visit it yourself soon: you’ll be able to enjoy a really inviting way to show art pieces, well housed in beauty, space and breath.