Ciao, Milano! Fondazione Prada, Milan


I've never seen anything (or referencing any) of Miuccia Prada's work I didn't like; be it the infamous roman-à-clef that gave us this gem, that Kreayshawn diss, the Miu Miu baroque heels 'that got away' (which I still beat myself up over), and of course the ever reinvented handbag classic - the Saffiano. The saying goes: "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" so when I was in Milan last weekend, I had to pay my respects at the new permanent venue of the contemporary art and culture institution co-chaired by Miuccia Prada and her husband Patrizio Bertelli - FONDAZIONE PRADA, or as I like to call it 'the culture factory' and 'the art house that Miu Miu (Signora's nickname) built'. 

The year-old arts centre - the venue was unveiled in May 2015 - is a ten-building landmark rising from the stark landscape of an industrial zone south of the city centre, transformed from a century-old distillery for Fondazione Prada. The crown jewel of the Milan venue is the 'HAUNTED HOUSE' gilded in 24-carat gold leaf dedicated to a permanent exhibition by Robert Gober and Louise Borgeois. Elsewhere in the vast 205,000 square ft compound is a cinema camouflaged by mirrors and of course the cafe designed by Wes Anderson, BAR LUCE.

The Haunted House is coated entirely in 24k gold leaf, an apparently 'economical' design choice. Really? Either way, there's no missing it: Fondazione Prada sticks out like a golden thumb among its barren industrial surroundings. Talk about gilding the lily...

“While I do think it would make a pretty good movie set, I think it would be an even better place to write a movie. I tried to make it a bar I would want to spend my own non-fictional afternoons in.” - WES ANDERSON

Fans of the director's distinct visual style would swoon for Bar Luce. From the Steve Zissou-themed pinball machines to the Anderson-grade green Formica, this pastel paradise is the director's aesthetic come to life. Bar Luce was designed by Wes Anderson in the style of the old Milanese cafes and inspired by by two films from the golden age of Italian cinema (Miracolo a Milano, 1951 and Rocco e i Suoi Fratelli, 1960). Bar Luce also references Anderson’s own work, with the same green Formica tabletops from his short Castello Cavalcanti. Movie meta. 


Today's art-viewing public was almost nearly spared the nightmarish tableau of Five Car Stud, a life-sized reproduction of a scene of racial violence created by American artist Edward Kienholz from 1969 to 1972.  Five Car Stud only resurfaced in 2012, following restoration from being stowed away by a Japanese collector for almost forty years. Currently, the controversial piece is part of the Prada Collection, making its Italian debut in an exhibition of tableaux, installations, and sculptures by Ed and Nancy Kienholz. KIENHOLZ: FIVE CAR STUD is a reaction against the glossy narcissism of other art movements of its time including Abstract Expressionism, rather, Keinholz's work is a spotlight on "the meanness and tragedy of life, its conditions of loneliness and which the wasted and the dirty, the depraved and the filthy represented a new and surprising beauty: a feeling or perceiving that stupefies and excites, impresses and sickens, but never leaves you indifferent.” 

The piece that grabbed me by the throat (and not just because of its pungent odour) was The Caddy Court - created in the year I was born no less: 1986 - a grotesque and macabre representation of American Supreme Court justices panelled by a jury of rotting taxidermied animals inside a musty, decaying Cadillac.


If (like I did) you find yourself short of time to explore Fondazione Prada, I highly recommend devoting your limited time to THE HAUNTED HOUSE. The six (or was it five?) story building, once part of the original distillery complex, is a gothic contradiction: at once claustrophobic (the stairs are steep, the rooms narrow) yet filled with solitude (no doubt for the light and seemingly never ending external urban landscape streaming in from the large windows), melancholy yet hopeful. There's a real sense of seclusion - the many small rooms of THE HAUNTED HOUSE see that visitors find themselves at most, a few at a time, observing each of the many works by the late Louise Bourgeois and Robert Gober. Dislocated body parts by Gober - expressing sexuality, relationships, nature, politics, and religion - make for an eerie journey as one climbs the building, eventually ending on a surprisingly serene note: a beating heart in an drain on the top floor. The unsettling yet beautiful atmosphere is mirrored by Bourgeois's two contributions: LOUISE BOURGEOIS'S CELL (CLOTHES) and SINGLE III. 

LOUISE BOURGEOIS'S CELL (CLOTHES) (1996) - Louise Bourgeois

SINGLE III (1996) - Louise Bourgeois

Title and year unknown, Robert Gober

For lovers of contemporary art and architecture Fondazione Prada is simply unmissable. Even Bar Luce alone is worth the trek for fans of Wes Anderson, and although the cafe is accessible to the public, admission to Fondazione Prada is just €10, which is absolutely value for money when you consider that there are ten buildings of cinema, sculpture, and so much more. I daresay that its a no-brainer over paying €39 to see The Last Supper (as I said to Luxy, for that price they better let me lick the damn painting...) That said, Fondazione Prada is a tad out of the way especially if you're staying in the city centre so I highly recommend getting a taxi there and back - for those in a hurry, Uber is a Godsend. Ciao

FONDAZIONE PRADA • Largo Isarco, 2, 20139 Milano

PHOTO CREDITS: 3, 4, 9, & 10 AND 27 & 28


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