Fondazione Prada, Milan

It would be very easy to visit Milan and miss the Fondazione Prada. Since its opening in May 2015, when it received much coverage, mostly in respect of its architecture – the online travel pages of the major publications appear to have declined to add the foundation to its list of travellers ‘must-sees’.

Fondazione Prada Milan

We scoured the web but found little, save a recommendation to visit the Wes Anderson designed bar, Bar Luce, from the Independent, and a recommendation from Goop. Even the Fondazione’s city centre Milan Osservatorio is absent.

Fondazione Prada Milan

It almost seems as if Milan has been pigeon-holed as a centre of either fashion and furniture design, or as a historic city break. Perhaps it will take more time to attract contemporary art lovers since for many years it has not been known for this, or for the kind of inventive museum exhibitions, frequented in London for example, that attract international audiences.

Fondazione Prada Milan

Located in the southern part of Milan, the compound requires some modest determination to visit, but is is spectacular and well worth the effort. It is the result of the transformation of a distillery dating back to 1910 and combines seven existing industrial buildings with three powerful new structures.

Fondazione Prada Milan

The architect, Rem Koolhaas, is keen to emphasises the differences between the buildings which he is keen to preserve: “The Fondazione is not a preservation project and not a new architecture. New, old, horizontal, vertical, wide, narrow, white, black, open, enclosed – all these contrasts establish the range of oppositions”.

Fondazione Prada Milan

Indeed the turn of each corner brings revelation as historic buildings are mixed with new ones of expanded metal, steel and glass. Sometimes they are cantilevered over the old or descend into the ground. A ten storey white tower is emerging – to be completed for next year.

There is even a stunning building clad in gold. Surprisingly this is quite economical says Koolhaas: “Gold is a very cheap cladding material, compared to marble or even paint.”

Fondazione Prada Milan Gober

Interiors bring similar depth of experience with varied curatorial techniques and display strategies. An old multi-storey house of small bare rooms is home to an intriguing permanent exhibition from Louise Bourgeois and Robert Gober.

Fondazione Prada Milan Robert H Copley

Airy concrete halls with panoramic windows are home to a William H Copley exhibition. A long set of stairs descend in to the Cinema and elsewhere, there are long brick halls reminiscent of the Venice Arsenale.

Fondazione Prada Milan Bar Luce

Need a breather? Enjoy a break in a 1950’s bar designed by director Wes Anderson. In shades of green and gold, pinball tables and juke boxes complete the retro look.

Fondazione Prada Milan Ed Kienholz

The outstanding current exhibition is from Ed Kienholz. Five Car Stud  brings together a selection of artworks realized between 1959 to 1994 by Edward and Nancy Kienholz, including the well-known installation that gives the show its title.

Fondazione Prada Milan Ed Kienholz

Created from 1969 to 1972 and first exhibited at documenta 5 in Kassel, it is a disturbing reproduction of a scene of racial violence and is considered one of his most significant works.

Fondazione Prada Milan Ed Kienholz Fondazione Prada Milan Ed Kienholz

Hidden for almost forty years Five Car Stud catapults the viewer into a nightmarish situation, immersed in a dimension – either removed or forgotten – of extreme violence. The artwork’s expressive force, its powerful symbolic charge and the lucidity of the accusation against racial persecution retain their original strength.

Fondazione Prada Milan Rene Magritte

Also, well worth seeking out, are a selection of modernist masterpieces. The attempt to place Copley at the cutting edge of pop art fails, but there are pieces by Max Ernst, René Magritte, Man Ray and Jean Tinguely – all once part of Copley’s personal collection which are outstanding.

For more information visit Fondazione Prada.

William H Copley is showing until 12 Feb 2017.

Ed Kienholz: Five Car Stud is showing until 9 April 2017.

Give me Yesterday is showing at Prada’s city centre Milan Osservatorio until 12 Mar 2017.


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