Fondazione Prada opens permanent space in Milan

The ExPRADAmental art of Fondazione Prada

Wow, time flies. It’s almost 4 years ago that I graduated with honors for my master’s in Modern and Contemporary Art at the University of Amsterdam. My thesis? It’s called: ‘ExPRADAmental Art. The integration of contemporary art into the fashion house of Prada.’ I started writing my 100 pager at the beginning of 2010. In my plea for Fondazione Prada I mentioned the construction of a new space led by famous Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas of OMA/AMO (who is also the brain behind several Prada Epicenters, catwalk decors of the luxury brand and much, much more). In December the institution announced that they will open the doors of their permanent space on May 9th 2015 in Milan.

Thesis Fondazione Prada Marjolein Lammerts van Bueren

From left to right: the publication ‘Unveiling the Prada Foundation’ by OMA/Rem Koolhaas & Germano Celant and my master’s thesis.

A very short introduction to Fondazione Prada

Miuccia Prada and Patrizio Bertelli set up their art foundation PradaMilanoarte in 1993, a private art foundation with a focus on contemporary sculpture from artists of recognized merit. The exhibition space was located in a renovated industrial building in Via Spartaco 8, Milan. In 1995 Prada came in touch with former Guggenheim curator and creator of the term ‘Arte Povera’ (literally translated as Poor Art, an Italian art movement during 1967-1972) Germano Celant. Since then, Celant is the director of the foundation which is now known as: Fondazione Prada.

Photo of the work from Michael Heizer at Fondazione Prada in Milan

Michael Heizer exhibition for Fondazione Prada in 1996 ©Fondazione Prada

In the past years Fondazione Prada broadened their exhibition programs from solely sculptural art to more divergent disciplines like photography, film, design and architecture. They no longer focused on exhibiting works already produced in the studio, but helping ambitious conceptual artists in realizing their unique dream projects.

Fondazione Prada distinguished itself from other art institutions by collaborating with diverse (especially young, progressive, experimental, politically and socially engaged) artists on large scale projects; whereas other art institutions had no money or space available. Names like Anish Kapoor, Michael Heizer, Louise Bourgeois, Dan Flavin (actually his latest permanent art work before his death in 1996), Marc Quinn and many more showed their works.

Dan Flavin's permanent installation at Santa Maria Annunziata in Chiesa Rossa, Milan

Dan Flavin, Untitled, 1996. Permanent installation at Santa Maria Annunziata in Chiesa Rossa, Milan. ©Melloncelli

After they opened their second exhibition space in Via Fogazzaro 36 in 2001, which was also the place where Prada organized their fashion shows, they expanded their curatorial focus again. Next to art, design, architecture and photography there was philosophy, science and cinema. They organized multidisciplinary symposiums, signed an agreement for cultural and scientific collaboration with the University Vita-Salute San Raffaele in Milan, partnered with the Venice Film Festival, opened another exhibition space (2011) in Venice called Ca’ Corner della Regina and at the same time showcased exhibitions of Giulio Paolini, Francesco Vezzoli, Steve McQueen, Tom Sachs and so on.

Yes hi! Are you still with me?

The Prada cherry on the Milan pie

Miuccia Prada explains in the book Prada (2009) that the expansion of their permanent exhibition space is accompanied by their expansion of their cultural perspective. Not only do they wish to extend their collaboration with artists, but also to built up the relations with international museums, art institutes and possible partnerships for temporary exhibitions. Germano Celant adds in his article ‘A Force Field’ the following vision about his ideal museum:

The Institution, moreover, must be driven to re-invent and present itself as an open, polymorphous “territory” for the energetic unleashing of all languages […] to bring down the boundaries between the arts once and for all.

Milan is most famous because of its Renaissance art (museums), but critics say that the Italian cultural life is too much focused on conserving and studying their glorious old history instead of creating a new one. Milan still doesn’t have a proper publicly owned contemporary art museum and that’s exactly the gap Foundazione Prada wants to close. To support and incentive the Italian contemporary art scene.

Fondazione Prada, Largo Isarco

Unveiling the Prada Foundation. Rem Koolhaas’s project ©Fondazione Prada

In 2008 Prada approached Rem Koolhaas to realize this future space which will be housed on the former industrial area Largo Isarco of 200.000 square feet. In addition to the original seven buildings from 1910, OMA creates three new architectural structures: an exhibition space, auditorium and tower. Koolhaas hopes his design will give another dimension to the traditional art display. Unusual spaces will be created, for example a vertical structure called the Haunted House where different rooms and balconies will be decorated with changing wallpapers to generate a domestic setting for specific art works.

I cannot wait to book my ticket to Milan this spring, because I’m definitely one of the first in line when this utopia is officially opened (but an invitation to the opening would also be pretty great…)!

Design Fondazione Prada

Unveiling the Prada Foundation. Rem Koolhaas’s project ©Fondazione Prada