Milan’s HangarBicocca is a place to take in the world of contemporary art while taking a journey into Italy’s industrial past at the same time. The Breda, one of the most important industrial facilities in Italy, where the engineer Ernesto Breda moved his production of locomotives, railways carriages, boilers, and agricultural machinery in 1903, is now an open space dedicated to contemporary art. The spirit of HangarBicocca is truly open. Admission is free, catalogs and guides are also free, and there are even workshops for children. There are two permanent works that fit into the size, characteristics, and peculiarities of the site, and there is also a busy calendar of temporary exhibitions.
Getting there isn’t all that easy, but the quickest way is via the Milan Metro. Take the purple line to Ponale and once you’re there, walk toward Via Chiese. To your left, you will see the UCI cinema complex, and to your right the new Bicocca university buildings. You can’t miss a huge sign on top of a building with barrel vaults in brick. This is it: the HangarBicocca. The first of the two permanent works welcomes you at the entrance as if you were backstage in a theater. The work is La Sequenza by Fausto Melotti, one of the previous century’s greatest sculptors. Created in 1981, it is a modular composition consisting of iron beams with empty spaces interspersed with blocks, and it initially resembles a megalithic structure. From the side, you see that it contains three levels of depth. Beyond the work, you find the large glass doors of the entrance. On your left is the children’s play area, and to your right, the artist Claudio Sinatti’s digital information wall which tells you about the building, its history, and the exhibitions it hosts.
HangarBicocca covers 15,000 square meters and is divided into intriguingly named spaces, like the Shed, the Naves, and the Cube. The entrance to the Shed is almost hidden at the end of the entrance hall. This is where you find the visiting exhibitions. Mexican artist Damiàn Ortega is in residence through November with his personal show Casino. His works emerge from a darkened space with all their power. The most visually striking of these is Cosmic Thing. Imagine a VW beetle, once a common sight in Mexico, exploded in space. The pieces appear suspended (in fact they are supported by wires, which are attached to iron beams above). This is the artist’s take on the relationship between man and object in the modern world. In the dark, at the back of the room, you see what look like stage curtains. Open them and you will be amazed. The space that opens before you is majestic, immense, and breathtaking. These are the Naves which take up 9,500 square meters of floor space, 30 meters high. There are three naves in all, including one that hosts the installation created for HangarBicocca’s opening in 2004 by the German artist Anselm Kiefer, The Seven Heavenly Palaces. These are a series of seven towers ranging in height from 14 to 18 meters, inspired by the ancient Hebrew writings known as Sefer Hechalot. Built from reinforced concrete, they use angular elements from containers as their building blocks.
The other two naves, as well as the Cube, host the best visiting exhibitions chosen by Vicente Todoli, former director of London’s Tate Modern. One of Spain’s most noteworthy modern artists, Juan Muñoz has a personal show of 15 works with over 100 bizarre, disturbing figures in canvas and resin through August. From October until February, 2016, Philippe Parreno’s art will be on display.
Free admittance. Open Thursday to Sunday, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.