Milan is bubbling with excitement over the opening of Fondazione Prada, the second in the country. (The first is in Venice.) Opened in 2015, Fondazione Prada brings together key elements which define the Lombardy region around Milan: culture, design, and urban renewal, all in a prestigious and original exhibition space with the support of one of the most renowned fashion labels in the world.
The building is on Milan’s south side, between Piazzale Lodi and Via Ripamonti, in front of what was once an industrial complex. What used to be a 100-year-old distillery has been repurposed with the addition of three new buildings. The restructuring is the work of the architecture firm, OMA, under the guidance of Rem Koolhaas. The first thing you see is the Haunted House, the tallest of the buildings. Amazingly, its gold color was created by covering its walls with a thin layer of gold leaf!
But once you’re on the inside, it’s the central area that really grabs your attention, inviting you in as you begin to see the exhibitions through the glass walls. The various areas of the site, and the open-air walkways which connect them, will give you the sense of being somewhere else—somewhere surprising, but at the same time comfortable. As you take in the lines, the views, and the feeling of somehow being suspended, you will almost feel as though you’re in the middle of one of De Chirico’s pieces.
The Fondazione Prada hosts both temporary shows and permanent exhibitions. In 1997, a site-specific work was commissioned especially for this space called Untitled by Dan Flavin. It consisted of an installation that used lights and fluorescent tubes to represent the church of Santa Maria in Chiesa Rossa, at 24 Via Neera, three and a half kilometers away.
The Haunted House hosts permanent exhibitions by Robert Gober, including his untitled installation, along with two works by Louise Bourgeois. You should note that this area can only be visited with prior booking, and there is a limit of 20 people per group at any one time.
If you go down to the cinema (yes, there’s a cinema too!) in the basement, you will be able to see the second of the permanent exhibitions. Thomas Demand’s Processo Grottesco is a grotesque work in the true sense of the word. Using a photograph of a grotto in Majorca as his starting point, Demand recreated the image with 30 metric tons of cardboard, which he then photographed. The whole creative process behind the image is documented in postcards, guides, and illustrations, which are available alongside the installation.
At the moment there are six exhibitions, including both the temporary and permanent shows. There is the cinema, hosting festivals and special projections, the library (opening shortly), and the children’s academy, which runs weekend activities and workshops. So a visit to the Fondazione Prada can fit into a morning or an afternoon, or it can last a whole day. It’s worth visiting in its own right, whatever the exhibitions are. Don’t miss the bar—it was designed by the film director Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, The Grand Budapest Hotel) who took typical Italian bars of the 50s and 60s as his inspiration. Pop in for a snack or something sweet and the slightly surreal atmosphere will make you feel like you’ve walked onto the set of one of his films!