Interview with Germano Celant
WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE NEW FONDAZIONE PRADA OPENED ON LARGO ISARCO IN MILAN?
With respect to the previous operative structure, the differences are remarkable. At the level of space, the facility shifts from the limited use of buildings (in Milan, for a short period of time from 1993 to 2010, or in Venice, with Cà Corner della Regina since 2011, only in the summer) to an urban complex of almost 20,000 square meters, composed of different architectural entities, old and new, that will be active and open year round. The intervention and project by Rem Koolhaas and the OMA group on the existing industrial complex, a distillery operating since the early 1900s in a peripheral zone of the city, have given rise to a multiform structure: an archipelago of different architectural spaces. This is the result of an action of conservation and renovation of former industrial buildings and the creation of new works of architecture, the Tower and the Podium. A dialogue and an osmosis between modern and contemporary that are thus made to interact, grafting together, like branches on a single trunk, which is the Foundation. The variety of combinations of materials, colors, vertical and horizontal structures give the future of the Foundation created by Miuccia Prada and Patrizio Bertelli an open, fluid dynamic that passes from minimum to maximum, from full to empty. On the level of cultural programming a dimension arises that is open to all internal and external interventions, to all languages, from art to cinema, theater to literature, music to dance. The team involved in the operations has also been conceived as open to external institutional and independent collaborations.
IN THIS MOSAIC OF SPACES, WHAT HAS TAKEN PLACE? IS THERE A PATH OF INTERPRETATION?
Moving in an almost labyrinthine structure, composed of multiple events and exhibitions, it is hard to indicate one possible voyage. Each person will find their own. The start of the voyage could – this is a personal vision – be based on two visit accesses that are connected to the history of the Foundation and its founders. The first has roots in direct dialogue with artists and with the support for their work, which has often led to complex projects that were thought to be “impossible.” Then the starting point could happen from the “Haunted House,” a 20th-century building that once contained the distillery offices, which has been preserved and reinforced, with an exterior now covered completely in gold leaf. It is almost a “sacred” symbol of the role of the artist, exemplified here by works by Louise Bourgeois and a permanent installation by Robert Gober. Two protagonists of the history of the contemporary that have focused on the human condition and the relationships between beings of different kinds. From this luminous and reflecting fulcrum that radiates its aura throughout the complex, influencing the perception of other architectural surfaces, one might pass – almost shifting from a celestial to an earthly condition – into the dark underground “Grotto” of Thomas Demand (1964), made in 2006 in Venice, for Fondazione Prada. It is a way of connecting to the history of the Foundation to indicate the roots of the new museum complex.
WHAT ABOUT THE LAYOUT?
It is not an extension, but the sum of parts, which can be openly interpreted, studied and analyzed not only for artistic content, but also for the interpretation of the events that have marked the birth of this remarkable complex. In this perspective of historical crossing I would therefore put an “Introduction” whose title can serve to imply awareness of self and history, the result of a personal passion for art, while providing indications regarding the entire cultural and operative structure of the Foundation. The dialogue between existential adventure and public result forms the basis for the choice of a building that maintains the architectural characteristics of both the house and the museum, of an alternative type, typical of the 1960s: the South building. Here the selection of artworks is an intertwining of intimate and intellectual, so passing through a small door one has access to the “Portrait of Dorian Gray” by Walter De Maria, on a wooden wall that was precisely the one chosen for his exhibition in 1999 at Fondazione Prada, where the theme of “self-reflection” and the choice of the artist coincide. Then we proceed with the interest – important for individual and working poetics – in Minimal and Conceptual Art, from American and Europe. It is the start of a passion for visual intensity that echoes in life and in the home. Hence the surprising, spectacular positioning of a masterpiece, by Barnett Newman, on the staircase, covered with wallpaper. It is an intense declaration of an attitude, to consider art not just for its value but also for its influence on one’s own vital dimension, that of the ascent or descent amidst emotions and sufferings. The path continues with a sculptural set by Pino Pascali, followed by one by Edward Kienholz, a declaration of the joyful but also political commitment connected with art, then passing to a room that contains a Renaissance study at its center. I think this is the representation of an attention to study and personal concentration, to understand the passages of history, which is the basis for projection into the modern, represented by Schwitters and Cornell, and the contemporary, Vezzoli. From this awareness of time and linguistic contributions it is easy to enter the room of the picture gallery, containing over 58 works of art, including Fontana, Copley, Novelli, Vedova, Foulke, Richter, Burri, Stella, Dorazio, Manzoni, Tapies, Accardi, Lichtenstein, Wesley… and contemporaries like Koons, Castellani, Marden, Tuymans, Baldessari, Macuga. It is a collection housed on a “rack” typical of museum storerooms, where the different and contrasting ideas of art are “hung.” After this numerous grouping comes a space set aside for a single artist, Nathalie Djuberg, to underline the passage of scale, generation and linguistic attitude that requires large spaces, to reach the enormous Deposito, where vehicles by De Maria, Holler, Van Lieshout, Elmgreen & Dragset, Rehberger and Lucas are “parked”: it is the entrance of life in art and vice versa.
WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THESE TWO MOMENTS THAT HAVE TO DO WITH THE HISTORY OF PEOPLE AND OF THE FOUNDATION?
The most impressive and spectacular, scientific and historical is certainly “Serial Classics,” the exhibition curated by Salvatore Settis and Anna Anguissola on Greek and Roman classical art, which reconsiders and challenges assumptions about the unicum and originality of works of the Roman era, displaying instead their serial character. A reading that through contemporary historical interpretation brings ancient doing closer to today’s doing, marked by multiples. This is a scientific and curatorial break that is unprecedented in traditional information on the classical. It continues in Venice, at Cà Corner, with “Portable Classics” in which the same serial making takes on a smaller scale, in relation to the requests of clients for sculptures that could be placed in interiors or studies. Through these two exhibitions the Foundation opens up to all the moments of the history of art, with countless and unexpected operative consequences, always marked by high scientific content. More than anything else, this marks openness to visions and collaborations arriving from the outside. They can concern different arguments, subjects and periods, non-canonical interpretations and languages. In this sense, the operative and intellectual structure – based on intense and continuous dialogue among the presidents, the artistic and scientific supervisor and the Foundation team, headed in the various departments by Astrid Welter, Mario Mainetti and Alessia Salerno – calls for a systematic contribution, renewable every two years, entrusted to the “Thought Council” formed by a group of experts with different backgrounds who contribute to ongoing intellectual and effective renewal of the institution. From the first Council composed of Shumon Basar, Nicholas Cullinan and Cédric Libert, to be joined in the future by Elvira Dyangani Ose and Dieter Roelstraete, interpretations of the collection have emerged, seeing it a sa sort of concrete library from which to extract objects and artifacts for a different, new interpretation of art. A store of energy that serves to produce analyses and presentations, like “In Part” curated by Cullinan and “Trittico” designed by the whole Council. These are two exhibitions connected to the particular structure of the former industrial buildings, the Cistern and the North building, in which the presence of artworks is related either to the void (Pascali, Hesse and Hirst) or to the sequence of walls, to demonstrate the factors converging on a content crossing: the fragment from Ray to Picabia, Paolini to Baldessari.
THE VOYAGE SEEMS ENDLESS AND SURPRISING. WHAT OTHER MOMENTS COME TO MIND?
The architectural structure of the whole complex also includes a Cinema, equipped with the latest technologies, whose walls can open, designed by Koolhaas to create a large, striking space for theater, dance and music, with the audience located in open spaces. For the opening of the Foundation Roman Polanski has made the original “My Inspirations,” a documentary interview with Laurent Bouzereau in which the director makes a voyage in memory of films he has seen that influenced his work. The Cinema thus becomes another area of interpretation, opening to contain conferences and encounters on all languages. But there’s more. There is also the Bar Luce, which is part of the Foundation, with access from inside and outside, an instrument for another moment of creativity. Designed by the director Wes Anderson, it is a typical cafe of the old Milan, in a symbiosis between fiction and reality. Finally, the “Accademia dei Bambini” developed by Giannetta Latis, with environment and object design by the École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Versailles, guided by Libert and Guenon: here play intertwines with artistic activities to suggest creative, visual ideas to children.