Fondazione Prada, thank you. I have been waiting for an arts complex like this to come to Italy for ten years. An incredible fashion-based arts foundation with not just the big bucks but bigger balls to show off what seems like an entire contemporary art collection [nope, there’s more in storage], a temporary show bringing priceless antiquities from collections including the Vatican, debut its onsite cinema with a retrospective film on Roman Polanski, and hire aesthete auteur Wes Anderson to design its bar, all the meanwhile sitting pretty in a 19,000 sq m complex from mastermind starchitect Rem Koolhaas.
Koolhaas, an architect who is known for ability to transcend space with a good dose of ego, transformed a former distillery in Milan’s southwest into a 21st century artsy mall. And of course, it balances the quintessential Prada vibe- sleek and cool-toned, with a slight hand at playful. Gorgeous, 24 karat gold leafed covers the “Haunted House”, a four+ level temporary exhibition area, the cinema is horizontal mirrored reflection of the “podium”, Koolhaas’ glass box where Prada’s debut exhibition Serial Classic resides, a concrete cistern houses lets us get up front and above a Damien Hirst piece, and all is enclosed by perimeter walls housing more of Prada’s never-ending collection.
More than anything, Fondazione Prada isn’t just about the exhibition [though Serial Classic ranks as ‘blockbuster’, tens of sculptures exploring the multiples in antiquity, curated by archeologist Salvatore Settis and Anna Anguissola]- it’s about the experience. Like any museum or gallery space, you are meant to walk through halls of installations, sculpture and painting and more than anything you are meant to enjoy yourself in every single space- whether it be art car collection, the Robert Gober installations in the haunted, or an evening at the on site cinema.
Everyone seems to be talking about Bar Luce, the deliciously decor’d, ersatz vintage bar by filmmaker Wes Anderson. Anderson is a long time Prada collaborator who created and filmed the 2013 Prada short film Castello Calvacanti (starring my friend Giorgio along with Jason Schwartzman) which makes an appearance in one of the fully functioning pin ball machines in the bar’s hall [the other is themed The Life Aquatic]. And I agree, it is charming- Anderson designed the wall paper, curated jukebox, and hand picked the food and beverages, as well as everything else. I just hope that aperitivi hour at Bar Luce doesn’t overshadow the point of Fondazione Prada- art.
I’m just going to take a moment to add one more element to Fondazione Prada- it all about repeat performance and the 5th wall. In two months, I’ve visted Fondazione Prada in three different incarnations– as intrepid art reporter- taking in the entire complex in a sugar-fueled afternoon, as aperitivo aficionado sitting pretty at Bar Luce and as best daytime date ever when I took my husband Darius for a walk through Serial Classic so that he could see his favorite antiquities on, well, repeat (mind you, I snuck in the Haunted House as well). And I’ve already lined up a Friday night cinema date with my friend Laura.
Perhaps this is the new form of mall entertainment?