Don’t laugh, but Milan is my Breath of Fresh Air. My Mind Clearer and my Get Back to Reality. As much as I love Rome and its ever-permeating chaos, every now and then, I need to get of my head, literally and metaphysically, and I need Milan like some people need that morning meditation, coffee, workout, cigarette or shot. Just 2 hours and 55 minutes on the FrecciaRossa and I’ve got my fix.
Grab your Milan map and head seven or so kilometers slight northeast of the Duomo. Likely a lot of the city’s outer-lying neighborhoods, Bicocca is a Vonnegut setting – town build up up on the remains of Borgo Pirelli (Pirelli Town), Italy’s early 20th century City of Industry. Back in the day, Bicocca was the headquarters and hub to some of Italy’s top automotive and mass transit companies- tires, trains, engines, cars, war machines and more made the hamlet an industrial landscape of factories, warehouses, and workers’ housing. 80 years later, the landscape has evolved into Tetris of low, red brick building, midsize angular hangars to form a mini, gridform city of administrative and financial offices, factories, state university, shopping malls and Pirelli Hangar Bicocca.
Only in Milan would you find an incredible art foundation on the grounds of a tire factory, especially when it is one of the world’s largest. 10,900 square metres of exhibition galleries with a California campus vibe mixed with brick warehouses and concrete gardens, Hangar Bicocca is the Pirelli’s love letter to site specific art installations. Comprised of three buildings – the Shed (a series of connected, low brick buildings), the Navata (an amazing and huge hangar), and the Cubo, Hangar Bicocca is free-entry, interactive art space for permanent and temporary exhibitions. All projects are large scale, and meant to be experienced not just looked at, aside from Efemero, a mural project by Brazilian artist Osgemeous on the external facade of the Cubo. And Hangar Bicocca is a combination of interior and exterior spaces, whose enclosed garden is playground (on any day there are school visits), social scene (the caffe has an outdoor seating area) and post-apocalyptic Instagram background – Fausto Melotti’s enormous La Sequenza (1981) – a sequence of oxidized iron sheets 22 metres long, 7 metres high and 10 metres wide surrounded by tumbleweeds – is a permanent resident. The other permanent resident is Anselm Kiefer’s The Seven Heavenly Palaces, an interior landscape within the Hangar landscape and a walk around Kiefer’s pysche through seven fragile cement towers and five, large scale mixed-media paintings.
Appearing every now and then in the dark hued palette of greys, whites and black, are uniformed members of Hangar Bicocca’s pit crew, young art monitors wearing Pirelli red jackets with the clever hashtag #arttothepeople, treading on trend as much on Borgo Pirelli’s famous 1943 workers’ strike. Off to the side of the shed is Dopolavoro, a beautiful caffe restaurant with chalkboard walls and open seating that seemed as much the hip meet up as the perfect business lunch spot. It is– the menu is seasonal, Italian regional and organically curated by chef Lorenzo Piccinelli. So yeah, this is how I get my contemporary fix… Milan + art, with a glass of Arneis and tartar.