Fondazione Prada, thank you. I have been waiting for an arts complex like this to come to Italy. This incredible Milan contemporary art foundation doesn’t just have the big bucks to show off great art from its collection along with provocative temporary shows but even bigger balls to create a world inside its 19,000 sq m complex for culture vultures.
A destination art world
After 20 years, Fondazione Prada founders Miuccia Prada and her husband Patrizio Bertelli, decided the art founded needed a reboot physically and metaphysically. Since 1993, Prada’s collection of contemporary art has exponentially grown. There 800 works of art from the last few decades of the 20th century to the present day by artists like Carsten Holler, Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, John Chamberlain, and Louise Bourgeois. The collection needed more than a home- it needed a world.
Enter mastermind architect Rem Koolhaas. Koolhaas, known for his ability to transcend space with a good dose of ego, transformed a former distillery in Milan’s southwest into a 21st century artsy mall. He renovated a series of connecting, ground floor buildings into galleries for Prada’s permanent collection. Koolhaas transformed a seven-story tower in a multi-level art venue with a fabulous bar and restaurant, added a state-of-the-art cinema and renovated a cistern into gallery space.
The centerpiece to the space is the Podium, where you’ll queue for tickets, drop your bags, and see the featured exhibition. A glass box, the Podium is all about being seen and puts art on display in quintessentially Prada design with sleek lines, cool tones and bit of playfulness. Attached to the box is the 24 karat gold leafed “Haunted House”, a four story building with installations by Robert Gober and Louise Bourgeouis.
You could spend your entire day at Fondazione Prada. There is a lot of art, but more importantly because the vibe feels good and looks good. Like any museum or gallery space, you are meant to walk through halls of installations, sculpture and painting. And you are meant to enjoy yourself in every single space. Look out for art car collection and the Robert Gober installations in the haunted. There is always pieces to been seen and more than anything, Fondazione Prada isn’t just about the exhibition, it’s about the experience.
Go, get your art on and then make sure to visit Bar Luce, the deliciously decorated, ersatz vintage bar designed 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! ). Bar Luce is a charming love song to yesteryear’s cafes. Anderson mixes custom wall paper and vintage furniture like the gorgeous bar counter. And of course expect Anderson-curated jukebox and his movie themed pinball machines. It’s that cute.
Bar Luce is also a serious spot for a seriously delicious sandwich. The menu boasts a replete selection of gourmet sandwiches organized by main ingredient. Head straight to foie gras! The cocktails are perfect and the staff is impeccable. No wonder that people lined up for tables. FYI”Bar Luce is the art manifestation of Marchesi, the historic bar that Prada now owns.
Originally written at 2015 opening, updated in 2023.