I wasn’t one of the first visitors to the Fondazione Prada in Milan. To be honest, it took me two fashion weeks before my schedule allowed me to take a few hours off and indulge in Miuccia’s and Patrizio’s art walhalla. Needless to say: once I was on my way to Largo Isarco, an area of Milan that I never frequented before, I couldn’t wait to see what kind of architectural project Rem Koolhaas had come up with: it proved to be quite an experience in itself. Upon entering the venue, there’s really two things that meet the eye instantly: the architecture and the works of art. Speaking of architecture: it’s the astonishing mixture of materials, textures and colours that does the job. From the golden wall near the entrance to the bricks of wood on the ground… it’s exactly what Koolhaas also offers us each season, when designing the settings of the Prada fashion shows: making architecture relevant, yet never dominating the works of art (in case of the fashion shows: the clothes).
“New, old, horizontal, vertical, wide, narrow, white, black, open, enclosed – all these contrasts establish the range of oppositions that define the new Fondazione.”
I absolutely loved walking around the Fondazione and experiencing the architecture as every other visitor probably does as well: walking in and out of rooms or buildings, with always that surprising perspective. The Fondazione’s basis is a former industrial complex with an unusual diversity of spacial environments. Added to this one building are three new ones: a large pavillion, a tower and a cinema. The old and the new work well together. As Rem Koolhaas says: “New, old, horizontal, vertical, wide, narrow, white, black, open, enclosed – all these contrasts establish the range of oppositions that define the new Fondazione.” He is so clever.
Then, of course, there’s the art itself. Miuccia Prada and Patrizio Bertelli have been avid collectors of contemporary art for the last three decades, and they know their heroes: from Yves Klein and Barnett Newmann to Gerhard Richter and Luc Tuymans. I was very impressed by room 7, in which three walls are filled from top to bottom with art, exuding a very strange, and very emotional sensation. Loved the Vasarely, loved the Burri and the Fontana. Coming into Room 9 (a huge hangar) made me smile: as a big fan of Giacometti’s work, I must say I quite liked the Giacometti Variations that John Baldessari came up with in 2010. They have found a home here.
Take time to visit the new Fondazione. Going back and forth is an option, taking in the works as they are on display in the different rooms. There’s a caffeteria on the premises, Bar Luce, designed by Wes Anderson, the film director. It’s an excellent spot for reading about and even contemplating about what you just saw. The place looks like a movie set, with seats, formica furniture and everything reminiscent of Italian popular culture. The coffee is great, and so are the sandwiches. And should you doubt: there’s no Prada bag for sale anywhere.
One more thing: reading through the press kit, I found out that Dieter Roelstraete is a member of the Thought Council of the Fondazione Prada. Dieter is a Belgian curator who formerly worked with the MuhKa in Antwerp and MCA in Chicago. He was also closely linked to Dokumenta 14.