Postcard from Milan
*UPDATE:* A day after the announcement of the contemporary art projects reported below, the city’s mayor, Giuliano Pisapia, publicly announced that all of the below-mentioned initiatives were taken by Stefano Boeri on an individual basis, without previous discussion or approval from the city council. Instead, all issues concerning the new museum of contemporary art and the Città delle Culture would have to be redefined through a process of collective decision-making.
A tough confrontation among the two ensued over the weekend and Boeri resigned this morning.
The situation becomes easier to understand when one learns that Pisapia and Boeri had both run for the position of mayor last spring. The immediate outcome is that, just as usual, all policies relative to contemporary art in Milan will have to wait and that, ultimately, the lack of independence of the cultural sector from politics will keep on being reaffirmed.
POSTED 26 NOV 2011: On 24 November, Stefano Boeri (architect, urbanist, professor at Milan’s Polytechnic, ex-director of Domus and Abitare magazines, and, since last June, town councillor of culture) announced that with, regards to contemporary art, Milan is changing gear.
With the big plans for the World Expo to be held in Milan in 2015 now rolling into action, Boeri declared that the controversial project for a new contemporary art museum designed by Daniel Libeskind – planned for the area of the old trade fair, where a massive redevelopment plan is under way – is being reconsidered, while a series of already existing spaces should change destination. The PAC (Pavilion of Contemporary Art) will work as a kunsthalle, focusing on solo shows by international artists. It will enter into a joint venture with Portikus in Frankfurt and the Serpentine in London (which has already collaborated with the MAXXI in Rome, on the exhibition ‘Indian Highway’, now on show).
The Museo del Novecento, which opened its doors a year ago on the central Piazza Duomo and has had more than 800,000 visitors, could expand in the adjoining building, the Arengario, in order to gain space. In the meantime, Boeri announced a ‘tour’ of some works of the museum’s collection in the 25 public libraries scattered around the city, and especially in the outskirts. The biggest news is that, in the huge post-industrial hub of ex-Ansaldo, another starchitect project – this time by David Chipperfield – has almost completed after ten years of works. It will be there that contemporary art should find its it-place in town. Originally, the building was intended for the Città delle Culture, devoted to Extra-European cultures and arts, with a collection of around 8,000 pieces – a project, writes Anna Cirillo on La Repubblica today, apparently scaled down, among protests by the associations involved. The curator in charge for the artistic direction will be Francesco Bonami (who curated the Venice Biennale in 2003 and the Whitney Biennial in 2010). In Italy, Bonami is Director of the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin and Artistic Director of the Enel Contemporary Art Award. Boeri announced that he will work free of charge for the Municipality – thus implying, I assume, that private sponsors will have to provide most funding. No news, so far, about collaborations with the fashion-fuelled foundations in town, like Prada and Trussardi.
The first exhibitions announced are all on the side of Old Masters: at the Castello Sforzesco in 2012 will be a show of Bramantino’s work (curated by Giovanni Agosti, an art historian who stirred a lot of controversy with his caustic pamphlet ‘The ruins of Milan’, examining the last decades of local cultural policies); in 2013 Medardo Rosso at Galleria d’Arte Moderna and a blockbuster on Leonardo in 2015, for the Expo.
A small aside. It’s quite telling to see all four heavyweights Italian curators simultaneously at work in Milan: Germano Celant presided over the gargantuan Arte Povera exhibition which is taking place all over Italy, which will have one of its main shows at the Triennale Milano; Achille Bonito Oliva reclaimed his territory with a Transavanguardia group show which opened 24 November at Palazzo Reale; Massimiliano Gioni organized a beautiful Pipilotti Rist solo-show, ‘Parasimpatico’, at ex-Cinema Manzoni, on until mid-December – and now Bonami enters the scene. Sounds like a bit of a boys club to me!