Repost; A Gilded Space

Because I am taking a week off to recharge the batteries, I will be reposting some of my favourite blogs of the past months. 

Only a month ago Milan was just Milan; now almost unexpectadly it has nothing to envy London, Paris or New York. Of course EXPO has a lot to do with the transformation, but the the real jewel of the crown is the recently opened Fondazione Prada.

In the southern part of Milan (far far far from the fashion district) Miuccia Prada and Rem Koolhaas have transformed an old distillary in an art sanctuary. You will need many hours (days?) to wholly appreciate the place, partly because 19.000 square meters are a lot of exposition surface, and partly because there is so much care and innovation in every architectonical detail, you will have to walk around like a student taking notes. The materials are indecipherable, the combinations unexpected and the colours rigorous. Minimalist neon signs on the doors, wooden blocks flooring, a cistern and a cinema, orange accents, a gilded tower, glass and plastic: only a master could join seamlessly all these elements.

Few places in the world are capable of abstracting to such extent; art here is truly an immersive experience with no short cuts contemplated. In the afternoon sun, standing in the spaces between the buildings, you feel the stillness of time of a De Chirico square.

Sculptures in a Park

Sculpture is, in my opinion, an endangered form of art, which is why if you want to enjoy it you have to head to a park. Exactly like you would, if you wanted to look at animals.  Personally I enjoy sculpture parks because they give children a chance to interact with art in an informal context. So to escape the heat, we did a family outing to Bad Ragaz, in Switzerland.

The Triennale takes over much of the town and the quality of the works is varied, to say the least; but the unpretention is refreshing. Most sculptors being commisioned a work for a park, are aware that their art will be abused, and treated as some form of obstacle course. The smart ones play on this inevitability, and conceive arresting works one can interact with. The best way to immerse yourself in art is to climb it!

Works by Adrian Künzi (top picture) and Werner Bitzigeio (bottom picture)

Positano Maiolica

Maiolica is the name of the Italian tin-glazed pottery dating from the Italian Renaissance, generally decorated in bright colours on a white background. Its production is still widespread but most contemporary works are either bad copies of classics, or tacky “modern” designs. Fortunately there are always enough exceptions, and when I was in Positano last month I was struck by a large architectural sculpture in… yellow!

The work, by Giuseppe Ducrot, decorates a new terrace at the (beautifully decorated) hotel Le Sirenuse. Bringing together classical elements of baroque architecture, it looks a cross between an operesque scenography and an altar. I love the fact that such a large composition could be made in striking monochrome pottery!

The Love of Ornament

I really appreciate Adolf Loos’s as possibly the first modern architect. I share his opinion that simple is beautiful, and can understand why he argued against ornamentation. But lately, I have struggled to reconcile with his Freudian essay “Ornament and Crime”. As I walked through the Baroque palazzi of the Bourbons I marvelled at the quality, variety and abundance of ornamentation, and not once did I feel that a minimalist appartament in a modern building could compete in beauty and elegance. Is ornamentation really so degenarate as Loos claimed? If that is the case allow me to be a criminal!

Asian Collection Revisited

Even interesting exhibitions are often poorly presented and most museums with a permanent collection rarely bother to display chosen selections scenographically. A most arresting exception is a show currently on show at the MAK in Vienna.

The artist Tadashi Kawamata has arranged the Asian Collection and designed the presentation of the pieces. With the same cheap wood also normally used to make shipping crates for artworks, Kawamata has constructed two large, scaffold-like showcase blocks. As you walk through the seemingly chaotic arrangement, you see the objects from multiple perspective, in constant and changing conversation with other pieces.

Small deities are presented as if precious stones, in rugged tiny alcoves dug out from the wall. You cannot help but feel like an archeologist, who casually stumbled on the most amzing of wharehouses.

Daylight / Neonlight

When people renovate their flat/house/mansion and get to the point of discussing lighting with a professional, they always ask for daylight looking illumination. Sly lighting designers are quick to enquire to the light of which hour of tha day, in which time of the year is the client referring to. And with that, the conversation is over.  This ultimately is the reason, I find Eduardo Coimbra’s work Natural Light so great. Natural light is an aspiration, something which is considered the golden standard. And on a cloudy day in November I would rather have a neon tube.

Art and God

In my more rebellious years I was tollerant of the Catholic Church only for having made possible incredible works of art and having been patron to innumerable artists. With age, as one becomes (inevitably?) more conservative, I have shifted perspective. My understanding of the link between Art and God has grown deeper, more complex and flows in both direction. 

As the Church – in the name of God -has made Art possible, so Art allows a spiritual dialogue with God. I don’t think I am the only one, that albeit little faith, feels moved by a stripped down crucifix, by the high vaults of a church or the sombre tones of a deposition from the cross. The beauty of created things stirs up God’s emotions.