Fondazione Prada, art in three architectural masterpieces to discover

Since its creation some thirty years ago, the Prada Foundation has been an institution for the promotion of art and culture, hosting numerous exhibitions and cultural events in its three exhibition sites in Italy, in the cities of Venice and Milan, in contrast to its competitor the Pirelli HangarBicocca.

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© Fondazione Prada/Photo: Bas Princen | Largo Isarco

A key Italian patron of the contemporary arts

The Fondazione Prada was founded in 1993 and is chaired by fashion designer Miuccia Prada, granddaughter of the founder of the luxury accessories and ready-to-wear house Prada, and her husband, Italian entrepreneur Patrizio Bertelli. Between them, they run the Prada brand. Since its inception, the Prada Foundation has organized many notable exhibitions and in the 2010s opened three permanent exhibition spaces in Milan and Venice. The Prada Foundation also collaborates regularly with cultural institutions such as the Tribeca Film Festival and the Venice Biennale, as well as with a range of international artists, from British artist Damien Hirst to Walter de Maria and Anish Kapoor.

Three unique exhibition sites to visit during a stay in Italy

The Ca’Corner della Regina Palace in Venice: a historical monument

Fondazione Prada’s first location is in the 18th century palazzo Ca’Corner della Regina, located in the Santa Croce district of Venice. Since 2011, Ca’Corner has housed not only the historical archives of the Venice Biennale contemporary art exhibition, but also Fondazione Prada’s exhibition rooms. In this architectural jewel, the Fondazione has organized several group exhibition events such as “The Small Utopia. Ars multiplicata” (2012) and “Art or Sound” (2014). In 2021, the exhibition “Stop Painting”, by Swiss artist Peter Fischli, took place in 2021 and looked at the breaks in the history of painting over the past 150 years.

The architectural style of this exquisite urban palace is linked to the baroque style of the nearby Ca’Pesaro, designed by the Italian architect Baldassare Longhena, to whom many Venetian monuments are attributed. The Istrian stone facade, which overlooks the Grand Canal, borrows from the architectural register of the Renaissance and Classicism, without renouncing the sumptuous decoration typical of the Baroque aesthetic. Inside the palace, the two symmetrical staircases are worth mentioning, as well as the two piani nobili and their impressive porticoes, decorated with stucco and frescoes.

VILLAS Decoration Fondazione Prada

Fondazione Prada/Photo: Bas Princen | Largo Isarco

The main Fondazione Prada in the industrial area of Largo Isarco in Milan

In 2015, Fondazione Prada opened the doors of its largest permanent location to the public. This complex is located in a former distillery dating back to the beginning of the last century, which consisted of seven buildings. Recently, three new buildings were added: Podium, Cinema and finally Torre, a sixty-metre-high white concrete tower which, in addition to the exhibition spaces, also houses a restaurant and a panoramic terrace. The entire site covers 19,000 square metres, of which 11,000 square metres are dedicated to exhibition spaces. The four-storey tower is entirely covered in gold leaf and houses a permanent installation by Robert Gober and two works by Louise Bourgeois. The Largo Isarco site also houses the photogenic Bar Luce. This cafe was decorated by director Wes Anderson, who imagined an old-fashioned Milanese cafe for its design, drawing inspiration from Italian neorealist cinema of the 1950s and 1960s. The interior also strongly resonates with the essence of his film projects, with pretty pastel preferences and mid-century modern furniture.

The architectural firm OMA, co-founded and headed by Rem Koolhaas, was commissioned to design this vast exhibition centre. The Dutchman describes it as “a small art city with squares, alleys and walkways”. Two objectives are at the heart of this large-scale project, and they constantly interact with each other: the preservation of existing buildings and the creation of new architecture. The architectural firm OMA/Rem Koolhaas often works with the Prada Group. For example, they have designed several iconic boutique buildings from New York to Tokyo, some of whose architectural elements are featured in the exhibition “HERZOG & de MEURON, OMA/AMO Rem Koolhaas: Projects for Prada. Works in Progress”.

VILLAS Decoration Fondazione Prada

Fondazione Prada/Photo: Delfino Sisto Legnani | Largo Isarco

The Osservatorio in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in the heart of Milan

At the end of 2016, a third Fondazione venue was inaugurated: the Osservatorio. This space is located on the fifth and sixth floors of the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the oldest active shopping mall in Italy. This elegant covered shopping mall was built by the architect Giuseppe Mengoni between 1865 and 1877, in a neoclassical style with Baroque influences. The impressive architecture and the special finish with precious marbles and carefully restored mosaics make the Galleria one of the most important attractions in Milan.

The Osservatorio is located just above the central octagon of the shopping complex, on the same level as the glass dome, and is mainly dedicated to contemporary photography and forms of visual language. Until the end of January 2022, you can visit the exhibition “Sturm&Drang Studio”, which focuses on the underlying production methods of Computer Generated Imagery.

VILLAS Decoration Fondazione Prada

Fondazione Prada | “Sturm&Drang Studio”, Osservatorio, 2021

Get to know the cult exhibitions organized by the Fondazione Prada

“When Attitudes Become Form: Bern 1969/Venice 2013”

Among the many projects of the Fondazione Prada, this exhibition including the works of land art master Richard Long certainly deserves to be mentioned. In dialogue with the German artist Thomas Demand and the Dutch architect Rem Koohlhaas, curator Germano Celant has reconstructed the legendary 1969 exhibition “Live in Your Head. When Attitudes Become Form”.

“Post Zang Tumb Tuuum. Art Life Politics: Italia 1918-1943”

Celant also curated this exhibition, which explored in depth the Italian artistic and cultural world of the interwar period. Based on documentaries and photographs from that period, the exhibition reconstructs not only the social and political context in which the works of art were created and exhibited, but also the way they were interpreted by the public of the time.

“>Synchro System<” by Carsten Höller

In 2000, German artist Carsten Höller designed the Synchro System exhibition-installation for the Fondazione Prada’s Milan headquarters, which he described as a “village of possibilities. Visitors followed a labyrinthine and sensory path where their perception was influenced by the use of light, devices and disorienting spaces to create a hallucinatory effect.

VILLAS Decoration Fondazione Prada

Fondazione Prada | “Atlas”, Largo Isarco, 2015

Exhibitions to visit at the Fondazione Prada

There are also some interesting new exhibitions at the Milan headquarters. The exhibition and film project “Proof. Incorporated” explores the analogies and reciprocal influences between videojournalism and film, looking at the recent evolution of reportage and the hybrid forms of contemporary filmic narrative. You can also visit a retrospective of over 100 works by the renowned Italian artist Domenico Gnoli.