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22-03-2008
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The Patroness - Miuccia Prada's art foundation (NYT)

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Movers & Shakers
The Patroness


Matthias Vriens
From left: The artists John Baldessari, Carsten Holler, Nathalie Djurberg and Thomas Demand; Prada’s Patrizio Bertelli and Miuccia Prada; the curator Germano Celant; the artist Francesco Vezzoli.

By MICHAEL KIMMELMAN
Published: March 23, 2008


On a gray afternoon in Milan, while models, electricians and seamstresses scrambled with last-minute preparations for that evening’s Prada show, several dozen elderly women attended Mass across town at Santa Maria Annunziata in Chiesa Rossa. A working-class parish church, behind a glum brick facade, Chiesa Rossa was designed in 1932 by Giovanni Muzio, a noted Novecento architect, and it’s an airy barn inside, whitewashed and classically detailed. A decade ago, fluorescent tubes in different colors were discreetly installed, blue along the apse, red across the transept and yellow making a kind of halo out of the high altar.

A warm glow bathed the murmuring women scattered through the pews. The brainchild of Dan Flavin, the American Minimalist sculptor and light artist, the tubes were a gift to the church and neighborhood by the Prada Foundation. Begun in 1993 as PradaMilanoarte, the foundation is, like Prada’s clothes, something of a fixation in the art world, with a high-end reputation for perspicacity and openhandedness.

Over the years the foundation has presented shows of Walter de Maria and Louise Bourgeois, Anish Kapoor, David Smith, Michael Heizer, Sam Taylor-Wood, Steve McQueen and more than a dozen others, accompanied by lavish catalogs. It has delved, with notably less success, into symposia on philosophy and festivals of obscure Italian films or of Chinese and Russian cinema. As money has flooded the art scene, would-be Medicis have emerged everywhere — from Eli Broad, who used his collection as a draw to build a home for it at the Los Angeles County Museum then announced he wouldn’t donate the collection, to Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin, who built a kind of Kunsthalle, where she sometimes shows her collection and brings traveling exhibitions. But the Prada Foundation shares with American institutions like Dia in New York and the Menil in Houston the aura of being at once chic and slightly arcane, notwithstanding that the artists it has embraced clearly come from — or, with Prada’s beneficence, have since moved into — the higher echelons of the contemporary art scene.

The foundation commissions, on average, two artists a year to do large-scale or otherwise ambitious works, the kinds of things they dreamed of doing but had neither the resources nor the opportunity to do. Save for installations like Flavin’s, the results have for some years been mostly presented in the industrial space on the Via Fogazzaro, where Prada also holds its fashion shows half a dozen times a year.

Now a future home has just been acquired, a concrete-and-glass complex, like a campus, of austere turn-of-the-century warehouses in a fairly obscure corner in the south of Milan; new exhibition spaces are to be designed by Rem Koolhaas. When it’s completed, some three or four years hence, the site should transform the Prada Foundation into a full-fledged museum and cultural center, with room for its collection, or part of it, to stay on view. For a while at least, that may placate Miuccia Prada, who says she started commissioning art as “a learning process” and never really considered herself to be amassing a collection, “although now we have one.”

When I went to see her last month at company headquarters, she was sitting behind a long, pristine table in her top-floor workroom. A broad wall of windows opened onto a leafy balcony. The room was characterless save for a curious metal chute in the middle of the floor — a slide that spiraled three stories down to the courtyard. It’s a playful, quasi-architectural work by Carsten Holler, one of the artists the foundation has sponsored.

In a white-collared shirt, buttoned to the neck, black skirt and heavy-heeled shoes, Prada looked a little like a cross between a matron and a naughty schoolgirl. A notorious workaholic, she is courtly, almost flirtatious, likable, at least when she chooses to be, and serious. “Anything you learn makes you more open,” she said, by way of recounting how the foundation evolved. “Art is more or less my second career. You meet people by chance. Mariko Mori, for example, in New York. She had a dream. I was pushing artists toward big projects. That was then. For two years we did movies. We tried a convention with artists and philosophers. That didn’t work. You know when you’re doing something relevant or just doing something.”

Patronage is generally an act of public service or private obsession, but it would be naïve to call it selfless. Until lately, Prada insisted art and fashion were distinct enterprises. She kept the openings of the art and the fashion shows separate and kept art out of her stores and out of advertisements — and out of the clothing. Prada rolls her eyes at the mention of Saint Laurent’s Mondrian dress or Louis Vuitton’s Richard Prince handbags. She also used to like to say that fashion is fun but frivolous, and fundamentally commercial, while contemporary art is serious and intellectual. It’s the mind-set of the 1968 generation: well-to-do, educated Europeans proving their modernity by prizing innovative art but disdaining fashion, notwithstanding that they were, and still are, as clothes-obsessed as anyone.

You might argue that Prada has the current art-fashion equation exactly the wrong way around. In any case, her stance (and who can say just how uncalculating it is?) has reinforced her status as a highbrow designer and a fashionable patron, playing to fashion’s endemic insecurity and to the art world’s eternal yearning for fashionability. As the New Yorker writer Michael Specter once phrased it, the clothes, shoes and handbags promise people “a better, hipper version of themselves,” which, for many of today’s Prada-clad art collectors, is the promise of acceptance in the art world, where Prada and her husband, Patrizio Bertelli, are like royalty.

At the show that February evening, models in peekaboo lace dresses and archaic bloomers negotiated a sloped runway in ornate high-heeled shoes that made them seem as if they were walking in flowerpots. From the first few rows, artists gazed: Holler, Mori, Francesco Vezzoli, Thomas Demand, all of whom, not incidentally, have done some of their best work for the foundation. Alongside was the architect Jacques Herzog. Not an Armani crowd.

“How she thinks is very close to art,” Nathalie Djurberg said. Blond and round-faced, Djurberg, who is 30, has developed a reputation for her Claymation videos of murder and mayhem. She is slated to do the next show at the Prada Foundation. In lieu of the figurines she ordinarily animates, she’ll be making large sculptures for the first time.

“I came up with the concept a little too fast and then got scared,” Djurberg recounted. “So I made changes, which we discussed, and either you understand the process or have to have everything explained to you, and Mrs. Prada calmed me down. I felt I was talking to another artist.” When quizzed about this, Prada shrugged, saying that if you ask artists to stretch, you have to accept uncertainty, even failure. That’s the creative part.

Thomas Demand, meanwhile, chatted with Holler about the evening’s outfits, summing up its theme as “Spanish widows in their underwear.” The conversation, turning to the creepy-funny, vaguely S & M vibe of the clothing, focused on whether the shoes brought to mind the work of the artist Matthew Barney. Demand shook his head. “You can say that, but with Miuccia the transfer from art is never straight. She’s never trying to play the artist.”

Holler interjected, waving a hand toward the runway. “We’re not so naïve as to think that we don’t contribute to this business.” He clearly didn’t want to seem like a pushover. “But it’s beyond money. Above all, I think, it’s about the fact that she’s afraid of being vulgar.”

The director of the foundation, who curates all the exhibitions, is the barrel-chested, white-haired Germano Celant. He was in a pair of black leather jackets. The power behind much of what has happened here in art for 40 years, Celant was enlisted by Prada and Bertelli with some reluctance. “They were suspicious of me, and I was suspicious of fashion,” he said about the prospective clash of egos. “I wanted to make clear that if they were really serious and wanted to create a unique collection, they should think large-scale and do one-of-a-kind projects, which can’t be repeated, and so we went to see huge works out West in America by Michael Heizer and Walter de Maria.

“I told them, ‘There, that’s what it means to be ambitious.’ So from the beginning the idea was to produce art and to collaborate with artists on new ideas, big ideas, not just to buy or show things.”

Prada said, “I was scared Germano would impose his vision, but he insisted on a level of quality.” Now they’re all friends.

Celant added that the new home for the foundation “means we can borrow a Kandinsky or show a Canova along with our collection, provide a context for what’s new. A lot of people now can do what we have been doing, commissioning art, because money is not an issue anymore. So what distinguishes us will be new ideas.” A museum isn’t exactly a new idea, but fashion has its ways of repackaging old ones.

“Let’s say we were stuck,” Prada said. “We tried philosophy and movies. Now we’re working with Francesco on another film. For me, they’re all about ways to escape routine.”

Huge packing crates filled the factory building at the new site. On a visit one morning, I saw that they were scrawled with names like Koons and Tom Sachs and Marc Quinn. Even on a cloudy day, light poured through clerestory windows.

“In the last few years I have come to understand the value of fashion,” Prada reflected, when asked about how she sees the foundation, and herself, today. “I always felt guilty about being interested in it, but now I can say that it’s creative work and it relates to the world, and people buy it because it means something to them beyond the logo, I’m sure. I appreciate that the business part of it is an honest transaction. I wouldn’t have said this 20 years ago, but to be an entrepreneur is to be creative. Why be a fake moralist and say you don’t care about money — although to say I do it for money is crazy.”

She went on: “I say all this because it was a little ridiculous how I wanted to keep entirely separate the art and fashion. In the end, I’m the same person. At the moment I’m very happy to be a designer because some women like to put my dresses on, while many people in art are frustrated with all the money and they are asking what does it mean.”

What does it mean? I asked.

Prada hesitated before venturing to answer. For a second, she looked uncharacteristically uneasy. “I’m searching.”

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Last edited by DosViolines; 22-03-2008 at 08:24 AM.
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nytimes

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JOHN BALDESSARI: “For Miuccia Prada.” The Los Angeles-based artist has been a friend of Germano Celant, the curator of the Prada Foundation, since the early ’70s. “I was showing a lot in Europe, and he would stay with me out in Santa Monica,” Baldessari recalls. “He was a well-known critic even then.” And having recently visited the Prada space in Milan, he is now working on a potential project for the foundation. “I’m interested in the gradual fusion of high and low culture, and fashion and art,” Baldessari says. “The project I have in mind will address that.”


CARSTEN HOLLER: “One Night in Paris” was part of the research done in preparation for “Prada Congo Club,” an installation by Holler, a Stockholm-based artist, scheduled to open in fall 2008 in London. Photographs by Bellou Luvuadio Bengo, Carsten Holler, Josué, Miriam Backstrom, Edouard Merino and Patrik Stromdahl. “We agreed to meet Saturday in Paris to see the two biggest Congolese bands playing, Koffi Olomide and Werrason. Koffi and Werra (photographed here at their homes in Kinshasa) are fierce competitors, and there was a good chance one of them would not show up, just to ridicule the other. Bellou was sending me constant updates from the concert venue, L’Elysée Montmartre. Everything seemed fine. I put on my best sape clothes and went to Paris.” “Long faces when I met up with the others at Chateau Rouge. Werra and his band didn’t show up, and the concerts were canceled. Now I looked ridiculous in my flamboyant clothes. Miuccia joined us a bit later at Bolon, the Congolese restaurant, where we ate larvae, ndunda bitekuteku (vegetables) and mbisi ya kotumba (fish). Koffi was shown on TV. We decided to make it into a Congolese night anyhow, as we were already halfway there.” “Bellou took us to La Terrasse, which turned out to be a huge empty parking lot somewhere far out north of Paris. There were plastic chairs and tables, and there were beer, brochettes and several speaker towers playing different kinds of Congolese music. As far as I could tell, there were only Congolese around. Some were dressed in sapeur-style, and one woman had a monkey on her shoulder. It got very late. Edouard took a souvenir photo.”


FRANCESCO VEZZOLI: “The Kinsey International,” a conceptual remake of the Kinsey Reports on human sexual behavior, produced by the Prada Foundation. The prototype for a cabinet designed for this project by Ettore Sottsass is installed in the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, a museum in Northern Italy recognized for its collection of Italian paintings. According to Vezzoli’s plan, additional cabinets will be installed in similar museums around the world, and visitors will be invited to enter and take a sex test. Vezzoli has been granted a residency at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles to further research this aspect of the project at U.C.L.A. “My hope,” says the artist, who is known throughout the art world for the stellar casting of his video performances, “is to get Gloria Steinem on board.”


NATHALIE DJURBERG: Still image with crayon from “Johnny” (2008), a claymation film for the Prada Foundation


QUENTIN TARANTINO: In 2004, with the sponsorship of the Prada Foundation, the Venice Film Festival set up a retrospective of Italian genre films of the ’60s and ’70s that the director Quentin Tarantino was asked to help curate. “It was called ’The Italian King of the B’s,’ ” Tarantino says. “It gave respect and long-overdue recognition to many Italian genre film maestros — Sergio Martino, Umberto Lenzi and Ruggero Deodato among them. However, if the retrospective had one goal above all others, it was to give the writer and director Fernando Di Leo his proper place as the king of Italian crime films. In this regard, the festival was a huge success. The Prada Foundation followed this up with the beautiful DVD releases of his pictures. But I wasn’t aware just how successful Prada, Marco Mueller, the Venice Film Festival and I had been in promoting Maestro Di Leo’s career until last year, when on a trip to Japan I found this gorgeous Japanese DVD box set of Fernando Di Leo’s films. It made my heart swell with pride.”


THOMAS DEMAND: “Redo” of the backstage scene at a Prada fashion show. In 2007, the Prada Foundation presented two Demand installations, “Yellowcake” and “Processo Grottesco,” on the Isola S.G. Maggiore during the Venice Biennale; Previous spread, from left: The artists John Baldessari, Carsten Holler, Nathalie Djurberg and Thomas Demand; Prada’s Patrizio Bertelli and Miuccia Prada; the curator Germano Celant; the artist Francesco Vezzoli


REM KOOLHAAS: Concept for Prada Epicenter Shanghai Store. Rather than designing a new building, or moving into a fashionable east-side colonial, the idea is to invade a found space, in this case a parking structure and pedestrian boardwalk near the Huang Pu River. Shallow miniboutiques, connected by a back corridor, will be embedded within the existing strip of shops, not only providing the brand with ample display frontage but also creating what the architect calls a “populist” Prada model, where even those who are not inside the store are invited to participate in its retail and cultural programming.

__________________
And I am nothing of a builder, but here I dreamt I was an architect
And I built this balustrade to keep you home, to keep you safe from the outside world

Last edited by DosViolines; 22-03-2008 at 08:22 AM.
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22-03-2008
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Does anyone know where I could purchase this magazine in Los Angeles. Is it available at Barnes & Noble? Or does it come with the New York Times Newspaper?

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22-03-2008
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very interesting...

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr.Lagerfeld View Post
Does anyone know where I could purchase this magazine in Los Angeles. Is it available at Barnes & Noble? Or does it come with the New York Times Newspaper?
It usually comes in the Sunday edition of the times.

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25-03-2008
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i'm going to admit right now that i didn't fully read the loooooooong article above...

but i think that miuccia prada being a patron(ess) of the arts seems like a natural move..
especially considering her last couple collections for prada and miu miu...
it is obvious, i think, that art immensely influences her work and the trembled blossoms film she had done in conjunction with the ss08 collection shows that as well..

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