Discovering Milan

Anastasia Isaeva
Unveiling the essence of Italian art while in Milan is quite straightforward. The city seamlessly blends ancient landmarks with modern, equally remarkable sites. Moreover, let’s not forget that Milan is the design capital, where interior design, fashion, and decor come to life.

To truly appreciate the city, I suggest starting with the “origins” — Leonardo da Vinci's fresco "The Last Supper" in the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, the Pinacoteca di Brera, one of Italy's foremost galleries, and Leonardo's "Atlantic Codex" housed in the Ambrosian Library.

I recommend beginning your exploration of Italian art with a few spots that became favorites during my year in Milan. In time, I promise to share more about the others!

A stroll through Sempione Park is best paired with a visit to the Triennale — a museum that initially existed as a triennial exhibition. Now, it’s Italy’s first and only design museum, spanning over 2000 square meters. Besides the main exhibition, the building occasionally hosts concerts and art performances, often held in designer Achille Castiglioni's studio, designed by Giovanni Muzio, which resembles a small theater. Incidentally, until April 23rd, the design pavilion is showcasing an exhibition by Italian architect Angelo Mangiarotti.

The Prada Foundation is another must-see: a former distillery reimagined by Rem Koolhaas into a center for contemporary art and culture. In addition to the permanent "Atlas" exhibition, it frequently hosts fascinating displays. For instance, on March 24th, the "Cere Anatomiche" installation opened, created in collaboration with the La Specola branch of the Italian Museum of Natural History, featuring several 18th-century anatomical wax sculptures, drawings from the Florentine museum's collection, and an unpublished short film by David Cronenberg.

Special mention should be made of Bar Luce, designed by Wes Anderson, where patrons enjoying a cup of coffee find themselves in a scene reminiscent of his renowned film "The Grand Budapest Hotel." As the director mentioned in an interview, his goal was to create a space that fulfilled his childhood dream: arcade games, whimsical pastel-toned desserts, and, of course, typical Italian interiors from the 1950s-60s.

A morning run through the Indro Montanelli Gardens can be combined with a visit to the Pavilion of Contemporary Art (PAC), located just 10 minutes from the newly opened hotspot for vanilla meringue and bellini lovers—CASA CIPRIANI. Starting April 4th, the museum is hosting two exhibitions: Italian video artist Yuri Ancarani's "Forget Your Dreams" and Silvia Giambrone's room installation "Sexually Explicit Content."

One of my favorite spots on Milan’s map is the cultural center Pirelli Hangar Bicocca, established in 2004 on the site of a former locomotive repair plant. With 15,000 square meters of space, it is one of the largest in Europe, showcasing solo exhibitions by Italian and international contemporary artists. Anselm Kiefer’s large-scale installation, with structures reaching nearly 20 meters high, deserves special attention — more impressive than his work at last year's Venice Biennale in the Doge’s Palace titled "These Writings, When Burned, Will Finally Cast Light."

Until the end of June, you have time to visit the exhibition of one of the most influential American video artists, Bill Viola, at the Palazzo Reale. I recommend periodically checking the museum’s exhibition schedule. Some of the fifteen displays (such as four works from the "Martyrs" series) you may have already seen at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow or the House of Radio in St. Petersburg.

One of the most anticipated exhibitions is taking place at the Museum of Cultures (MUDEC), located in the former Ansaldo industrial complex in Porta Genova, Milan. The exhibition "Dali, Magritte, Man Ray and Surrealism. Highlights from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen" features 180 works, including paintings, sketches, sculptures, and artifacts delivered directly from the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum.

And for dessert, I’ve saved the main event of the year—the Milan Design Week. Salone del Mobile and Fuori Salone will be held from April 17th to 23rd (this year, I have the opportunity to present my debut project as an interior designer there). The city welcomes everyone involved in design, architecture, interior design, and technology from all over the world. It’s important to note that the event is always accompanied by the opening of exhibitions, installations, pop-ups, various performances, and brand-new collection presentations.

Feeling the pulse of the industry and observing design trends will be inevitable. I believe it's essential for every history and art enthusiast not to lose sight of Italian trends, not just for general development but also for refining their own taste. In my next piece, I'll delve deeper into Milan Design Week, as it truly deserves special attention!