Critic’s Guide: Milan

With miart in town, the best art to see across the city – from ghostly apparitions to the many performances across the week

BY Barbara Casavecchia in Critic's Guides | 11 APR 18

Matt Mullican, ‘The Feeling of Things’, 2018, installation view at Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan. Courtesy: the artist and Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan; photograph: Agostino Osio

Matt Mullican

Pirelli HangarBicocca

12 April – 16 September

‘This show is the largest of my life so far. I had to build many walls to hold my ideas,’ says Matt Mullican of his retrospective ‘The Feeling of Things’ at HangarBicocca. ‘It’s an immense, extraordinary, impossible task, to map the world within us. And I’m talking about every individual world. One can try and paint it, write it, act it out, dance it, play it as in a piece of music, but it is not going to happen.’ With more than 6,000 works on display, ranging from the 1970s to the present (including sculptures, neons, photos, paintings, videos, performances, computer-based projects and a selection of readymade objects from Milanese scientific museums), it seems Mullican has at least attempted the feat in the gargantuan space of HangarBicocca. Organized into five colour-coded ‘worlds’, with curator Roberta Tenconi, Mullican has taken a ‘more is more’ approach to his retrospective. Fitting, perhaps, as the US artist also famously duplicates himself as ‘That Person’ – an art-making alter ego he created in 1977 who emerges only under self-induced hypnosis.

‘Post Zang Tumb Tuuum. Art Life Politics: Italia 1918-1943’, 2018, installation view, Fondazione Prada, Milan. Courtesy Fondazione Prada

‘Post Zang Tumb Tuuum. Art Life Politics: Italia 1918–43’

Fondazione Prada

18 February – 25 June

Another not-be-missed show of impressive proportions is ‘Post Zang Tumb Tuuum. Art Life Politics: Italia 1918–1943’, curated by Germano Celant, that occupies all spaces of Fondazione Prada with more than 600 works and 800 documents. (The foundation’s new Tower will open soon, adding a new vertical landmark to the area). Ranging from the Futurists to the fall of the Fascist regime, the show precisely maps and re-enacts (using blown-up original photographs in an almost forensic exhibition display) the relations between avant-garde visual arts and architecture, and political propaganda and the art system at large, while highlighting the pivotal role that exhibitions such as the Biennale in Venice and the Quadriennale in Rome played during the period. Expect masterpieces by Giacomo Balla, Giorgio de Chirico, Fortunato Depero, Arturo Martini, Fausto Melotti, Giorgio Morandi, Scipione, Gino Severini, Mario Sironi and Adolfo Wildt, but also claustrophobia and angst documenting life in a time of war and under dictatorship.

Teresa Margolles, ‘Ya Basta Hijos de Puta’, 2018, installation view, PAC, Milan. Courtesy: PAC, Milan; photograph: Nico Covre Vulcano

Teresa Margolles, ‘Ya Basta Hijos de Puta’

Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea

28 March – 20 May

The title (‘That’s Enough, You Sons of Bitches’) says it all: Mexican artist Teresa Margolles is not shy when it comes to voicing her protest against violence. This exhibition at PAC (curated by Diego Sileo), is titled after the phrase inscribed by a Narco gang on the beheaded body of woman found in Tijuana, to warn and insult their rivals. To convey contemporary horror, Margolles characteristically adopts minimalist aesthetics: the fluids of dead bodies are vaporized into air for Vaporización (2002–18) and the series ‘PM’ (2012) arranges the covers of the eponymous Mexican newspaper in a large grid, where images of violent deaths and sexually charged ads sit next to each other. In the series Pistas de baile (2016) Margolles portrays transgender women on the site of old dance clubs of Ciudad Juárez, torn down to make room for ‘urban renewal’ projects. In the small guide that accompanies the exhibition, Francesca Guerisoli compares the statistics of recent femicides in Mexico (7 women killed every day) and Italy (1 woman killed every three days), to conclude that ‘there is a structural problem shared by both the Mexican and the Italian culture, and that is male chauvinism.’

On Friday 13 April, at 7.30 pm, Margolles will stage a performance in homage to her collaborator Karla, a transsexual sex worker beaten to death in Ciudad Juárez in 2016.

Franco Mazzucchelli, Riappropriazione, Villa Reale, Monza, 1978. Photograph: Enrico Cattaneo  

Franco Mazzucchelli, ‘Non ti abbandonerò mai’ 

Museo del Novecento

8 March – 10 June

Long before ‘relational aesthetics’ came into fashion, Franco Mazzucchelli (b. Milan, 1939) was using his large PVC installations, left with no prior warning in public spaces across Milan, to activate audience participation. The exhibition ‘Non ti abbandonerò mai’ (I will never abandon you), curated by Sabino Maria Frassà and Iolanda Ratti, reconstructs the main cycles of actions (Abbandoni [abandonments], Sostituzioni [substitutions] and Riappropriazioni [re-appropriations]) carried out by Mazzucchelli from 1964 to 1979 under the sign of  A.TO A., art to abandon, readable also as à toi (to you/for you) in French. With it, Museo del Novecento adds another chapter to its thread of small, but consistent research-based exhibitions, aiming at reintegrating figures at the margins of the mainstream into Italian art history.

Giosetta Fioroni, Viennese Liberty, 1966. Courtesy: Museo del Novecento, Milan

Giosetta Fioroni, ‘Viaggio Sentimentale’

Museo del Novecento

6 April – 26 August

With ‘Viaggio Sentimentale’ (A Sentimental Journey, curated by Flavio Arensi and Elettra Bottazzi), the Museo also pays homage to Giosetta Fioroni, one of the few women artists of the 1960s Rome-based ‘Scuola di Piazza del Popolo’, including Franco Angeli, Mario Schifano, Tano Festa, and the group linked to the La Tartaruga gallery. From her early pop tableaux in silver paint, based on clichéd images of women taken from postwar news magazines and TV programmes, and the voyeuristic performance La spia ottica (1968) – originally staged at La Tartaruga on the occasion of ‘Il Teatro delle Mostre’ – to her paintings and ceramic works of the following decades, the exhibition highlights Fioroni’s longstanding involvement with Italian poetry and literature, starting from her partnership with Goffredo Parise to her collaborations with Guido Ceronetti, Andrea Zanzotto, Eugenio Montale, Giuliano Briganti, Elisabetta Rasy and Sandro Penna.

Giuseppe Gabellone. Courtesy: the artist and Zero, Milan; photograph: Marion Berrin

Giuseppe Gabellone

Fonderia Battaglia

5 April – 5 May

Established Paris-based artist Giuseppe Gabellone shows his latest sculptures at Fonderia Battaglia, the second outpost of Galleria Zero. The artist creates a rarefied landscape with three elements: a lemon-yellow kinetic curtain, being slowly rolled up and unrolled, a metal bar mounted on a tripod filled with light bulbs, and a dark blue sculpture made of different parts and layers of paper and resin, resting on a bamboo bed, like an oversize puzzle. Stay long enough to get accustomed to the warm light and you begin to see the subtle play of multiple shades on the walls.

Gianluca Concialdi, Lido Crucicchia Albatros Beach, 2018, gouache, spray paint and PVA glue on paper, 2 x 2 m. Courtesy: Clima, Milan

Gianluca Concialdi

Galleria Clima

4 April – 26 May

Up-and-coming Palermo-based artist Gianluca Concialdi shows his most recent series of paintings on sheets of 2 x 2 metre dust paper at Galleria Clima. Concialdi uses an alphabet of organic forms, half-abstract, half-detectable (heads, penises, fruits), constantly recombined and rendered in rich washes. The ironic, somehow bitter titles (Pizzerie Gargamella, Pazzo Pappagallo, La Taverna Azzurra, Il Cimitero dei Rotoli, Il Parchetto dei drogati) counterbalance the elegance of the results. Concialdi hangs the paintings in ways that invite viewers to peek at what’s on the other side of their surface: they are all, in fact, double-sided.

Alessandro Di Pietro, Felix, 2018. Courtesy: Marsèlleria, Milan; photograph: Sara Scanderebech

Alessandro Di Pietro


28 March – 24 May

With a new group of metamorphic sculptures at Marselleria, Alessandro Di Pietro brings to a close a two year-long cycle of four exhibitions (including a residency at the American Academy in Rome), inspired to construct a set of ghostly ‘low-grade vampires’ and American Psycho-like fictional characters. ‘The end goal is to understand how to still be able to produce Monsters, inside the limits of images and things’, says the artist.

Andrea Bowers, Tell Somebody It Happened, the God of the Sea is a Sexual Harasser (Originally from ‘The Faerie Queene’, Book III, Part VII, illustrated by Walter Crane, 1895–97), 2018, acrylic marker on cardboard, 188 x 122 x 14 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Kaufmann Repetto, Milan / New York

Andrea Bowers

Kaufmann Repetto

11 April – 1 June

Los Angeles-based Andrea Bowers is, self-admittedly, a feminist (‘I’ll be post-feminist in the post-patriarchy,’ she once stated) and an activist. On the occasion of her second show at Kaufmann Repetto, titled ‘Disrupting and Resisting’, she presents a new video, based on original footage she shot during the Women’s March in LA and other recent demonstrations, as well as new works on cardboard on the subject of gender equality. The neon piece Seven Banned Words (2018) lists the terms that President Trump has asked the Department of Health and Human Services to avoid in its official papers and budget drafts: ‘vulnerable,’ ‘entitlement,’ ‘diversity,’ ‘transgender,’ ‘fetus,’ ‘evidence-based’ and ‘science-based’.

Mathilde Rosier, ‘Impersonal Empire, The Buds’

Galleria Raffaella Cortese

14 March – 5 May

At the entrance to Galleria Raffaella Cortese, Mathilde Rosier has positioned a new video, recording a performance that she organized in the same space before the opening of her exhibition. It shows a group of young performers in green and blue who slowly compose words and fragmented sentences on the floor, by using black and white sand. Two red-socked waltz dancers whirl around, gracefully erasing all the texts. Rosier suggests to look at her paintings ‘as if at the movies, seated, oblivious of our own body, and by taking a lot of time’, as she writes in a text that accompanies the show. Her underwater creatures from the oil painting series Blind Swim (2016–17) – half women, half shells, fish, and other marine beings – resist description, as if emerging from a subconscious as fully formed images. Other works from the same cycle are currently on show at Fondazione Guido Lodovico Luzzatto, in the domestic interiors of the house of the Milanese scholar and art critic (until May 6), as well as at the Castello di Rivoli, in Turin, in the exhibition ‘Metamorphoses – Let Everything Happen To You’, curated by Chus Martínez (until 24 June).

Kimsooja, ‘To Breathe’, 2018, installation view, Chiostri di Santeustorgio, Milan. Courtesy: the artist and Galleria Raffaella Cortese, Milan

Kimsooja, ‘To Breathe’

Cappella Portinari of Basilica di Sant'Eustorgio

Kimsooja's installation (from her ongoing series ‘To Breathe’) at the Cappella Portinari of Basilica di Sant'Eustorgio is magically invisible. Merely a film that covers the windows of the chapel, it fills the space with rainbows, falling atop one of the most beautiful gothic monuments of Gothic sculpture in Milan, the Arca di San Pietro Martire by Giovanni di Balduccio (1336). Gulp in your daily dose of sublime, and move on.

Tom Friedman, ‘Ghosts and UFOs; Projections for Well-Lit Spaces’


24 March – 26 May, 2018

To complete your apparition tour, stop by VistamareStudio, a newly-opened gallery in town started by two experienced dealers who have joined forces: Benedetta Spalletti (who also runs Vistamare gallery in Pescara) and Lodovica Busiri Vici. With its title, ‘Ghosts and UFOs: Projections for Well-Lit Spaces’, this show by Tom Friedman plays as promised with the visible, the invisible and the illusory, while filling the white cube with a new series of white-on-white video projections.

Daria Blum, Cevelat, 2018, HD video still. Courtesy: the artist

Performances and Openings:

This year’s art week is packed with performances. Events have already started with Nummer achttien, The Things That Lie Behind Us. Third movement, menuet funebre (2018) orchestrated by Guido van der Werve at Futurdome, to celebrate the final days of his retrospective, ‘Auto Sacramental’, and on 10 April Daria Blum anticipated her upcoming show (opening in May) at the independent space Il Colorificio with Prelude To: That Woud Be Me (2018).

Friday 13 April sees Christian Marclay take over the upper floors of Museo del Novecento with a special concert for the last iteration of the ‘Furla Series’, curated by Bruna Roccasalva and Vincenzo De Bellis, that has previously seen the acts of Alexandra Bachzetsis, Simone Forti, Adelita Husni-Bey, and Paulina Olowska. At 7.30pm Teresa Margolles will stage a performance in homage to her transsexual sex worker collaborator Karla at PAC. And later in the evening, at 10.30pm, Will Benedict performs nearby the Museo del Novecento, on the groundfloor of Torre Velasca, on the occasion of his recent solo (with Steffen Jørgensen) at Converso.

Saturday 14 April is a night of openings with all Milanese non-profits and artist-run spaces staying open late across the city: don’t miss ‘Few of the Things You Left Behind’ at Edicola Radetzky, curated by Francesco Tenaglia; the sound performance by Enrico Boccioletti at Marsèlleria, and a performance by Zapruder filmmakers group at Mega.

For more exhibitions on in Milan this week, visit On View.

Main image: ‘Post Zang Tumb Tuuum. Art Life Politics: Italia 1918-1943’, 2018, installation view, Fondazione Prada, Milan. Courtesy Fondazione Prada

Barbara Casavecchia is a contributing editor of frieze and a freelance writer and curator based in Milan, Italy.