The Top Five Shows to See in Milan this Week

With Miart in full swing, here are the exhibitions not to miss in the city

BY Amy Sherlock in Critic's Guides | 16 SEP 21

The Shape of Time
Johannes-Jacobus Reyff (attr.), Night Projection Clock inside a Celestial Globe, 1670, exhibition view, 2021. Courtesy: the artist and Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan; photograph: Leo Torri

‘The Shape of Time’

Museo Poldi Pezzoli

13 May–27 September

After 18 months in which time seems to have been stretched and warped by the COVID-19 pandemic, Museo Poldi Pezzoli’s wunderkammer-like exhibition reminds us that the passing of the hours, days and years has been a source of mathematical, philosophical and artistic preoccupation since the dawn of human consciousness. How do we represent something that we experience but do not see, and which acts upon everything – living and not? A set of 17th-century Italian night clocks, made by the Campani brothers for Pope Alexander VII, with their dials embedded in miniature baroque paintings, unite numerical and allegorical responses to this question, while an exquisitely illuminated Book of Hours demarcates a different kind of liturgical rhythm. Elsewhere, the inscription Titian’s bizarre, beguiling Allegory of Prudence (c.1565–70) – on loan from the National Gallery in London – reminds us to learn from yesterday and act prudently today in order not to spoil tomorrow. Eternally wise words.

Luisa Lambri, ‘Autoritratto (Self-Portrait)’, 2021, exhibition view. Courtesy: the artist and PAC, Milan; photograph: Lorenzo Palmieri

Luisa Lambri

Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea

16 February–17 September

‘Autorittrato’ (Self-Portrait), Luisa Lambri’s first large-scale solo show in Italy, pays homage to the art critic Carla Lonzi, best known for her experimental text of the same name. Published in 1969, Lonzi’s Autorittrato is a montage of interviews with leading artists in Italy in the 1960s, compiled into a distinctive narrative about art making, criticism and the role of women in both. In a similar way, Lambri – who is best known for her architectural photography – transforms or transmutes the artworks and structures that she photographs. Her images – often of restrained, hard-edged forms such as sculptures by Donald Judd and Lygia Clark, or iconic modernist buildings – are less representative than evocative, capturing details that indicate light, volume, the movement of air: how it feels to be in a space. In addition to Lonzi, another figure of homage is immediately discernible: visible from the exterior of Ignazio Gardella’s rationalist pavilion, a suite of photographs is displayed in the distinctive glass-and-concrete ‘easels’ designed by Lina Bo Bardi for the Museu de arte de São Paulo in 1968.

Francesco Snote, ‘Sulle colazioni e sulle imboscate (On Breakfasts and Ambushes)’, 2021, exhibition view. Courtesy: the artist and L.U.P.O., Milan

Francesco Snote


14 September–31 October

Inaugurating this new commercial gallery in the centre of Milan (founded by Massimiliano Lorenzelli, the fourth generation of a family of art dealers, with Pier Francesco Petracchi), Francesco Snote’s solo show ‘Sulle colazioni e sulle imboscate’ (On Breakfasts and Ambushes) is haunted by the form of Lazarus, brought back from the dead in one of Christ’s early miracles. Along one wall, a series of small-scale drawings evoke art historical references from Edvard Munch’s The Scream (1893) to Giorgio de Chirico’s metaphysical plazas to the frescoes of Piero della Francesca in a series of surreal, fever-dream scenes that seem to take place in the hazy hinterland between waking and sleep. Spookier but equally as witty are the life-sized ceramic figures that occupy the space, like visitors that have stayed too long (perhaps semi-drunkenly) after an opening. Are they ambushing us or are we ambushing them? I don’t know, but they look almost bored – after all, did anyone ask Lazarus if he wanted to be brought back from the dead? They lumber awkwardly, physically present yet not quite all there.

Armando Andrade Tudela and Daniel Steegmann Mangrané, ‘voler leggere la schiuma (To Want to Read Foam)‘, 2021, exhibition view. Courtesy: the artists and Francesca Minini; photograph: Andrea Rossetti

Armando Andrade Tudela and Daniel Steegmann Mangrané

Francesca Minini

14 September–6 November

‘Voler leggere la schiuma’ (To Want to Read Foam) – this poetically titled double exhibition of works by long-time friends – tries to capture forms that are always the verge of slipping away from us. The space is partitioned by two aluminium mesh-like curtains (Steegmann Mangrané’s and , all works 2021), which are punctured by cut-out forms that could be as solid and immovable as islands drawn on a map or as fleeting as puddles after a rain shower on a warm day. Between them hang Tudela’s Thin Nut’s Skin #1–3 – stainless steel ribbons that refer to the most fragile, in-between layers between the kernel and shell. As with many of the works in this show, they trace a form whilst abstracting it: something (by design) is lost in this process, which tinges the exhibition with a subtle melancholy. Mangrané’s geometric nature / biology (2021), in which a sparse nest of branches is suspended by three black bungee cords, holds in literal tension the natural and man-made. They balance now, but for how much longer?

Danh Vo, ‘untitled’, 2021, exhibition view. Courtesy: the artist and MASSIMODECARLO, Milan; photograph: Nicholas Ash

Danh Vo 


7 September–10 October

Formed of displaced fragments, Danh Vo’s sculptural assemblages look unusually at home in the restrained but materially rich interiors of MASSIMODECARLO’s Piero Portaluppi-designed space. (The apartment, built in the 1930s, contains no fewer than 15 different types of marble.) In the artist’s first solo show in Italy, untitled stone sculptures (all works 2021) sit on simple wooden supports, seeming – despite their evident weightiness and durability – exquisitely impermanent and improbable: just resting for a while. (Maybe there is a gentle nod to arte povera here, too.) New for this exhibition is a series of photographs of flowers, also untitled, from Güldenhof, the artist’s studio complex and smallholding in the countryside outside of Berlin, where Vo is involved in a long-term project of re-engaging with nature. In their simple, obvious and almost uninteresting beauty – following a great tradition of botanical documentation that stretches back centuries – they feel like a departure from his rigorous (and occasionally cold) sculptural work. Maybe that’s why I find them so intriguing: they remind me of the deeply ambiguous final line of Voltaire’s Candide (1759), where political critique seems to momentarily retreat into bourgeois self-interest: ‘We must cultivate our garden.’

Head image: Francesco Snote, ‘Sulle colazioni e sulle imboscate (On Breakfasts and Ambushes)’, 2021, exhibition view. Courtesy: the artist and L.U.P.O., Milan

Amy Sherlock is a writer and editor based in London, UK.