by ANDREA SCARPA - Photo by ANDREA COLZANI
VERY BEAUTIFUL AND VERY DIFFICULT
I oversaw the programming for the Expo Gate during the year before the Expo, and it was a great but difficult year because I remember that at the time we didn’t have the widespread approval that eventually, thank God, arrived.
A YEAR IN THE TRENCHES
I must say it was a year, you know, in the trenches. In fact, every morning I told myself: ‘Now I wear my helmet to go to work.’
As the Manager of the Expo Gate I left my comfort zone as a contemporary art curator and I dealt with multidisciplinary events. We hosted a bit of everything, from the association that promoted cycling mobility to the Accademia della Scala laboratory, we hosted both young artists and a great industrialist like Renzo Rosso, the Fondazione Piero Manzoni and the Fondazione Feltrinelli. In short, we hosted a lot of Milanesi and Italians who in one way or another recognized the uniqueness of Milan’s excellence.
THE CITY HAS CHANGED
It was like a wave that grew higher and higher… Milan rose on the crest of that wave and now we are in a fantastic period, the city has really changed.
CAREFUL WITH THE SOUFFLE’
But now, as I often say, we must pay attention to the soufflé effect. It is beautiful and delicious, but it could collapse at any moment.
MILAN, BACK TO LOVE
We must continue to believe in Milan and its enormous potential. It seems trivial, but behind the pessimism against Expo, I could see that 9 times out of 10 it was about the skepticism towards Milan’s potential and its value. Among the many positive things that Expo brought to the city and the country was to make the Milanesi fall back in love with Milan, to make all of them believe in the beauty of the city, in its ability to produce excellence and to be at the level of many other cities we always consider as something unattainable. For years we sold our city for much less than what it is worth.
CIRITIZING IS TYPICAL OF ITALIANS
Criticizing is an Italian flaw rather than of the people in Milan, in my opinion. We are always criticizing ourselves, we don’t know how to value ourselves, as if we were afraid of something.
THE CITY OF OPPORTUNITIES
People who manage to find a fulfilling job eventually understand that Milan, compared to many Italian cities, offers more opportunities. That is the truth. Therefore you can only have a positive relationship with Milan. However, even if I was born here, I also have a relationship of love and hate with Milan.
POLLUTION, POTHOLES AND…
I still hate it because of the pollution, the potholes, the tram tracks that are no longer used and remain there for years and are very dangerous for those who travel by bike or scooter.
Where did I find that spirit that Milan has? When I saw, while I worked for the Expo Gate, the film Il posto by Ermanno Olmi. It’s a film made in 1960 and you will say, ‘What does today’s Milan have to with the Milan of that time?’. In my opinion Milan today has many things in common with the Milan of the 60s, the time of Milan’s rebirth, design, industry, creativity and the many possibilities for those who came from outside – like the protagonist – to find a job. That’s Milan in my opinion. There is a wonderful scene in the film where the protagonist and his girlfriend go out to lunch and cross Piazza San Babila on runways, bridges placed there because the square is totally gutted by the construction of the first subway line, MM1, another example of the extraordinary engineering and architectural talent. Albini made a masterpiece of design, beauty and functionality. Watching that film years ago I found myself thinking: ‘That Milan… everything could happen, everything still had to happen, before the degradation…’. Instead, watching it now, I said, ‘Look, Milan still has that potential’.
GIO PONTI AND PIERO FORNASETTI
Milan must go back in its history, also made by outstanding figures like Gio Ponti and Piero Fornasetti, representing its eccentricity within a project, not an end in itself, not pure oddity, but precisely the ability to have a purpose, to be strict and have visionary skills. We’re not all boring in Milan…
THE MOST EUROPEAN CITY IN ITALY
The rest of Italy probably makes Milan the most European city in the country. I still see it, which is obviously due to its geographical position. Yes, it is definitely the city bridge between Italy and Europe, between Italy and the world.
AND THE CENTER OF CONTEMPORARY ART?
In Milan, from an artistic point of view there is a lot to do, in Italy Milan is definitely the capital of contemporary art. Here are the most important galleries of the country which are recognized all over the world. The young artists, those who don’t go abroad, all tend to come to Milan and want a studio in Milan. But we still live in a paradox, and you don’t know how hard it is to say it: we still don’t have a real contemporary art center. A space like that must be created, to connect more and more the various spheres, not only the visual arts but also design, fashion… I strongly believe that the contemporary world is more and more heading towards a mix of disciplines… The pure artist will no longer exist, but various characters who, starting from their field, will take the best from each artistic and creative field.
THE CREPACCIO EXAMPLE
My Crepaccio is an example of how Milan, in the end, is a very open, contemporary, European city, because in 2012 with two young girls, one from the Accademia di Brera and one from the Naba…
EXHIBITIONS IN A RESTAURANT
…We started organizing exhibitions in the window of a restaurant that faces the street. This is important, if you go in you don’t see anything of these exhibitions, and then, to organize exhibitions in a restaurant, in a bar, was the wrong thing to do, because – as in all areas – even in contemporary art there are codes. It was something, how can I say, cheap… people wouldn’t do it. If an artist were to tell you: ‘I exhibit in a bar’, then everyone said, ‘look, don’t do it. It’s wrong, it will never be taken seriously’. It all started as a joke, a very serious joke, as I always like to say. I felt the need to give visibility space to young artists.
AT LUNCH WITH CATTELAN
That window, over which Maurizio Cattelan and I started joking during a lunch at the restaurant, I thought might become something serious. Maurizio gave me the name of the space, Crepaccio (Italian for ‘crevasse’), since the name of the restaurant is Carpaccio, in Via Lazzaro Palazzi 19. It was a perfect name because the window is 30 cm deep. I invented this motto: I throw the young artists into the crevasse and those who survive will have the opportunity to move forward in the system, those who don’t make it… Oh well, better find out sooner than later. At first, we had an exhibition every 15 days.
FROM THE WINDOW TO THE BIENNALE
The thing developed, meaning that that from the window we started to occupy the street with impromptu performances and installations. The artist Yuri Ancarani also did an exhibition with his students and former students, and then things got out of control: we went to the Venice Biennale.
ART, ENERGY AND THE NEW MAYOR
Milan needs a dynamic contemporary art center where – in addition to the exhibitions – there is a whole range of activities that can make it a point of reference for the local scene and beyond. There isn’t something like this. However, it should not be something imposed by the institutions, it should come from the energy from below, because there is this energy, this energy is boiling, simmering, the institutions in a very delicate and sophisticated way should be able to interface with this energy and make it grow, without suffocating it. That’s very difficult, it is a difficult task but I hope that the next administration will be able to do it.
The Hangar Bicocca, for example, about which everyone used to complain saying: ‘It’s too far away!’. Yes, it is true, we Milanesi always hang out in the center, since Milan is a small city, which is odd because there are huge cities where people do everything everywhere, but this is one of our paradoxes. The Hangar Bicocca is an extraordinary space.
THE TREE OF LIFE IN PIAZZALE LORETO?
Moving it to Piazzale Loreto seemed an extreme proposal, meaning that it would seem a little off the scale. I can’t imagine another area of the city that could accommodate it. If the Expo area, as I hope will happen, will be relaunched, it must obviously remain there.
MILAN TO SEE
The Pinacoteca Ambrosiana is an extraordinary place because of the Basket of Fruit by Caravaggio, but also for the Cartoons of the School of Athens by Raphael and a number of other wonders. The Branca tower to see Milan from above and to see that Milan is not far from the mountains, to see just how the skyline of Milan changed. The room where Fontana’s Neon is in the Museo del’ 900 where you can see the whole of Piazza del Duomo and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, which is a tourist place, visited by everyone, but seen from above and from another perspective it becomes something else.
THE MILANESI ARE…
We are open to the new but we don’t buy it, meaning that we take things with a grain of salt. So not the new just because it is new. Manzoni said that the Milanesità is that innate or acquired attitude to be able to distinguish between the useful and the useless. It must be said that being a Milanese doesn’t mean being born in Milan, but you can become a Milanese coming from anywhere in Italy or the world.
WORK THE SYSTEM
Milan gave me a lot because of its different realities, Milanesi and not, but I mostly worked with realities from Milan, during the Expo Gate I confirmed what I hoped for: there is a great desire and ability to network, from the non-profit organization to the big foundation, from the entrepreneurs to the emerging creatives… There’s this desire to create a system, on which only a few are betting, that we need to develop.
My future is brilliant. This is the only way I can look at it. Recently someone told me: ‘Now you are ready for an international museum’. ‘No way, I’m here in Milan and I will continue to build in Milan’.