The Most Important Art & Design Museums Milano has to Offer
Posted on 21 October in Milan Design Guide
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A selection of the most interesting Art & Design Museums Milano has to offer such as the iconic Triennale Design Museum Milan, Fondazione Prada designed by OMA and Museo del Novecento with exhibitions of 20th century Italian art
Our round-up of the Must-See Art & Design Museums Milano has to Offer
Every week of the year the great city of Milan offers its citizens as well as its visitors from all over the world, a wide choice of events that involve the whole city and all the arts. We can’t but mention design first, because Milan is its beating heart, but we can’t forget art, architecture, photography, literature, food, music and last but not least the luxury fashion industry. A city that continues to grow together with its cultural heritage of design museums and contemporary art exhibitions.
In this article, Esperiri will help you discover the most representative places of the new millennium in Milan, starting from the Triennale Design Museum Milan, which tells the story of Italian design, up to the new foundations that have been operating in Milan for a few years now such as the Prada Foundation in the Porta Romana district and the Armani / Silos in the Tortona area.
The two most important Design Museums Milano has to Offer, where to discover the history of Italian Design
Triennale di Milano
The Triennale di Milano is the first museum of Italian Design, one of the most important design museums at international level, capable of conveying the complexity of contemporary art through a plurality of languages: design, architecture together with visual, scenic and performing arts. Over the years, this cultural institution has fostered the diffusion of technological and idealistic innovations in the Italian and European scenario, catalyzing the comparison among the various artistic currents that were gradually developing during the 20th century.
It was founded in Monza in 1923 and moved to Milan ten years later when the construction of the Palazzo dell’Arte, designed by Giovanni Muzio, was completed. The structure is still the headquarters of the Triennale Design Museum Milan. A prestigious, modular and flexible building, Giovanni Muzio’s Palazzo dell’Arte is one of the main expressions of rationalist architecture, characterized by clean lines and balanced volumes.
The Palazzo della Triennale was and still is a real laboratory of Italian modernity because, since its foundation, applied arts and industry have actively confronted each other defining an innovative cultural, economic and social system. This system gave birth to the motto “from the spoon to the city“, which explains the typical approach of the Italian architect who wants to enhance his clients’ lives as well as the look of the built environment.
ADI Design Museum
With its post-pandemic revival and reaffirmation as the world’s capital of design, in May 2021 Milan opens to the public the ADI Design Museum, a new hub for the city and design.
The new museum, which houses the historical collection of the “Compasso d’Oro”, the famous prize awarded by the Association for Industrial Design to the best design products, is located in a former industrial area in the booming district of Porta Volta, inside a power plant built in the ’30s, whose charming historic nave has been preserved. The project realized by Migliore + Servetto Architects with Italo Lupi is inspired by the concept of “narrative museum”.
Born in 1954 from an idea of Gio Ponti, the Compasso d’Oro award is today the oldest and most institutional recognition of the sector worldwide. It aims to highlight the qualities of Made in Italy products but above all to recognize the added value that design imprints on the world of production and on society as well. To date, more than 2,300 products and projects are part of the Collection, including 350 award winners and numerous Honorable Mentions, belonging to different categories of analysis.
Let’s continue with the most loved Art Museums in Milan, from avant-garde to performance art
Museo del Novecento
The Museo del Novecento in Milan is a permanent exhibition of works of art of the twentieth century housed in the Palazzo dell’Arengario in Piazza del Duomo. The historic building, designed by Griffini, Magistretti, Muzio and Portaluppi, was renovated in 2010 by the Rota Group to accommodate about 400 works selected from the nearly 4,000 dedicated to the Italian art of the 20th century owned by the Civic Art Collections of Milan.
Projected towards the city, the museum unfolds around several pivots. The Permanent Collection is displayed in a chronological path, with an alternation of collective and monographic rooms. The large helical ramp inside the structure leads to Pellizza da Volpedo’s Quarto Stato and reaches the panoramic terrace overlooking Piazza Duomo with Lucio Fontana’s work Neon as a final embrace to the city.
The first room is dedicated to the international avant-garde, with works by Picasso, Braque, Kandinsky. The itinerary continues with Umberto Boccioni and the futurists Giacomo Balla, Carlo Carrà, Mario Sironi, and Gino Severini. Adjacent are two monographic rooms dedicated to Giorgio Morandi, Giorgio de Chirico and Arturo Martini, followed by the rooms dedicated to art between the two wars with the Group of the twentieth century, the Monumental art, the Abstractionism of the Thirties.
Last we reach the Lucio Fontana room, where there is a series of spatial concepts. This is followed by informal works from the Fifties and Sixties, including a small room dedicated to Piero Manzoni and Azimuth, after which the visitor has the opportunity to approach the art forms of the following decades: from the environments of Gruppo T, to Milanese analytical painting, ending with the installations of Arte Povera.
The Padiglione di Arte Contemporanea (PAC), founded in the early 1950s to initially house the collections belonging to the Civiche Raccolte del XX secolo (Civic Collections of the 20th Century), is a building designed by Ignazio Gardella and located next to the Villa Reale.
It is one of the first examples in Italy of architecture conceived to host contemporary art exhibitions, a place that manages to shape and adapt itself according to the exhibitions and works that it displays from time to time. The space spreads over an area of 1200 square meters on three levels around a central volume; the lowest level communicates through its large window with the garden of Villa Reale.
The PAC, with its activity, has tried to keep the discourse open and to awaken the attention on contemporaneity by directing its gaze towards the future. Over the years it has hosted big names of the international contemporary art scene such as Laurie Anderson, Kounellis, Duane Hanson, Emilio Vedova, Andres Serrano, Lucio Fontana, Richard Long, Vanessa Beecroft, Marina Abramovic, Yayoi Kusama, Tony Oursler just to mention a few. Alongside these projects, there is no lack of proposals for research and experimentation with artists little known to the Italian public and surveys of the national scene, with solo or group exhibitions dedicated to Italian artists of different generations.
Museo della Permanente
The Palazzo della Società per le Belle Arti ed Esposizione Permanente (in Milan also known simply as Palazzo della Permanente) has been the headquarters of the historic cultural institution since 1881. Designed in 1881 by Luca Beltrami in a neoclassical revival style, the building was later severely damaged by bombs during World War II.
The palace was completely rebuilt, with the exception of the surviving facade and a few other pre-existing structures, by architects and designers Pier Giacomo and Achille Castiglioni according to the criteria of functionalism.
For over a century, the Società per le Belle Arti ed Esposizione Permanente has been promoting and spreading culture, organizing and producing monographic and thematic exhibitions and historical reviews, also in collaboration with national and foreign museums, organizations and institutions.
An extraordinary artistic and archival heritage, consisting of a large collection of works from the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries and a vast specialized library, documents the history of the Society from its foundation to the present day.
The Museum of Cultures in Milan (Mudec),opened in 2014, is a museum and exhibition center dedicated to the enhancement and interdisciplinary research on world cultures.
The Museum of Cultures project originated in the early 1990s, when the City of Milan purchased the former industrial area of Ansaldo, in the Porta Genova district, to allocate it to cultural activities. The disused factories, real monuments of industrial archeology, were transformed into laboratories, studios and new creative spaces. In this scenario took shape the idea of creating an exhibition space where to relocate the non-European collections of Milan’s civic art and design museums.
The project of the museum was signed by the British architect David Chipperfield. Inside the building there are several spaces that offer visitors a variety of cultural proposals and services, distributed over 17,000 square meters. The actual exhibition itinerary is developed on the second floor, articulated around a large central covered square, four-lobed in shape, from which the rooms dedicated to temporary exhibitions and permanent collections branch off. A salient feature of the architecture is the contrast between the curved lines of the central transit space and the regular geometric volumes of the individual exhibition rooms, a contrast accentuated by the different shades of light and color in the various rooms.
The MUDEC, in addition to the permanent collection that includes objects from public institutions and private donations from explorers, missionaries, collectors as well as objects from spoliation and relics from the colonial era, is also home to important exhibitions of modern and contemporary art, dedicated to the theme of distant cultures and their relationship with our city.
And which are the trendiest Art & Design Galleries in Milan?
Pirelli HangarBicocca is a non-profit foundation established in Milan in 2004 thanks to the conversion of an early twentieth-century industrial plant into an institution dedicated to the production and promotion of contemporary art. A dynamic place for experimentation and research, with its 15,000 square meters, it is one of the largest horizontal exhibition spaces in Europe and every year it presents important solo exhibitions of Italian and international artists.
Each exhibition project is conceived in close relation with the architecture of the building and is accompanied by a program of collateral and in-depth events. Since its opening, Pirelli HangarBicocca has hosted exhibitions of Marina Abramović, Carsten Höller, Alfredo Jaar, Philippe Parreno, Laure Prouvost and Apichatpong Weerasethakul.
The building, which once housed a factory for the construction of locomotives, includes an area dedicated to public services and educational activities and three exhibition spaces characterized by the visible presence of the original architectural elements of the last century: the Shed, the Naves and the Cube. Le Navate, in addition to the area dedicated to temporary exhibitions, host the famous permanent work by Anselm Kiefer, I Sette Palazzi Celesti (2004-2015), which since the inauguration of its seven reinforced concrete towers, has made Pirelli HangarBicocca one of the must-see places in Milan.
Armani / Silos
The Armani/Silos is a Milanese exhibition space located in Via Bergognone, which illustrates the professional experience of fashion designer Giorgio Armani. Born and developed from an idea of Armani himself, the building was inaugurated in 2015. The original structure, built in 1950, was the granary of a major international company. It measures around 4500 square meters and it is on four levels.
The search for simplicity, the elimination of everything that is superfluous, together with a preference for regular geometric shapes and a desire for uniformity, have produced a sober but monumental building based on the rule of order and rigor. A rational response to practical needs where the spaces respect the original architecture and preserve the unusual shape of the building that recalls a beehive, a metaphor for industriousness. The renovation of the exhibition space emphasizes the aesthetic philosophy and creative dynamism of the designer.
Armani/Silos offers an overview of more than 40 years of the designer’s career and includes over 400 garments and 200 accessories, from 1980 to the present day, from the Giorgio Armani collections. It also hosts temporary exhibitions dedicated to fashion, photography, architecture and design.
Galleria Campari inaugurated its spaces in 2010, on the occasion of Campari’s 150th anniversary. It is located in Sesto San Giovanni, Milan, and is part of the Gruppo Campari Headquarters, designed by architect Mario Botta. Since 1860, in its 160 years of history, the Campari brand has been an inspiration to many artists and has explored many different fields, inspiring endless unique creations in the world of art, design, cinema.
Through vintage posters, numerous advertising films, documents and objects, it is possible to retrace the long history of the red aperitif, closely linked to Milan and its iconic places, such as Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, where the first Campari bar was opened in 1867 and where we can still find the Camparino, a destination of excellence for the Milanese aperitif.
Galleria Campari hosts, together with interactive installations, original iconic works such as posters of the Belle Époque, drawings, sketches and artist’s books, from the early 1900s to the present day, created by important figures such as Dudovich, Nizzoli, Cappiello, Depero, Munari. It also recounts the profound relationship between Campari and the world of cinema, an art explored since the 1960s and 1970s with the carousels and television commercials of famous directors who have collaborated with the brand, such as Fellini and Singh Tarsem, along with short films signed by Sorrentino, Sollima and Garrone.
Fondazione Prada, born in 1993 from an intuition of Miuccia Prada, owner of the famous brand, is responsible for promoting culture and contemporary art. The new space-museum, inaugurated in 2015 and designed by the Dutch architectural firm OMA, led by Rem Koolhaas, is the result of the transformation of a distillery dating back to the 1910s.
The historic buildings were recovered and converted to house the Foundation’s many activities. In the 19,000 square meters there are large spaces dedicated to exhibitions and temporary events. Three new buildings give innovative character to the area. The Haunted House, a four-story building clad in gold leaf; the Podium, a vast central space on two floors; and the Tower, completed in 2018, which dominates over the others with a geometric structure of glass and white structural concrete, facing the city center in a play of surfaces and shapes that follow one another. Its nine exhibition floors house the permanent collection of the Fondazione Prada with the Atlas project.
From the innovative architectural complex, designed by OMA studio, the Foundation reaffirms its predilection for experimental contemporary art, which it enhances with its activities. Here’s a quote from architect Rem Koolhaas: “By introducing numerous spatial variables, the complexity of the architectural design contributes to the development of an open and constantly evolving cultural program, in which both art and architecture will benefit from their mutual challenges.”
Take a Grand Tour of Italy
In this discovery tour of the coolest art & design museums Milano has to offer, do not miss the best rooftops for an aperitivo milanese in the most charming venues and get carried away by the good vibes. Immerse yourself in a cultural adventure: discover the house museums of artists and designers and the most exclusive art and design galleries in Milan, great places to explore if you’re looking for inspiration. Along with the city’s exquisite furniture shops, take the chance to sample a taste of the Italian excellence, in fact, why don’t you consider our customized furniture shopping tour.
We can organise a tailored experience including visits to the finest Italian laboratories and ateliers, helping you to choose products for your home, as well as providing in-depth recommendations about the best 5 star hotels in the city.
We also offer interior design services including a Furniture Selection & Supply Service where you can browse a wide variety of furnishings of the best brands to select from. We understand the value of luxury furnishings, which is why we ensure the necessary care is given to sourcing every piece. Our experts are available to assist you throughout any project, as well as offer an assembly service if needed.
We are ready to take on the hard work while you sit back and enjoy the beauty of Italy. We’ve prepared a list of Milan’s chicest restaurants and most luxurious spas, so you can really put your feet up as we help you make your dream house a reality. Want to take your Italian experience further afield? Our list of the ten best design hotels in Italy is ready for you!
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