Recy­cling Beauty: Salva­tore Settis and Rem Kool­haas in Milan

17. October 2022

From 17 November 2022 to 27 February 2023, the Fonda­zione Prada in Milan will be hosting a new exhi­bi­tion on the recep­tion of anti­qui­ties from the Medieval to Baroque era. Follo­wing up on the successful ‘Serial / Portable Classic’ (2015), Salva­tore Settis and Rem Kool­haas have joined toge­ther again with a show that features expe­ri­mental design, spec­ta­cular loans and new rese­arch on well-known objects. The exhi­bi­tion is also a successor to ‘Torlonia Marbles: Coll­ec­ting Master­pieces’ (2020) in which Settis like­wise worked closely with a renowned archi­tect (David Chip­per­field) to bring antique statuary into a contem­po­rary light. The Census project colla­bo­rated with an essay in the cata­logue by Kath­leen Chris­tian, ‘Anti­qua­rian Drawings: Pattern Books, Sketch­books and Paper Museums.’ Below is the descrip­tion of the show from the offi­cial website: “Recy­cling Beauty” is an unpre­ce­dented study dedi­cated enti­rely to the reuse of Greek and Roman anti­qui­ties in post-antique contexts, from the Middle Ages to the Baroque era. The exhi­bi­tion is curated by Salva­tore Settis with Anna Angu­is­sola and Denise La Monica, desi­gned by Rem Koolhaas/OMA. The under­lying premise of this rese­arch is the need to think of the clas­sical not simply as a legacy of the past, but also as a vital element with the power to affect our present and future.Through an inno­va­tive inter­pre­tive approach and an expe­ri­mental exhi­bi­tion format, ancient heritage—in parti­cular Greco-Roman heritage—becomes, in Settis’ words, “a key that provides access to the multi­pli­city of cultures in the contem­po­rary world.” Despite its cultural rele­vance and wide­spread diffu­sion, the reuse of ancient mate­rials has been studied in depth only recently. In the last few years detailed atten­tion has been devoted to the essen­tial aspect of this pheno­menon: the visual and concep­tual inter­ac­tion between the reused ancient elements and the post-Antique context, far from their origin, they became part of. “Recy­cling Beauty,” instead, aims to draw atten­tion to the moment when an antique arti­fact crosses the boun­dary between its condi­tion of aban­don­ment among ruins and the moment its value is reac­ti­vated through its reuse. The exhi­bi­tion design, conceived by Rem Koolhaas/OMA, toge­ther with Giulio Margheri, takes place in two of Fondazione’s buildings—the Podium and the Cisterna—as a process of histo­rical analysis, disco­very, and imagi­na­tion. In the Podium a land­scape of low-rise plinths made of acrylic allows for the pieces on display to be perceived as an ensemble, while the cubicle-like struc­tures encou­rage a closer exami­na­tion with the presence of office chairs. In the Cisterna, visi­tors encounter the exhi­bits gradu­ally, in a sequence of spaces that faci­li­tate obser­va­tion at diffe­rent points of view from the height of a balcony to the confined perspec­tive of a room built inside one of the exis­ting rooms. Two rooms in the Cisterna will be dedi­cated to the colossal statue of Constan­tine (4th century CE), one of the most important works of late ancient Roman sculp­ture. Two monu­mental marble frag­ments, the left hand and foot—normally displayed in the cour­tyard of the Palazzo dei Conser­va­tori in Rome—will be placed along­side a full-scale recon­s­truc­tion of the Colossus. Some­thing that has never been attempted before, this demons­trates how the statue was the outcome of the rewor­king of an earlier cult statue, probably of Jupiter. This project is the result of colla­bo­ra­tion between the Musei Capi­to­lini, Fonda­zione Prada, and Factum Foun­da­tion, with the scien­tific super­vi­sion directed by Claudio Parisi Presicce, the Capi­to­line Super­in­ten­dent of Cultural Heri­tage. High­lighting the importance of frag­ments, reuse, and inter­pre­ta­tion, “Recy­cling Beauty” helps to consider the past as an unstable pheno­menon in constant evolu­tion. The exhi­bi­tion pres­ents over fifty highly repre­sen­ta­tive artworks from inter­na­tional and Italian public coll­ec­tions and museums, inclu­ding Musée du Louvre in Paris, Kunst­his­to­ri­sches Museum in Vienna, Ny Carls­berg Glyp­totek in Copen­hagen, Musei Capi­to­lini, Musei Vati­cani, and Galleria Borg­hese in Rome, Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence, and Museo archeo­lo­gico nazio­nale in Naples.