I was in Milan last week and saw one of the best exhibitions I’d seen in a very long time.
Sadly, I’m not talking about Expo2015.
The show that completely blew me away was Arts & Food: Rituals since 1851. While in theory this show, curated by Germano Celant, is actually part of the Expo, it is the only ‘official’ part of Expo located in the center of Milan, at the Triennale.
The exhibition covers the relationship between food, culture, art and design from 1851 (the year of the first World’s Fair) to now.
The intersection between food, culture and design just about sums up what most of my life has been about for as long as I can remember. So I guess I was primed, personally to be thrilled by the show. But this being Italy, where goals often don’t live up to the hype, I was also prepared to be underwhelmed. So often in Italy curators have lofty ideas that are rarely backed up (due mostly to expense and logistics) by actual physical objects on display.
Instead, as I’m typing this, and looking at the photographs I took, I’m ready to hop back on a train to go see the show again. This was an exhibition that not only tackled the complicated and exhilerating period when design and art met food and culture, but they were able to illustrate the themes with the most comprehensive, exciting and beautifully installed group of objects I’ve ever seen brought together in one space in Italy.
What’s there? Just about everything you can imagine from the last 150 years that has to do with arts and food. Decorative arts obviously feature heavily, but there are also major paintings and sculpture, books and graphics, appliances and household objects. From a wide range of periods, media and expression the show addresses fundamental issues that involve the interaction between aesthetics and design and the rituals of eating.
Why it works? Because every, single solitary object displayed in this wide ranging show is extraordinary. From a collection of 19th century knives to a recreation of a turn of the century cafe and then flash forward to a set of plates made for Alitalia and a Wesselman still life, each object not only informs the premise of the show, but is intrinsically compelling on its own.
I took about a million photographs, but here are just a few. Plates by Gio Ponti, cups and saucers by Giacomo Balla, an entire kitchen by Le Corbusier. I especially loved the pairing of every day objects – camping stools – with masterpieces by the likes of Renoir.
If you are going to Milan for the Expo (and I’ll be writing about my impressions there next week) make sure you see this show. It’s located at the Triennale, where they have just opened a new panoramic restaurant on the roof, Terrazza Triennale (where I haven’t had a chance to go yet) over looking Parco Sempione.
Arts & Food – Rituals since 1851
Triennale di Milano
Viale Alemagna 6 (near Cadorna MM1 and 2)
Opening Hours: Daily 10am-11pm
Closes November 1, 2015
Terazza Triennale Restaurant
For more information on dining in Milan and Italy download my app, EAT ITALY. EAT ITALY is a free app, and contains guides to Milan, Rome, Florence and Venice (and an ever expanding list of regions and cities) available as in-app purchases for both iPhone and iPad.