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How This Milan Museum is Connecting Italy with the Rest of the World

By Alexis Christoforous


Milan’s Museum of Culture is not your typical Italian museum. Framed by courtyards and passages, renowned British architect David Chipperfield created a space that doesn’t have a traditional facade in an Italian square.


“Milan’s Museum of Culture was created by the architect with the idea of creating an inner square,” the museum’s director, Marina Pugliese, told The Voice of Business. “This place is free. It is a place for meetings, for encounters, and it gives back the idea of having a square inside the museum itself.”


Chipperfield’s other projects include the Neues Museum in Berlin and the Hepworth Wakefield gallery in northern England.


Dedicated to the interdisciplinary research of world cultures, Pugliese said Milan’s Museum of Culture takes its inspiration from civic ethnographic collections using the mediums of visual, performing and sound art, design and costume.


Opened in 2015, the museum is a public-private partnership between the Milan City Council and 24 ORE Cultura. It occupies the former Ansaldo factory, in the creative district surrounding Via Tortona and accommodates the Center for Advanced Studies of Visual Art, the Center of Non-European Cultures and the New Archaeological Museum.


“As the city of Milan, we run the collections and 24 ORE Cultura runs the big exhibitions,” said Pugliese.


Other buildings in the neighborhood have been converted into studios, workshops, and new creative spaces.


“Here, La Scala, the opera house has its lab for instance,” Pugliese said. “We also have Base, which is a co-working space for business, as well as a place for youngsters to explore art.”


Pugliese gave The Voice of Business an inside look at some of the ongoing exhibits at the museum that illustrate the rich relationship between Milan and other cultures, including exhibits showcasing early Italian colonies in northern Africa and African presence in Italian paintings.


“I believe it's important to say that our collections are not colonial collections, because our collections reflect the history of the city, but we thought it was important to acknowledge that Italy had colonies,” Pugliese said. “So we asked for a loan of all these objects, which are military garments from the colonies, to the museum of history in order to talk about this part. We cannot talk about Africa forgetting that we also had a colonial past and acknowledging what Italians have done.”


The museum also examines the special relationship Italy has with China. Pugliese explained that the Chinese were among the first international communities to live in Italy but that the two also have a historic “market” relationship for porcelain and silk.


“What's interesting about porcelain is that not only were Italians buying and trading objects, but also there was an influence of the Italian taste on Chinese manufacturing. So you would have objects which basically are produced in China with a taste of Italian beauty.”


There is also a special collection of works from Peru dedicated to Italian explorer and archaeologist Antonio Raimondi. “He moved to Peru and began digging archeological sites there,” Pugliese explained. “And then he naturalized in Peru and he married a Peruvian woman. He's so important that Peru has a stamp with his face and a museum dedicated to Antonio Raimondi.”


Other exhibits include works from the late French-Russian artist Marc Chagall that explores his Jewish identity and life in Russia as well as works from the contemporary American photographer David LaChapelle.


Pugliese said Italian museums are special because they “mirror Italy as a whole” highlighting not only the country’s beauty, but its connection to the rest of the world, adding, “Beauty is essential for living. Beauty is what gives us a reason to go on in moments of difficulty, art and beauty are lifesavers.”