Life or Something Like It


Left: Nicola Trussardi Foundation curator Massimiliano Gioni, artist Tacita Dean, and Beatrice Trussardi.(Photo: Marco de Scalzi) Right: Milan cultural commissioner Massimiliano Finazzer Flory with Milan mayor Letizia Moratti. (Photo: Cathryn Drake)

MILAN WAS STRANGELY SULTRY for May last Tuesday when Tacita Dean’s exhibition “Still Life,” organized by the Nicola Trussardi Foundation, opened at the Palazzo Dugnani. In front of the faded yellow palace, a group of journalists mobbed a statuesque redhead who turned out to be Milan’s mayor, Letizia Moratti, while under the vaulted portico the hip young Milanese—dress code for men: skirts and dreads—leaned against columns and chatted before joining the enormous line snaking up the staircase.

There didn’t seem to be much sense in hurrying, so I bode my time and greeted the visitors dribbling in. Neapolitan artist Gigiotto del Vecchio, who recently relocated to Berlin with his gallery, Supportico Lopez, was embraced boisterously by collector Alessandro Zenti, who noted that the pair are cousins. Vedova Mazzei’s Simeone Crispino, another Naples native, got into the spirit and gave artist Marta dell’Angelo a big squeeze. The sprinkling of out-of-towners came from various corners of the country: critic Angela Vettese; MAMBO director Gianfranco Mariniello, in from Bologna; Gagosian Rome director Pepi Marchetti Franchi; and Andrea Viliani, director of the Galleria Civica di Trento. Fashion magnate Beatrice Trussardi arrived looking adorable in a leopard minidress that barely hinted at her six-month pregnancy.

Left: Curator Germano Celant with dealer Jessica Fredericks. (Photos: Cathryn Drake) Right: The crowd entering the Palazzo Dugnani. (Photo: Marco de Scalzi)

If you didn’t know what decade it was, you might not guess; it was basically a pastiche crowd. Even the buildings on the street were of vague and sundry vintages. Without a fixed exhibition space, the wandering Trussardi Foundation has the luxury of choosing from among city buildings. A wonderfully evocative setting for the current exhibition, the seventeenth-century Palazzo Dugnani was built as an aristocratic residence that later became a natural-history museum and then a school of art history. “We clean them up and use them for a month, and then people start using them again,” said Trussardi’s Flavio Del Monte. Upstairs in the darkened former classrooms, painted an institutional pastel, there was a sense that time had been put on pause, even rewound, a sentiment enhanced by the languid tempo of the fourteen films in the show.

Among those works were Dean’s filmic—by now iconic—portraits of Merce Cunningham and Mario Merz. But most remarkable was the premiere of Dean’s two new films—Still Life and Day for Night—that contemplate objects in Morandi’s studio. As we sat entranced by the clicking projector and painterly compositions of bottles and vases, dealer Francesca Kaufmann complained, “There are too many people taking photos!” (I plead guilty.) Then her phone started ringing. While watching Dean’s portrayals of two fleeting phenomena—The Green Ray, which depicts just that, and the total solar eclipse in Diamond Ring—the light emanating from a window drew everyone’s attention: It opened onto a grand salon painted with a Tiepolo fresco, a vibrant mirage that contrasted with the dark, fusty room. Now used for civil weddings, the elegant hall was an anachronistic interstice that reflected the languorous implosions expressed in the works at hand.

Left: Chef Andrea Berton with writer Marisa Huff. Right: Viafarini director Patrizia Brusarosco, dealer Francesca Kaufmann, and curator Milovan Farronato. (Photos: Cathryn Drake)

Before dinner, the entryway to the Trussardi alla Scala compound hosted a performance by the most popular guest of the evening, the artist’s son, Rufus. He jumped gleefully on pristine white cushions while guests chatted and smoked before ascending the stairs to the restaurant. The mellow crowd included dealers Kaufmann and Francesca Minini, Jane Hamlyn of Frith Street Gallery, Marian Goodman’s Johanna Wiström, and Art Basel’s Maike Cruse. Curator éminence grise Germano Celant and his wife, Paris Murray, sat with dealer Jessica Fredericks, who was in Italy to prepare for the John Wesley exhibition opening at the Giorgio Cini Foundation during the Venice Biennale. “I noticed that the rail in the Tiepolo room hasn’t been dusted in forty years,” she summed up.

The small dishes being served were works of art in themselves. When I exclaimed at the explosion of flavor coming from a tiny tomato paired with a black-truffle-crusted scallop on top of liquid salad, food writer Marisa Huff explained that it was a “spherification”—juice encapsulated in a gelatin skin put back into its original form. Overhearing our conversation, curator Massimiliano Gioni offered to take us to the chaotic kitchen to get the scoop from the dashing Trussardi chef, Andrea Berton, who complied even as the food flew around him.

Dean held court at a large table at one end of the room with Rufus, her partner, Mathew Hale, and a rotating coterie of guests that included her friend the artist Julie Mehretu. When Mariniello approached, Dean thanked him for giving her access to Morandi’s studio, to which he responded, “No, thank you!” As we left the party, Victoria Cabello—the Italian TV starlet with a new late-night show called Victor Victoria: Nothing Is as It Seems—romped on the white divans with socialite and writer Cesare Cunaccia and Rolling Stone director Carlo Antonelli. Dress code: black and white. Juxtaposed with Dean’s real-time celluloid world, this could have been La dolce vita.

Left: Dealer Francesca Minini and Paris Murray Celant. Right: Rufus with artist Mathew Hale. (Photos: Cathryn Drake)

Left: Artist Julie Mehrutu with Francesca Kaufmann's Chiara Repetto. Right: Dealer Claudia Gianferrari with artist Giuseppe Caccavale. (Photos: Cathryn Drake)

Left: Critic Angela Vettese with curator Marinella Venanzi. (Photo: Cathryn Drake) Right: Actress Victoria Cabello with Rolling Stone director Carlo Antonelli. (Photo: Marco de Scalzi)

Left: Artist Danilo Correale, Supportico Lopez's Gigiotto del Vecchio, and collector Alessandro Zenti. (Photo: Cathryn Drake) Right: Andrea Viliani, director of the Galleria Civica di Trento, and curator Luca Cerizza. (Photo: Marco de Scalzi)

Left: Artist Marta dell'Angelo with Vedova Mazzei's Simeone Crispino. Right: The crowd waits to enter the Palazzo Dugnani. (Photos: Cathryn Drake)