It seems entirely fitting that the frankly remarkable new Fondazione Prada kicks its curatorial programme into top gear with the meticulous speed-freak minimalism of Italian artist Gianni Piacentino. Curated by Germano Celant, the exhibition, taking over two levels of the complex’s Podium galleries, includes 100 pieces, covering Piacentino’s career from 1965 to today.
Turin-based Piacentino, now 72, was a key figure in the development of the Arte Povera movement but quickly went his own way. And quickly. Piacentino is obsessed with vintage motorbikes and aeroplanes and many of his works are pared down abstractions of these dream machines; bits of wing or engineless frames and chassis, but always precisely engineered and beautifully finished (Piacentino restores and repaints vintage bikes for fun and was, for a short while, a professional bike racer). A dab hand at everything from websites to print catalogues, Piacentino even produced a limited edition cover for Wallpaper* earlier this year (W*196).
Piacentino’s work is a kind of Pop influenced minimalism, high on speed and paint fumes and the heavy then delicate artisanship of the body shop. As Celant says, Piacentino’s art roars out of somewhere ‘between art and design, craftsmanship and manufacturing, the useful and the useless, singularity and seriality.’ And is born of a ‘background culture rich with applied sciences, artisan expertise, mechanical precision and engineering processes.’ Vroom vroom. Except not quite, not just. There is something plainly elegiac in the work, slow and reverent. For Celant, Piacentino’s career represents ‘an absolute escape from the imperfection, instantaneity and randomness of making art, in order to access a universe of perfection, calculation and concentration that can compete with a motor or flight vehicle, on both sublime and absolute levels.’