Since artistic director Massimiliano Gioni came on board in 2002, the Nicola Trussardi Foundation has become famous for using the city of Milan as its own roving art-space. Usually, this involves commandeering a hidden basement, a crumbling palazzo, a public mall or, in the case of Maurizio Cattelan’s controversial 2004 mise-en-scene featuring three hanged children, an old oak tree on a traffic junction near the canals.
But for its most recent exhibition, 'La Grande Madre', which opened this week, the Foundation went rogue – or rather, fully traditional. The show takes place across 29 rooms spread throughout the Palazzo Reale, one of the Milan's most glittering historical institutions.
The decision to colonise a classical art space was, to a certain degree, mandated by the scale and provenance of the art itself. 'The exhibit is enormous,' remarks Beatrice Trussardi, president of the foundation and daughter of the eponymous Nicola, who works closely with Gioni on each annual exhibit, including the recent wheatfield conceived by Agnes Denes and planted in the city’s Porta Nuova district. 'Plus, we have so many very important works that have been loaned by institutions and collectors that required heavily monitored conditions and security.'
The exhibition, which deals exclusively with the theme of motherhood, features over 400 works by 139 international, occidental artists made between 1900 and the present, including Diane Arbus, Louise Bourgeois, Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamp and Jeff Koons. Three quarters of the artists are female and the topic of maternity is not just celebrated, but more often deconstructed, analysed and laid bare in its often unglamorous – sometimes horrifying – reality, for all the world to see.
The exhibition took two years to conceive and was planned to coincide with the city’s 'Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life' expo theme. Gioni was not present for the press opening yesterday in Milan, a first for him. But he had a relevant – if somewhat ironic – excuse: he became a father for the first time 48 hours prior.