’The Small Utopia. Ars Multiplicata’ at Fondazione Prada, Venice

Shovel kept in glass box
The Prada Fondazione's latest show 'The Small Utopia. Ars Multiplicata' tackles the issue of art in the age of mechanical reproduction and how artists have used multiplication of various sorts. Pictured here are the works of Marcel Duchamp.
(Image credit: Attilio Maranzano)

Some fashion industry and art world alliances can come off as cynical exchanges of credibility for exposure, with little of substance surviving these arrangements. But there are honourable exceptions, of course. And the art activities of Miuccia Prada (opens in new tab) - a committed and innovative collector and patron - count among them. In the Fondazione Prada (opens in new tab), established in 1993 and headed by curator Germano Celant (opens in new tab), she is developing one of the most interesting of private art institutes anywhere.

Its latest show, 'The Small Utopia. Ars Multiplicata', tackles the issue of art in the age of mechanical reproduction and how artists have used multiplication of various sorts. It contains over 600 items, produced between 1900 and 1975, and includes design, ceramics, glassware, textiles, film, magazines, books and sound recordings.

Unsurprisingly the father of conceptual art Marcel Duchamp (opens in new tab) is well represented here by over twenty works, including three editions of his seminal Boîte-en-valise of 1941, a brilliant piece in which he miniaturised his key works, including his infamous Fountain, and packaged them in a utilitarian leather case. Unpacked and assembled, it is a three-dimensional miniature retrospective, including all the artist's high points.

It is a prescient piece that perhaps reflects the truth of the 21st century: if the artists are not on the move, their works certainly are. With its reproductions and near self parody, Duchamp also set the scene for the 21st-century artist, demonstrating that one should never be too serious about one's work.

Andy Warhol (opens in new tab), Duchamp's natural successor in terms of the popularising of contemporary art, is also well represented here, with cabinets of his now familiar Brillo boxes. Alongside are the far more serious but still inherently serial paintings of Josef Albers (opens in new tab).  

The show is the Prada Foundation's second in the Ca' Corner della Regina (opens in new tab), an enormous 18th-century palazzo it began leasing in 2011, opening during the 54th Venice Biennale (opens in new tab) with a stunning exhibition of Miuccia Prada's own collection. (As part of the deal, the foundation will gradually restore the palace, which was previously in parlous condition, while a permanent home, designed by Rem Koolhaas, (opens in new tab) is built in Prada's hometown of Milan). And there is vitrine after vitrine of books and objects fitting seamlessly into the overwhelming architecture of the palazzo.

In Duchamp's Boîte-en-valise, one finds the mustachioed Mona Lisa L.H.O.O.Q., a rectified readymade created from a cheap print. The title is a lascivious pun (understood when the letters are pronounced rapidly in French to mean 'she's got a hot ass'). Somehow this sharp-eyed irreverence seems to encapsulate Miuccia Prada's own vision.

Women Sculpture

The exhibition contains over 600 items, produced between 1900 and 1975, and includes design, ceramics, glassware, textiles, film, magazines, books and sound recordings. Pictured are works by Man Ray, Meret Oppenheim, Maurice Henry, and Max Ernst.

(Image credit: Attilio Maranzano)

Brillo box

Works by Andy Warhol at the exhibition include, clockwise from left: 'Brillo Soap Pads Box' (Pasadena Type), 1969; 'Mott's Apple Juice Box', 1964; 'Campbell's Tomato Juice Box', 1964. Courtesy: Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich; The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. 

(Image credit: Attilio Maranzano)

Wooden toy car

Pictured: 'Beach Buggy' by Gerrit Rietveld, 1922 (1925); 'Compositie VIII' by Theo Van Doesburg, 1918-19; 'Compositie VIII' by Theo Van Doesburg, 1918-19. Courtesy: Centraal Museum, Utrecht; Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden, loan Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands; Hernando Pérez Collection, Malaga, Galerie Ulrich Fieldler, Berlin.

(Image credit: Attilio Maranzano)

Heinz Tomato Ketchup Box

'Heinz Tomato Ketchup Box' by Andy Warhol, 1964. Courtesy: The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

(Image credit: Attilio Maranzano)

Inkwell set

'Inkwell set' by Nikolai Suetin, 1923. Courtesy: V. Tsarenkov Collection, London

(Image credit: Attilio Maranzano)

Lake in front of building

The show is the Prada Foundation's second in the Ca' Corner della Regina, an enormous 18th-century palazzo it began leasing in 2011, opening during the 54th Venice Biennale with a stunning exhibition of Miuccia Prada's own collection.

(Image credit: Attilio Maranzano)

ADDRESS

Fondazione Prada
Calle de Ca' Corner
Santa Croce 2215
30135 Venice

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