Classical art, Greek and Roman art, enjoys a guarantee of value that is almost never questioned, and its value, probably due to the fact that over the centuries it has almost always been the starting point for the various artistic currents, a starting point to be followed or to be demolished.
Today, 17 November, the Fondazione Prada in Milan opened the exhibition “Recycling Beauty”, curated by Salvatore Settis and Anna Anguissola with Denise La Monica, which reflects precisely on the timelessness of classical art and how it has been reused in post-antique contexts. “Recycling Beauty” places the symbols of classical art in a timeline that seems parallel to the one in which it was historically placed, dialoguing with contemporary concepts and the concrete and square spaces of the Foundation.
In the installation designed by Rem Koolhaas/OMA, the antique pieces emerge from their condition of ruin, to be reactivated, rediscovered in a new timeline. Here lies the concept of recycling, a recycling that is ideological rather than material, in which the work is not only displayed but first and foremost is in dialogue with the rest of the masterpieces.
A hint to visitors of the exhibition’s attitude is also given by the desks, on which fragments of classical statues are placed, almost as if they were to be analysed in an office study (the chairs with castors and armrests amplify this feeling).
In ‘Recycling Beauty’ the past is seen in all its instability, and art must therefore always be updated in meaning, assigning different meanings to different epochs. In the exhibition, classical art does not only have a universal value due to its form, but needs to be re-read again and again, even when it becomes rubble.
This is why the physical point of view to the works is another of the singular and alternative aspects of the exhibition. In the Cistern, the colossal statue of Constantine (4th century A.D.) saturates the space and towers over visitors; the hand and feet of the Colossus, normally displayed in the courtyard of the Palazzo dei Conservatori in Rome, do the same.
The works in the Fondazione Prada come from the world’s most important museums and will be on display until 27 February 2023.