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The theme of identity is central in the story of contemporary fashion, perhaps because everything has become or risks becoming generic, colorless, indistinguishable. But identity is also something non-normalizable and complex. It certainly is in the case of Prada. Outlining the contours of Prada-ness requires a series of props, a reading guide that defines without simplifying or impoverishing, and better if it is done by four eyes instead of two. The Pradasphere II exhibition just inaugurated at the Start Museum in Shanghai and open until January 21st responds precisely to this taxonomic but fluid need. The curation is signed by the co-creative directors Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons, while the artistic direction and the effective exhibition layout are the work of Chris Rock of the New York studio 2X4.
The first edition in 2014
The first edition of Pradasphere dates back to 2014: in that case it was Mrs Prada who explored her own history by isolating some thematic nuclei to expose them in a diachronic form. The intent of Pradasphere II is much broader, and the contribution of Raf Simons’ gaze, within only four of Prada’s over one hundred and ten years of history, is decisive. «The only way that, in my opinion, we had available to tell ourselves – she explains – was chronological, starting from the beginning». Miuccia Prada adds: «I’m not interested in celebrations and I don’t have a nostalgic eye on the past because I’m constantly projected forward. But I’m interested in history, in every field, not least politics.”
The story of the maison from 1988 to today
Pradasphere II is a historical exhibition untouched by any vice of historicism. With its over four hundred artefacts, it is full of materials, indeed expansive and exhaustive, but also intimate and intimate: all the objects can be appreciated up close, even touched and, unlike too many fashion exhibitions intended as a marketing vehicle or mere content creation in favor of social media is intensely analogue, devoid of easy digital phantasmagoria. The central nucleus is a warehouse, complete with imposing metal shelving lined with delicate pink velvet, which houses, in rigorous chronological order, Prada fashion from its beginnings in 1988 to today, while side rooms act as a magnifying glass on key topics , from the Fratelli Prada shop opened in Milan in the Galleria in 1913, of which the frescoes are reproduced, to Fondazione and Luna Rossa. Noteworthy is the section entitled Gallery, conceived by Damien Hirst, which, to symbolize the relationship with the artists, displays a series of precious archive bags in a display case opposite a second display case with copies of the same made in silver.
Current affairs and innovation have been the common thread over the years
What is striking, overall, is the focus on the materiality of the objects, whose effect on the viewer is engaging and emotional, because it reveals a little-known aspect of the story: the interest in industrial craftsmanship, admirably expressed in a room which, on the repeated silhouette of the circle skirt, recapitulates decades of research which, alone, have rewritten the way of understanding weaving and decoration, from needling to wrinkled lamé, from studs to sequins made with bottle caps. While following chronology as an exhibition principle, Pradasphere II appears to be a synchronic opus, which speaks to the present time: the relevance of the objects on display, even the most remote, is surprising.
To conclude with the words of Raf Simons «in fashion, everything was there from the beginning, from the first collection: a white shirt with a long skirt, men’s shoes and socks». A vision of rigor that underlies various waves of eccentricity: this is the complexity of Prada, that is, the desire to dress the mind and thought even before the body, while creating fashion rather than concepts, while concentrating on objects full of charm and also of frivolity.