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For more than 20 years, the Prada Foundation has been staging contemporary art exhibitions in abandoned warehouses and disused churches here, bringing contemporary artists like Anish Kapoor and Michael Heizer to Italian audiences, often for the first time. The foundation has masterminded projects elsewhere, too, like the time the Belgian artist Carsten Holler created the Double Club, a restaurant and club in a Victorian warehouse in London, drawing patrons like Mick Jagger and Penélope Cruz.
Recently, however, the Prada Foundation has set its sights on establishing permanent homes to present exhibitions and to show its vast holdings of art, mostly works from the 1950s to the present. Four years ago, it opened an outpost in an 18th-century palazzo on the Grand Canal in Venice. Now it is putting down roots on the site of an old distillery in a scruffy industrial neighborhood here. The Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and his firm OMA have created a sprawling complex with nearly 120,000 square feet of exhibition space that, when it opens on May 9, is poised to become a major international destination for the arts.
“After more than 20 years of staging exhibitions around the world, my husband said he thought it was about time we do something permanent in Milan,” Miuccia Prada said on a recent afternoon, sipping tea in a conference room at her office near the new site, a spare space with just one artwork, Gerhard Richter’s “Five Doors,” dramatically consuming an entire wall.
While the foundation has had modest galleries, this will be its first serious presence in Milan. The new site, a campus of buildings set around a courtyard, has more than twice the exhibition space of the galleries at the new Whitney Museum of American Art. […]