Get up and take the train or the tram (the new Metro line 5 will be opening soon) and visit Bicocca, the quarter in northern Milan that used to be the old Pirelli factory area.
To get there: Get on the train to Chiasso (Switzerland) from Porta Garibaldi station and get off after just 5 minutes in Greco Pirelli station. Or take the subway (red line to Precotto or yellow line to Zara) and then tram number 7.
A short walk up north through the quarter's modern buildings (the University, Arcimboldi theater, Deutsche Bank and Siemens headquarters, etc.) will bring you to the Hangar Bicocca.
In the beginning of the 20th century, factories like Pirelli, Breda and Marelli moved their production plants to this area and Hangar Bicocca was a part of those plants. These factories had a strategical position because they were located right by the railway line Milan - Sesto San Giovanni - Monza, the first one in the region and the second in Italy, of importance because it later linked Italy to the rest of Europe through the Gotthard tunnel.
From the late 1980s, the area started an urban redevelopment, factories had left in the 70s and the creation of new buildings started, like the University, the Arcimboldi theater and the new residential buildings. The Hangar Bicocca was then acquired and converted into a space for exhibitions of contemporary art.
Since 2004 Hangar Bicocca hosts exhibitions and events but it also offers lots of initiatives, workshops and an area for consulting relevant books, magazines, catalogs, etc.
At the entrance of the Hangar, the artwork La Sequenza stands out. This 7x22x11meters sculpture is part of the series of works for outdoor spaces by Fausto Melotti. The linear and sinuous composition, example of extreme equilibrium, represents the passage towards modern day art via the cultural heritage of a great master of the recent past.
Enjoy the brunch at their new bistrot: Dopolavoro Bicocca. For 22 euro you get a very good burger and a small buffet of desserts and cold cuts, coffee and juice. Be prepared to families with kids running around the place (although there's a nice kids area, kids are more attracted by the donuts and nutella in the buffet). If you want a quieter environment come here for happy hour (also on weekdays), they're famous for their 'rubitt' or, if you prefer, tapas Italian style.
And since you are here, why not check out the exhibitions in the Hangar?
Start by the permanent installation The Seven Heavenly Palaces by German artist Anselm Kiefer, created for the Hangar in occasion of its first opening in 2004. Its name comes from the ancient Hebrew treatise Book of Palaces which narrates the symbolic journey of spiritual initiation of he who seeks the presence of God. It is formed by 7 towers (90 tons each) with heights between 14 and 18 meters made of reinforced concrete. Among other things, it represents the ruins in the West after WWII and the projection of a possible future from which Kiefer invites us to consider the ruins of our present. Each of the Palaces is decorated with details related to the theme of each tower:
- the ten names in Hebrew of the Sefiroth tower represent the ten expresions or instruments of God;
- the 'falling stars' at the feet of the tower Melancholia are small pieces of glass marked by sequences of numbers (corresponding to the classification of the heavelny bodies used by NASA) and it also has a polyhedron taken from an engraving by the artist Dürer, these symbols (the stars and the polyhedron) represent the melancholy of the art - in ancient philosophy, artists were referred to as "those born under Saturn" which was thought to be the planet of melancholy;
- the small model of Noah's Ark on the top of the tower Ararat represents a menas for conveying peace and salvation but at the same time a warship and a vehicle of destruction and desolation;
- in the Magnetic Field Lines tower, the highest one, the lead film which runs accross it represents the Nazis' attempt to wipe out the Jewish culture and ethnic minorities, the use of lead, a material which repels light and doesn't allow any image to be reproduced, also represents Kiefer's idea that every work of art cancels out the previous one;
- the numbered meteorites at the feet of the towers JH & WH represent the pieces of the vases in which God was to infuse life, generating the races of Earth and the Jewish diaspora;
- the picture frames with shattered glass in the Falling Pictures tower represent the missing image and its multiple references.
From September 20 to December 2, 2012, you can also visit Carsten Nicolai's Unidisplay, the artist's most comprehensive and complex work. It is a large installation (approx. 50 meters long) based on a series of modules which display visual effects such as optical illusion, imperceptible movements, flicker effects and color complementariness. Nicolai's work focuses on frequencies and the ability to make sound perceptible on an optical level and on the minimal eastethetics translated into the monotone use of colous (black and white).
I loved the bathrooms signs :)
Hangar Bicocca is open from Thrusday to Sunday from 11.00 to 23.00
Via Chiese 2, 20126 Milan
T (+39) 02 66 11 15 73
F (+39) 02 64 70 275
Dopolavoro Bicocca (+39) 02 64 31 111
*Most parts of the text in this post come from the leaflets at Hangar Bicocca