May 5, 2017 – for HYPERALLERGIC:
For the past five years, the group Macao has run a thriving, radical arts center out of a former slaughterhouse in Milan. Now the city council wants to evict them.
MILAN — This city has transformed over the last 10 years, largely due to property development ahead of the international Expo of 2015, which featured over 130 national pavilions dedicated to the theme of food. The event met with widespread criticism even before it opened, not least because its curator, Germano Celant — a stalwart of the Italian art scene, responsible for the promotion of the Arte Povera movement in the 1970s — took a stipend of €750,000 (~$815,000), which many saw as excessive. This reflected the wider internal contradictions of an event that was ostensibly dedicated to issues of food scarcity and abundance (under the title “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”), yet, far from sustaining the planet or even its host city of Milan, appeared to be nothing more than a vast profit-making opportunity. Entrance tickets cost €40, and the food offered inside by participating nations cost more. Beyond the prohibitive expense of the expo itself, activists in Milan protested the government’s use of the project as an excuse to redevelop and gentrify vast swathes of the city. Contracts for the developments went mostly to large multinational corporations, such as Hines, a firm whose motto is “Intelligent Real Estate Development” and whose global headquarters is located in Houston, Texas.
But the remaking of Milan — and the contestation of it — goes back to a time before the Expo. In 2003, architect Stefano Boeri, who was on the Milan city council at the time, undertook a development project in the Isola neighborhood as part of a wider planning scheme by the city council in conjunction with real estate investors including Hines. The development threatened the existence of a recreational and play area. In response, a group of activists, artists, and even local artisans occupied a former warehouse named the Stecca, managing the Isola Art Center on its second floor. In its brief life as a museum, the Stecca had hosted 27 exhibitions involving over 200 local and international artists, among them Ian Tweedy and Tania Bruguera. In 2007, however, the Stecca was cleared and destroyed. In its place, Boeri built Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest), a set of luxury residential towers with tree plantings on large balconies on each of its levels. This novel solution certainly presented green spaces, but not ones that local residents could enjoy, unless they happened to inhabit one of the “forest’s” luxury apartments…
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