Fondazione Prada, Milan: Liu Ye's Storytelling

Transcending spaces through children's stories

by Sara Quattrocchi Febles 1st July 2020

This review was written in late March when Fondazione Prada was closed. It is now open to visitors and the exhibition period of Storytelling has been extended to 10 January 2021. I close my eyes and I’m back in the concrete village of Fondazione Prada in Milan, where 35 paintings by Chinese painter Liu Ye are displayed. To think that February 15, the day I visited it, was not so far off from the catastrophe that transformed the city into a deserted viral hotspot. It becomes easy to imagine Ye’s paintings sitting in silence in the industrial space of the Galleria Nord, waiting patiently for their Storytelling. ‘Storytelling’ is exactly what the exhibition does through the works by Liu Ye, both individually and as a whole. The paintings range from portraits of famous people such as Chet Baker to fictional characters such as Miffy, and from still life paintings of books such as Kafka’s Amerika to representations of Mondrian’s paintings. Ye’s paintings emerge from an illustration book and are displayed in “the cool and austere atmosphere of a former industrial site”, as stated by curator Udo Kittelmann. Displaying these playful and bright works in the grey industrial setting of the Galleria Nord causes them to go beyond a made-up narrative and to enter a real and adulterated world. Furthermore, they break the cultural barriers between Europe and China by their placement on the walls of Milan’s Fondazione Prada. Through the interaction between the works and the Galleria Nord, the exhibition becomes a separate world in which fiction and reality, East and West, all merge into one.