TitleWes Anderson – Asteroid City: Exhibition
Duration23 September 2023 to 07 January 2024
Opening HoursMon, Wed–Sun 10 a.m.–7 p.m.
Telephone+39 02 5666 2611
|Title||Wes Anderson – Asteroid City: Exhibition||Duration||23 September 2023 to 07 January 2024||Venue||Fondazione Prada|
|Opening Hours||Mon, Wed–Sun 10 a.m.–7 p.m.||Location||
2 Largo Isarco
|Telephone||+39 02 5666 2611|
Anybody who likes going to the cinema has dreamed of stepping inside a movie one time or another, and finally a new exhibition at the Fondazione Prada in Milan makes this possible. Running until January 7, 2024, the “Wes Anderson – Asteroid City: Exhibition” immerses visitors into the creative universe of Award-winning American director Wes Anderson’s latest film, Asteroid City, which is set in a fictional rural town in the American southwest in the 1950s. Organized in collaboration with Universal Pictures International Italy, the exhibition brings together a selection of original sets, props, miniatures, costumes and artworks arranged in independent installations that reference key scenes. Accompanied with relevant audio tracks from the film, the installations allow visitors to follow its plot almost faithfully offering a deeper reading into loneliness and emotional repression, two recurring themes in Anderson’s oeuvre which in effect take on an existential bent.
Anderson is known for his highly stylized, visually resplendent films. His penchant for symmetry, bright pastel colours and planimetric compositions that make shots seem nearly two-dimensional imbue his work with a painterly sensibility, while his keen sense of detail, expressed through elaborate stagecraft, from costumes, props and set designs to lighting and make-up, adds to his “tableau vivant” effect. Such characteristics have made Anderson synonymous with a distinctive, instantly recognizable twee aesthetic, enabling his cinematic universe to enter the physical realm to work so well in reality.
Part Western, part Sci-fi movie, Asteroid City takes place in 1955 in a fictional American desert town famous for its meteor crater and celestial observatory. The film’s narrative is centred on a convention of young astronomers and space cadets that brings together students and parents from across the country only to spectacularly disrupted by mysterious events that transpire to change the world. As in all of Anderson’s recent films, the concept of artifice underpins the plot: the film, which was shot in Spain not far from Madrid, is presented as a TV show in which actors stage a fictionalized version of the making of a play telling the fictional story of a place that doesn’t exist. By transferring the film’s fictional milieu into a real, physical space, the exhibition both highlights and heightens the film’s layered contrivances.
On view at Fondazione Prada’s Nord gallery, the show includes numerous set details that made up the fictional town, including the humorous pastel-coloured vending machines stocked with snacks, cigarettes, beverages and ammunition, gas pumps, street signs, and the town’s lone telephone booth. Created by Anderson’s longtime collaborator Adam Stockhausen, the retro set designs were inspired from films such as John Sturges’ Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole (1951) and Kiss Me, Stupid (1964) and Frank Capra’s classic It Happened One Night (1934).
Many of the characters’ costumes, accessories and items such as books, hand-written notebooks and musical instruments are also on display as is the miniaturized model freight train that cuts through the desert and several large-scale paintings by Utah-based landscape artist David Meikle, including landscapes used for backdrops and billboards. The set pieces and props are arranged in separate installations to recreate specific sequences from the film that allow visitors to follow the plot. Of course, visitors are free to deviate from the suggested path and weave their own narrative, especially if they have already seen the film.
Whereas the film is characterized by the blinding brightness of its cinematography (the work of Anderson’s longtime cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman), the exhibition is enveloped in a mysterious, much darker atmosphere. This is no deliberate act of subversion, on the contrary, the low-light setting conjures the immersive ambience of the movie theatre, allowing visitors to focus on the displays and experience some of the movie’s deeper themes more intensely.
A portal into Anderson’s cinematic universe, the “Wes Anderson – Asteroid City: Exhibition” is also the product of the filmmaker’s close relationship with the Fondazione Prada—in 2015, he designed Bar Luce, recreating the atmosphere of a typical Milanese coffee shop in the institution’s Milan venue while in 2019 he co-curated the “Spitzmaus Mummy in a Coffin and Other Treasures” exhibition. In fact, his wish is “to have every prop and costume we ever made for all our movies transferred into the Fondazione Prada to live there indefinitely for all time” is indeed a proposition that has us daydreaming about the idea of one day boarding The Darjeeling Limited train to visit The Grand Budapest Hotel in the company of the Fantastic Mr. Fox.