Exhibition view of “Paraventi: Folding Screens from the 17th to 21st Centuries”. Photo: Delfino Sisto Legnani and Alessandro Saletta – DSL Studio
26 Oct 2023 – 22 Feb 2024

“Paraventi: Folding Screens from the 17th to 21st Centuries” is an extensive exhibition curated by Nicholas Cullinan that investigates the histories and semantics of folding screens by tracing trajectories of cross-pollination between East and West, processes of hybridization between different art forms and functions, collaborative relationships between designers and artists, and the emergence of newly created works.

As explained by Nicholas Cullinan, “Painting or sculpture? Art or furniture? Utilitarian or ornamental? Decorative, functional, architectural or theatrical? This innovative exhibition examines the many questions and paradoxes surrounding the unfolding history of the paravent. This history of the folding screen is one of cultural migration (from East to West), hybridisation and of what is concealed and revealed. As we shall explore, this history, and especially the way it manifests in the present, is one of liminal objects and of liminality itself; in the process collapsing the rigid distinctions and hierarchies between the different disciplines of art and architecture, decoration and design.”

The exhibition design created for the Podium building by SANAA, gathers more than seventy folding screens, including valuable historical objects and more recent works on loan from international museums and private collections, and a selection of new creations commissioned from more than fifteen international artists specifically for this project.

On the Podium’s ground floor, curved transparent Plexiglas partitions alternating with sinuous curtains simulate the shapes of these objects. They create a series of spaces with different light atmospheres, in which visitors are confronted with each thematic group and connected in continuity in a fluid path, throughout the transparency of the partitions. On the upper floor, the single exhibition space represents the overall history of the screens, which are arranged in chronological order on shaped pedestals, that emphasize the typical paravents shape, in a nod to innovative museological displays such as Lina Bo Bardi’s MASP in São Paulo and indeed SANAA’s work for Louvre-Lens.

Exhibited artists
Alvar Aalto, Carla Accardi, Kai Althoff, Atelier E.B (Beca Lipscombe & Lucy McKenzie), Kamrooz Aram, Francis Bacon, Giacomo Balla, Hernan Bas, Lisa Brice, Marc-Camille Chaimowicz, Tony Cokes, William N. Copley, Pedro de Villegas, Jim Dine, Marlene Dumas, Charles and Ray Eames, Elmgreen & Dragset, Cao Fei, Isa Genzken, Duncan Grant, Eileen Gray, Wade Guyton, Kenneth Halliwell, Anthea Hamilton, Mona Hatoum, David Hockney, Josef Hoffmann, Pierre Jeanneret, Joan Jonas, William Kentridge, Yves Klein, Le Corbusier, Sol LeWitt, Shuang Li, Goshka Macuga, René Magritte, Kerry James Marshall, Takesada Matsutani, Małgorzata Mirga-Tas, William Morris and Elizabeth Burden, Chris Ofili, Laura Owens, Lê Phổ, Pablo Picasso, Jean Prouvé, Man Ray, Ed Ruscha, Betye Saar, Watanabe Shikō, Tiffany Sia, Lorna Simpson, John Stezaker, Keiichi Tanaami, Wu Tsang, Luc Tuymans, Cy Twombly, Francesco Vezzoli, Carrie Mae Weems, Franz West, T. J. Wilcox, Chen Zhifo.

Two exhibitions in Shanghai and Tokyo
The Milan project generates two exhibitions at Prada Rong Zhai in Shanghai (3 November 2023 – 21 January 2024) and Prada Aoyama Tokyo (3 November 2023 – 21 January 2024). Presented by Prada, with the support of Fondazione Prada, both exhibitions arise particularly from artistic commissions focusing on how folding screens are currently influenced by our pervasive digital experience of layering and screens within screens.

The Shanghai exhibition “Paraventi:屏” includes two ancient Chinese folding screens from the 17th and 18th centuries and develops into a sequence of rooms hosting five newly commissioned works by international artists, such as Tony Cokes, John Stezaker, Shuang Li, Wu Tsang, and Cao Fei.

The Tokyo show “Paraventi: Keiichi Tanaami – パラヴェンティ : 田名網 敬一” presents artworks by Keiichi Tanaami, one of the leading pop artists in Japan since the 1960s. The artist created a new environmental work specifically for Prada Aoyama spaces, expanding the concept of his folding screen conceived for the Milan exhibition. The Tokyo exhibition also comprises a six-panel folding screen, Plum, Bamboo and Mynah Birds by Terutada Shikibu, a renowned 16th-century Japanese ink and wash painter.

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PARAVENTI | Interview with curator Nicholas Cullinan