If you want to see the first project from the new Beatrice Trussardi Foundation, you will need to hike up the Swiss Alps and into a south-facing valley called Val Fex in the Engadin. You can also take a horse-drawn carriage, but no cars are allowed.
Once you arrive, a poignant installation by Polish artist Paweł Althamer will be waiting for you—the commissioned work, made from a variety of natural materials, is tucked away in a 17th-century mountain hut.
It’s the first of what promises to be many brazen and ambitious exhibitions for Trussardi’s eponymous “nomadic museum,” which launches this summer. Beatrice Trussardi, an Italian cultural entrepreneur and businesswoman, made a name for herself decades ago when, in 1999, she took over the Nicola Trussardi Foundation, named after her father. Tapping into the talents of New Museum artistic director Massimiliano Gioni, then a young curator, the two set out to challenge conventions of what a foundation can and should do, creating nomadic projects around Milan.
Now, with the Beatrice Trussardi Foundation, the concept is similar, but the settings will be very different. The new museum plans to rove to forgotten or overlooked places around the world, rather than within its home city, to mount projects that respond directly to their context, intricacies, and histories. Althamer’s work references the spirituality of the picturesque valley, which has for centuries been a place of artistic or intellectual pilgrimage and seems locked in time.
“A foundation without a home works directly within the fabric—within the very nervous system—of a chosen place or a specific historical moment,” Trussardi told Artnet News. “I want the foundation to be a mechanism, a vehicle that can bring art closer to the public.”
Since 2003, Trussardi has sought to activate forgotten sites and historic places in Milan. (She will continue to serve as president of the Nicola Trussardi Foundation, which will remain operational; Gioni will be artistic director of both organizations.) Two years ago, for example, she commissioned the Ghanian artist Ibrahim Mahama to drape the Caselli Daziari tollgates in Milan with his patchwork quilts.
Calling Gioni her “partner in crime,” Trussardi said it was important to always “let him be free to imagine any project, even the riskiest and most provocative. We try to speak a language everyone can grasp, even when it is uncomfortable or challenging.”
Althamer last collaborated with the duo in 2007 when, with the help of aeronautic engineers, he set aloft a massive balloon sculpture of his naked self, which hovered over the city.
“Instead of building a museum or a collection, instead of opening the umpteenth private foundation, I invented an itinerant institution that would take art directly onto the streets, into the public squares,” Trussardi said. The foundation will also fund in-depth research and education offerings that run parallel to each project.
The inaugural show will be open to all who can manage to get there (to whom, exactly, Switzerland is accessible is another question). All the initiatives, wherever they may land, will always be free.
For Trussardi, this approach represents a more sustainable way to run a foundation than a brick-and-mortar space. “This is a way to keep raising the stakes and to keep challenging ourselves and the artists,” she said. “Why not dream up different worlds, new situations, and even more unusual settings?”