The history of this building, known as “Casa degli Artisti”, literally House of Artists, is one of the best we’ve ever talked about, it’s a story of art and passion that deeply touches the heart of sensible people, so I believe you’ll love it!
Everything starts in the beginning of the last century, when the Bogani’s brothers decided to build an house for artists, a place where painters, sculptors, photographers and others could work in a comfortable environment and share ideas with each other, an attraction pole for intellectuals and artists, the source of a cultural debate for the whole city.
They commissioned the building to the architect Luigi Ghò in 1910 and within a year, in 1911, the building was ready to host the first artists. The House was conceived following the best practices used in northern Europe for the construction of artists’ ateliers: big windows exposed at north in order to maintain a constant indirect light during the entire day, green spaces and terraces where to rest and reflect.
Ghò used two different styles for the building, a classical architecture on the front and a rationalist on the back, where he used very modern materials like glass, concrete and iron. Also the most modern techniques were used for the building construction, like the use of concrete for the slab floors.
The House of Artists was also sitting in the right neighborhood: Brera in fact was full of taverns, brothels, artists, musicians, art collectors. This was happening during the golden age of the House, the period during which the first generation of artists was living in there. Among them Achille Beltrame (famous illustrator for the “Domenica del Corriere”), many painters like Cesare Tallone, Antonio Pasetti, Confalonieri, Adolfo Ferraguti Visconti, Giuseppe Solenghi, Ambrogio Alciati, Corvaja, sculptors Angelo Montegani and Da Verona, but also theater scenographers, graphic designers and photographers.
From the chronicles of the time we know that, even though not everybody loved this place and its bohemian lifestyle, many art collectors, actresses and people of the Milano’s families used to visit the atelier to be portrayed, buy an art piece or simply be inspired by the cultural essence of the place.
At the end of the ’30s the House started to experience its first problems: once the two patron brothers were dead, the heirs were dispossessed of the property and the whole district was assigned to a group of building speculators, in order to tear it down and build a new one. WWII stopped the demolition, even though it destroyed many houses nearby and also seriously damaged the House itself.
Regardless of the condition of the building, a new generation of artists decided to enter and new lifecycle started for this amazing place: among the many artists who used to work in those years we can remember painters Ernesto Ornati, Carlo Cazzaniga, Bianchieri, Ferroni, Romagnoni and sculptors Nino Cassani and Giorgio Broggini. We even know that the House was frequented by famous jazz musicians, like Chet Baker, and writers like Dino Buzzati.
Over the years the decadence of the structure continued to move forward and many of its occupants, become old meanwhile, started to leave the building. The last one to resist was the sculptor Broggini, who in 1977 happily assisted to a new occupation of the empty studios by the third generation of artists, who began a massive restoration of the House, at least of the most important parts, like the roof, the windows, etc. Among the people who took part of this third generation, we can remember Giuseppe Spagnolo, Paola Brusati, Ydetoshi Nagasawa, Jole De Sanna, Luciano Fabro and Dadamaino. A few years later two other painters joined the group, Paul Godwin and Alessandro Mangiarotti. In 1988 also a group of luthiers and harpsichord makers entered the House and eventually remained for long time.
In 1989 the Municipality restored the 89 of Corso Garibaldi and the entrance of the House of Artists was moved to the back of the building, assigning to it the street number 89/A. At the beginning of the restoration the political group that used to stay in the building next to the House, moved forcedly inside it, starting a cohabitation of two very different realities, that would remain next to each other until the end, but never tolerating each other.
Despite its cultural importance the House has been under constant threat by speculators and so the artists decided to establish the Cultural Association 89/A, in order to protect what the House of Artists had represented for three generations of artists, for the neighborhood and the whole city and to open up to the rest of the world in order to share this important treasure with other people.
In the following years, despite the protests and the appeals, the situation didn’t change in favor of the House and its occupants: in 2003 most of the beautiful botanic garden that used to sit in front of the building was destroyed in order to build underground car garages and in September 2007 the building was cleared by the police, without any previous notice to anyone!
The artists were obliged to remove laboratories and thirty years of work in less than a week; they were obliged to leave a place they had cured and maintained for all that time, without any help or interest from the Municipality.
Today this amazing place, an important piece of our history, an essential crossroad of creatives and intellectuals that helped to shape the italian cultural progress for a whole century, sits still abandoned and without any perspective for its future. Many people are now trying to change this situation and we all should hope that someone will succeed to make things change and let the artists enter back in their House.