Wandering around the nondescript backstreets behind the frenetic shopping district of Corso Ticinese – where backpack wearing college kids huddle en masse outside of vintage stores and streetwear flagships – it’s hard to imagine that one of Milan’s most captivating new galleries lays hidden just out of sight. Set in a former monastery, and buffered from the cacophony of the outside world behind a double height wall and courtyard sheltered by towering palm trees, is Six Gallery, the latest project from architect and designer Fanny Bauer Grung.
Visiting Six – past the courtyard lined with perfect rows of polished stones and through a cleverly revolving door inset into the gallery’s cement floor – you’ll find smoky, painted brick walls, a massive skylight that filters daylight onto shrugging, ceiling-high ferns and the sumptuous vintage furniture that has Milan all abuzz. “The space is very beautiful in itself,” Grung describes of the cavernous gallery, modestly brushing away the fact that when they found it was a red bricked industrial nightmare, a crumbling shadow of a former life as a workshop, requiring a complete overhaul to resemble the stunning light-filled place that exists today. “Architecturally speaking,” she explains, it’s very surprising.”
Though the gallery sits pride-of-place, Six operates as a collective. It hosts the offices of Bauer Grung’s architecture firm, Quincoces-Dragòs and partners, where her and her partner David Lopez Quincoces design striking spaces in the charismatic style of her own Cadorna-area flat. There’s a restaurant, Sixieme, a small bistro-style spot also designed by Bauer Grung, which has become the unofficial watering hole of Milan’s chicest creatives. Finally, a small flower shop run by Irene Cuzzaniti sells handsome arrangements that can also be found dotted throughout the gallery and bistro.
“Milan is in a renaissance phase,” Bauer Grung explains from her perfectly put together apartment, a gorgeous, airy space that acts as a testing ground for the buzzed about vintage furniture shown in the gallery. “It’s become so international – so much more fun and interesting. Things are happening all the time. There are places opening, projects growing everywhere, it’s really wonderful and forward moving.” She’s referring to the watershed projects like Fondazione Prada – the sprawling contemporary art compound funded by the fashion house – that opened the wake of the 2015 Expo. Since then, the city has slowly been shedding its stuffy reputation as an ‘insiders only’ playground. With Six, Bauer Grung is simply striking while the iron is hot: putting in place a strong creative foundation as the world increasingly turns its gaze towards Milan.
Despite leading the charge of ambitious young designers who are building on this growing swell of enthusiasm in the city, Bauer Grung is actually a Milanese transplant. She was born in Paris to Norwegian parents who skipped across Europe working in the foreign service before settling on Rome. After studying in London and completing her thesis with famed Portuguese architecture firm Aires Mateus, Bauer Grung cut her teeth at Milanese design firm Piero Lissoni, where she met Lopez Quincoces. But you won’t catch Fanny Bauer Grung in the typical architect’s uniform, “I try to avoid it,” she protests. Instead, she prefers comfortable, billowing skirts for a day in the office. “It’s the most comfortable thing to wear while working,” the lithe Scandinavian explains. She’ll often match her La DoubleJ Big Skirt with a silk button up in the summer, or an oversized jumper in colder months. For gallery openings and nights on the town, she prefers vintage. Her favorite piece is an unlabeled creamsicle colored and metallic-flecked column dress that she pulls out for special occasions.
Similar to her style of dressing, as a curator Bauer Grung is more instinctual than dogmatic. “Carlo Molino, whose work I love, has done a lot of nude photography on this chair,” she explains of her decision to include a surprisingly comfortable deep-seated rattan chair by Tito Agnoli in the gallery. There is a great focus on Italian crafts pieces, like delicate Venetian glass sculptures and objects by artist Marie Rose Kahane, which are shown alongside the robust Scandinavian designs of David Rosen and Kaare Klint. Bauer Grung intuitively plucks the most interesting pieces from multiple traditions – antique carved Vietnamese cases, glowing Ingo Maurer fan lamps and Noguchi lanterns and intricate Altai carpets sourced from Mauritania – and mixes them in a way that seems almost inevitable, as if objects created across continents away from each other were designed with some measure of complicity – a formidable skill.
The result is a gallery that is entirely her own. “I find it hard to let things go,” she exclaims about the space she built from the ground up, “I don’t want to sell anything!” With the brewing excitement about the city’s design scene, Bauer Grung is going to have to learn to let go. These days, it seems everybody wants a piece of Milan.
– Laura Todd