Changing Cities

A pop-up exhibition in the center of Milan explores the evolving urban landscape.

Sao Paulo, Brazil, 1960 © Rene Burri/Magnum Photos.

Changing Cities brings together past and present masters of photography around the fascinating theme of the city and its evolution,” writes Walter Guadagnini, the curator of a new pop-up exhibition in Milan featuring 60 images by 14 by Magnum photographers, showing March 30 to April 02.

Cities change, photography changes with them, everything is in motion — as is the place where the exhibition takes place, a building in the centre of a large metropolis, where images are presented that fascinate us and at the same time invite us to reflect on the spaces we live in every day. Photographs that are at the same time works of art and testimonies of time, as in the best tradition of Magnum.

The exhibition invites the public into via Santa Margherita 11, a building on an iconic historical corner of the city adjacent to the Teatro alla Scala and located between two intersecting districts dedicated to fashion and finance, which is currently being redeveloped. It is presented by Ardian, the private investment company that owns the building project and is leading the urban regeneration of the surrounding area, to draw attention to the transformation of large urban areas and sustainable development.

Changing Cities highlights the unstoppable mutation of our cities to reflect on the need to foster sustainable models of urban redevelopment,” says Ardian. “Through the works of some of the greatest photographers from the 20th and 21st centuries, the exhibition presents the evolution of several cities over the years, starting from the immediate post-war period to the present day.”

Peking, China, 1957 © Marc Riboud/Magnum Photos.
Skating around the Forbidden City. Peking, China, 1956 © Marc Riboud/Magnum Photos.

"Cities change, photography changes with them, everything is in motion."

Above and below: Drone footage of Ecatepec, Mexico City, December 2019 © Jerome Sessini/Magnum Photos.

The show tells the story of the evolution of large international cities from the post-war period to the present day, from Marc Riboud’s busy street photos of post-revolution Beijing, to Jerome Sessini’s aerial pictures capturing the urban sprawl of modern-day Mexico City.

In front of the Duomo. Traffic control for the Allies. Milan, Italy, 1946 © Werner Bischof Estate/Magnum Photos.

The earliest photograph in the show is by Werner Bischof (above); a picture of Milan after the war, captioned, ‘Traffic control for the Allies,’ shot in front of the Duomo, the city’s iconic cathedral.

We see Herbert List’s photographs of Rome in the late 1940s and early ’50s, capturing the Italian capital’s grand urban vistas, ancient and modern. Eve Arnold presents us with a parallel view of New York City in the 1950s, contrasting everyday life at street level with the glamorous allure of the metropolis in birds-eye view.

Statue in front of the Palazzo della Civilta e del Lavoro. Rome, Italy, 1951 © Herbert List/Magnum Photos.
Colonnade gallery, Colosseum. Rome, Italy, 1949 © Herbert List/Magnum Photos.
Central Park. Mothers and nursemaids airing their children. New York City, USA, 1950 © Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos.
Clothing shop advertisement. Times Square, New York City, USA, 1950 © Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos.
Times Square, New York City, USA, 1950 © Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos.
Model, Drusilla 'Dru' Beyfus. New York City, USA, 1956 © Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos.

The same themes are perfectly distilled into one photograph in Rene Burri’s iconic image (top) of 1960s Sao Paolo, presented alongside the Swiss photographer’s pictures of Brasilia and the modernism masterpieces of Oscar Neimeyer, captured four decades apart. Ernest Cole distills a wholly different view of the 1960s, condensing the injustice of apartheid South Africa into a single symbolic frame.

Below, we present some highlights of the exhibition, from Harry Gruyaert’s views of his hometown, Paris, and the newly developed Parc de la Villette, created on the site of site of the city’s huge abattoirs in the 1980s, to Alex Majoli’s pictures of Lagos, one of the world’s fastest growing cities.

The National Congress building by Oscar Niemeyer. Inaugural night of the city. Brasilia, Brazil, 1960 © Rene Burri/Magnum Photos.
National Congress. Oscar Niemeyer's architectural structures. Brasilia, Brazil, 1997 © Rene Burri/Magnum Photos.
Doornfontein railway station in rush hour. South Africa, 1960s © Ernest Cole/Magnum Photos.
Parc de la Villette. In the background, 'Le Zénith' concert hall. Paris, 1985 © Harry Gruyaert/Magnum Photos.
Urban development. Shanghai, China, 2004 © Patrick Zachmann/Magnum Photos.
Shanghai, China, 2017 © Patrick Zachmann/Magnum Photos.
A bridge of the new light rail, which will be the first modern rail-based public transport in Sub-Saharan Africa outside of South Africa. Lagos, Nigeria, 2013 © Alex Majoli/Magnum Photos.
Lagos, Nigeria, 2013 © Alex Majoli/Magnum Photos.
View of midtown from the teleferic. New York City, USA, 2011 © Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos.

Changing Cities is on public view at via Santa Margherita 11 from today (March 30) until April 2, 10am to 7pm daily. Entry is free.

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