Art //

“Give Me Yesterday” is Instant Nostalgia in Our Ever-Changing World

“Give Me Yesterday,” the inaugural show at Osservatorio, Fondazione Prada’s exhibition space in Milan, is a photo diary of days gone by.

Miss Rosenby Miss Rosen
Photo: View of exhibition Give Me Yesterday. Photo Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti. Courtesy Fondazione Prada

Fondazione Prada has just launched Osservatorio, a new exhibition space dedicated to photography and visual arts in Milan. With the explosion of photography around the world, Osservatorio will be a nucleus for investigation of the medium as it continuously evolves and finds itself in conversation with other disciplines of art.

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Osservatorio is located in the historic Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, realized by Giuseppe Mengoni between 1865 and 1867. After being damaged when downtown Milan was bombed in 1943, the spaces have been rebuilt and fully restored. Located above the central octagon, at the level of the glass and iron dome that covers the arcades, Osservatorio occupies an 800-square-meter space across two levels.

Greg Reynolds Jesus Days, 1978-1983 © Greg Reynolds

Greg Reynolds Jesus Days, 1978-1983 © Greg Reynolds

With this location as the backdrop for its inaugural exhibition, Francesco Zanot has curated Give Me Yesterday, currently on view through March 12, 2017. The show features more than 50 works by 14 artists including Melanie Bonajo, Kenta Cobayashi, Tomé Duarte, Irene Fenara, Lebohang Kganye, Vendula Knopová, Leigh Ledare, Wen Ling, Ryan McGinley, Izumi Miyazaki, Joanna Piotrowska, Greg Reynolds, Antonio Rovaldi, and Maurice van Es.

Give Me Yesterday examines the use of photography as a personal diary since the turn of the millennium, exploring the ways in which a new generation of artists have used the camera to create captivating scenes of daily life and private intimacies that come to stand as memories of a person, time, and place. Following in the footsteps of earlier artists including Nan Goldin, Larry Clark, Richard Billingham, and Wolfgang Tillmans, the artists blur the lines between documentary photography and fine art with an ease that belies their precise control.

Kenta Cobayashi Orange Blind, #smudge, 2016 Inkjet print © Kenta Cobayashi courtesy G/P gallery

Kenta Cobayashi Orange Blind, #smudge, 2016 Inkjet print © Kenta Cobayashi courtesy G/P gallery

The precise combination of talent and practice makes greatness look easy, and the photographers here have it in spades. The effervescent spontaneity that flows through the photographs is a testament to the level they have reached. Theirs is an intuition combined with a knowingness that enables them to respond not only through sight but through the energy of the moment itself. This is what makes the diary aspect of their work so compelling, rich, and raw. They allow us to reach the pages from their book of life with the wisdom of someone who has carefully exposed themselves.

The result is a high point in contemporary photography that goes beyond the realms of the gallery space. The very style and look of these works is something many aspire inside and outside of the photography world. This aesthetic combines the performative sensibility of a digital exhibitionist with the planning and precious on an artist who is driven to articulate the intricacies of intimacy to stunning effect, giving us a new way of seeing the world.

Ryan McGinley Dakota (Hair), 2004 C-print © Ryan McGinley, Courtesy Team Gallery

Ryan McGinley Dakota (Hair), 2004 C-print © Ryan McGinley, Courtesy Team Gallery

It’s instant nostalgia for the ever-changing world, immediately becoming a thing of the past so that it can take on the pleasurable patina our wistful history. It was the best of times, though we did not know it then—but we have the photographs to remind us just how wonderful it has all been.


Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.