Special Report: Fashion: Gucci Opens a Brand Museum in Florence
It would be fun to imagine all those high-wattage famous names in the photographs — Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor and Maria Callas — piled into the Cadillac Seville with a Gucci logo as its hood ornament and bowling through the narrow streets of Florence.
Some recent famous names — from the actresses Abbie Cornish and Gemma Arterton, through Li Bingbing of China and Charlotte Casiraghi of Monaco — gazed at that car and then walked the red carpet on Monday as Museo Gucci opened in the heart of Florence.
The museum, housed in a 14th-century building in the Piazza della Signoria, is designed to honor the company’s leather goods legacy and to bring it into the 21st century by juxtaposing the innovation of bamboo-handled bags or luxe sports equipment with modern art.
As Matteo Renzi, the city’s dynamic young mayor, put it, “Florence is an old, Renaissance city, but it is important for it to have something new in art.”
A light projection on its facade that included a bustling modern street and the Gucci logo brought a contemporary edge to the Palazzo della Mercanzia, with its solid stone stairways and sculpted guild crests.
For the Florentines and for tourists steeped in the grandeur of the Palazzo Vecchio, there is not only the Gucci museum but also a cafe (Internet friendly, of course) and a Rizzoli book shop for browsing.
The idea of facing off past with present — under the slogan “forever now” — was the brainchild of Frida Giannini, the creative director of the famous brand (or even infamous in the years of the internecine Gucci family wars).
“One of my responsibilities is to be true to the vision of Guccio Gucci, who founded a small artisanal company and made something last for us, something emotional and relevant to his time,” Ms. Giannini said, speaking as guests gathered to dine under the noble paintings of Giorgio Vasari and speculate over the current debate as to whether one artwork hides a fresco by Leonardo da Vinci.
It is a mighty task to create a face off between Gucci products, from a ritzy picnic hamper to a bicycle bag, and some of the world’s greatest treasures. Hence the decision to have the video artist Bill Viola’s flames of fire licking the walls in the area dedicated to the contemporary art collected by François-Henri Pinault, chief executive of PPR, Gucci’s parent company.
Patrizio di Marco, president and chief executive of Gucci, said, “It was Frida’s idea in 2009, but François-Henri supported us to make the museum slightly different, not too intellectual, but including contemporary art in partnership with the Pinault Foundation.”
The first piece to grab attention among a line of travel bags with jaunty red and green stripes is the customized Cadillac, expressing the flamboyance of Gucci in those early midcentury years of the jet set. A video of Ms. Loren out shopping with a Gucci bag and a megawatt smile only adds to the overall sense of glamour.
But on the first floor, the mood changes as the “Flora World” shows a different side of Gucci, with flower prints scattered over purses, dresses and scarf squares. A multimedia touch is the original drawing reproduced digitally and projected on the wall.
Beside a small space dedicated to jewelry and precious objects is the art area, although it is not integrated in any way with the Gucci items, which are displayed as if in a branded store.
There is also a film room, where some of Italy’s iconic movies, from “La Dolce Vita” through “Il Gattopardo,” or “The Leopard,” are projected. They are restored in a Film Foundation collaboration between Gucci and Martin Scorsese, the director.
Red-carpet dresses — for example, an ostrich-feather number worn at this year’s Academy Awards by Hilary Swank — catch that forever-Gucci gleam, while the next floor focuses on sportswear. Logo tennis racket or golf clubs anyone?
Some of the product displays from the 1980s, when Gucci took a style tumble, are hilariously over the top, like the table lamp supported on twin boots or silver wine cups bristling with animal heads and presumably destined for a St. Moritz chalet.
What is missing from the lively representation of Gucci’s history is the people who made the label sing and swing. Even Guccio Gucci himself does not get a showing as first among products. As for his quarrelsome family, the collapse of the label into airport duty-free fodder, its revival in the 1990s by Tom Ford and Domenico De Sole — they are simply air brushed out of history.
Nor does Ms. Giannini herself feature inside the museum, although visitors in this fashion-obsessed age would surely enjoy a video run-through of recent collections. There are photographs of artisans at their crafts, but not a video to give a more vivid sense of the construction of the items on show.
It is tough to pit a company that is a mere 90 years old against the masterworks of the Renaissance. Yet Museo Gucci does, in its way, span the divide between the divine art of a gilded age and the commerce — often stylish and finely crafted — on Florence’s narrow streets.
As for the museum store, it offers glamour, at a price. (€260, or about $350, for a data storage key in leather.)
Probably the hottest buy will be the €95 T-shirt with a print of a figure in a suit of armor carrying, not a sword or a shield, but two bags. Gucci, of course.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Farooq on January 4, 2012 at 9:02 am, and is filed under Fashion. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|
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