Alessandro Michele is singular. He has proven himself, time and time again, as a force to the reckoned with in the world of fashion. The Creative Director of Gucci has made countless headlines over his non-conformist aesthetics that straddle avant-gardism and a travesty of fashion.
But one thing that should be taken seriously is his relationship with the arts. His patronage to art and architecture has taken a leap — supported by Gucci — and is becoming seemingly evident through various collaborations, exhibitions, and restoration projects that link back to his fashion expositions.
Here are seven reasons why Gucci and Alessandro Michele are heavyweight patrons of the arts and architecture beyond the boundaries of fashion.
The Artist is Present in Yuz Museum, Shanghai
Imagine a world crowded with old master portraits, ancient Roman marble heads, gold relics, blooming carpets and vibrant tapestry, baby dragons and unknown creatures’ skulls. This was the dream that Michele shared to Maurizio Cattelan, a tireless artist affected by a serious image hoarding disorder. Thus, Michele found the perfect partner in crime. Cattelan went on to curate ‘The Artist is Present’ as an act of appropriation.
The show featured over thirty artists — both foreign and Chinese — showcasing both site-specific and existing works that question the most hallowed principles of art in the modern era. The exhibition project was equal parts originality and a physical immersion of imitation— the creative process itself was a deconstructive nature. Yet, we wonder sometimes what is in the mind of Gucci’s visionary creative director.
The most recent ArtWall features Gucci’s Pre-Fall 2019 campaign that is reinterpreted in the ruins of the temples of Selinunte Archaeological Park in Sicily. Michele imagines a mythical place suspended in time, where diversities coexist harmoniously as he channels the spirit of the classical symposium with a troupe of eclectic bohemians expressing freedom and a counter-cultural view. The artistic expression is perpetuated in select walls all over the world.
Avid travellers would already notice the new Gucci ArtWalls that are peppered all across the globe — the first in Mexico City, in Avenida de Michoacan, in the Condesa area; on Lafayette Street in Manhattan’s SoHo neighbourhood; East London’s famous Brick Lane; D’Aguilar Street in Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong; and in Shanghai’s Fengsheng Li in the Jingan district. One may argue, is this Michele’s act of ‘evangelising’ through art?
Gucci Garden and its architectural intervention
Gucci works regularly with artists to curate spaces that are immersive and spark conversation. The latest installation of the Gucci Garden — a realisation conceived by Michele — features a multi-dimensional display of the House archive, artefacts and documents. The new exhibits put together by critic and curator Maria Luisa Frisa also narrates an inclusive narrative of Michele’s personal memories of Gucci through an innovative spatial manifestation.
When one enters the Gucci Garden, there is a sense of holding on to the materiality of objects and at the same time experiencing the immaterial impulses of a creative vision. On different floors, the spaces switch from one scenography to another — each beckons a unique way to appreciate art and design in various perspective. Working with different artists, each space is put together to evoke a sense of curiosity through the display of archival pieces, couture, accessories, Gucci decor and more.
Gucci’s Involvement in 2019 Venice Biennale
As the main sponsor fo the Italian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2019 curated by Milovan Farronato alongside the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, Gucci and Michele further their continuous support in promoting the arts and preserving the country’s national heritage. It is also a testament to Michele’s relationship with artists like the many collaborations that we’ve seen happening all over the world. Gucci released in a statement: “Farranato and Michele share the same curiosity and passionate outlook on the contemporary world.”
Gucci Rupe Tarpea Restorations
The recent Pre-Fall 2019 collection as shot in the archaeological parks of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Selinunte to create a contemporary tableau vivant. These commitments on revivals stem from Michele’s tribute to his homeland and its natural treasures, fuelled by his passion for these rich site-specific historical narratives as part of an ongoing creative discourse with antique worlds. On top of his latest Cruise 2020 collection that took place in Rupe Tarpea, the more obvious intervention is the site where Gucci Pre-Fall 2019 collection was shot — in the ruins of the ancient Roman city. Photographing the collection here helps promote the unique artistic heritage, and at the same time reframing these places in contemporary ways for future generations.
The Rule Tarpea restoration that’s supported by Gucci involves maintaining and preserving the existing garden — having been closed to the public for years — which include the various terraced levels of the Rope Capitolina, the enhancement of the green cliffs, and the overall functionality of the site. “Contributing to the restoration of the Rupe Tarpea and its return to the citizens of Rome and its visitors, is for me and all at Gucci, an infinite joy,” says Marco Bizzarri, President and CEO of Gucci.
Narrating history on the runway
Like many of its past shows (and upcoming ones of course), Michele is known for using site-specific locations that are beyond face-value aesthetics. The runway is always layered with historical and cultural values that make every show a fully immersive experience. In previous installations, Gucci Cruise fashion shows have been artistically and historically held in significant sites including The Cloisters of Westminster Abbey in London; the Palatine Gallery in Pitti Palace, Florence; and the Promenade Des Alyscamps in Arles.
The latest, set in the Capitoline Museums, adds another chapter to the narrative that Michele and the House are trying to convey — their love for art, architecture and culture is something that will always be woven in the Gucci’s creative direction.
Artist in Residence
This is the newest initiative envisioned by Gucci, Michele and the Chatsworth House (which is part of Gucci Places). ‘Artist in Residence’ debuts with Rachel Feinstein. The programme invites artists to live on the estate for a fixed term and create new work inspired by the space they’ll be in — in this case, it is the remarkable Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, England. You can say it’s like a love affair between fashion and art. So far, the results have been encouraging.