Gucci Garden: A Fashion Eden

The new and improved version of Florence's Gucci museum is a phantasmagorical garden wonderland, writes curator Maria Luisa Frisa


The new space we have opened in Florence is called Gucci Garden for a reason. The previous name, Gucci Museum, might have suggested a place that looked chronologically and more conventionally at the work of the House. The Gucci Garden, by contrast, is an expression of the imagination of Alessandro Michele, where pieces, films and artworks are mixed, not according to a timeline, but to themes and ideas. For example, a coat from the 1960s in zebra is displayed next to one from today in orange faux fur with zebra motifs, in a dialogue across the decades. The Gucci Garden is a phantasmagorical place that provokes many thoughts, ideas and emotions. And while I may be the curator, I am a curator that has been chosen by Alessandro Michele to interpret his eye, his gaze, his feeling.

That's not to say that other Gucci creatives are not welcome here. All the previous Gucci designers, those who were more anonymous in the background, and others who achieved considerable fame, such as Tom Ford, have work included. While this is a world very firmly seen through the eyes of Alessandro Michele, it is one that acknowledges the past as an important influence on the present of the House. Indeed, one of the things that makes the Gucci Garden so intriguing is that here, the history of Gucci is regarded not as an academic, dusty archive, but as a living part of the contemporary creative process. Which is exactly how Alessandro Michele designs: using anything that appeals to him as inspiration, from the Renaissance masters to horror-genre director Dario Argento and British punk.

On the ground floor of the Garden is a boutique that has been decorated with antique pieces of furniture taken from country houses and pasticcerias, which have been renovated and painted. The space feels like a bazaar, with pieces displayed in wardrobes, on tables and in wooden sideboards and cabinets. There is also a restaurant, the Gucci Osteria by chef Massimo Bottura, and a cafe. As well as many pieces of clothing and accessories designed exclusively for the Gucci Garden, the store also houses pieces of the Gucci Decor collection and a selection of modern and antique books for sale, as well as a large number of esoteric magazines and publications.

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My domain is upstairs on two floors, where the Gucci Garden Galleria are arranged to show the art and culture of Gucci in an innovative way. The challenge here was to create a space that has a different spirit to the boutique and restaurant downstairs, but is still identifiably Gucci. The answer has been to conceive of this area as more of a neutral space, a gallery where a light-wood floor and white walls allow for the focus to be on the exhibits. Black tables with anthropomorphic legs act as plinths, and there are many video projections playing throughout too, some giving quite a psychedelic effect. Some of the friends of the House, like artists Trevor Andrew (AKA GucciGhost), Jayde Fish and Coco Capitan have been invited to paint walls, and other walls are coated in fabric wallpaper displaying House patterns, or even in folded plisse fabric. It is testament to Gucci's eclecticism that a large wall covered in graffiti by Trevor Andrew is matched in the adjoining room by a huge equestrian oil painting from the 1800s by Milanese artist Domenico Induno.

The effect in the end is of gallery spaces that have the feel of a laboratory in which you have all the elements with which to experiment. It is more clinical than the boutique for sure. Displays are moveable, suggesting quite rightly that in the future exhibits will be moved and changed, to keep the Gucci Garden Galleria fresh and dynamic.

For launch, there are six rooms over two floors that have been organised around different themes. For example, the De Rerum Natura rooms represent the House's passion for flora and fauna, where as well as clothing and accessories from different eras featuring animal motifs there are also vintage silver animal statuettes that the House manufactured in the 50s and ten floral drawings by the artist Vittorio Accornero de Testa, who designed the Gucci Flora pattern in 1966. Then, the Guccification room is dedicated to the logo and its myriad uses. This is where the GucciGhost mural is, as well as a vintage-style TV set playing examples of Gucci's social media campaigns. Other rooms have luggage (Cosmorama), an exploration of the tropes of the House, such as the Web stripe and horsebit (Paraphernalia) and a collection of documents, magazines and objects (Ephemera). There is also a small red-tented "cinema da camera" where we will hold screenings of avant-garde films for around 30 people. The first will be a preview of Phoenix (Amore brucio, brucio davvero, brucio d'amore), a short film by the Zapruder Filmmakers Group, which is the second episode of a film cycle dedicated to Hercules, which started in 2016.

What I sincerely hope is that people will be inspired by a visit here in the way I have been inspired by exploring the inventive and playful spirit of this very special fashion house.

Maria Luisa Frisa curated the Gucci Garden Galleria. She is the head of the BA in Fashion Design and Multimedia Arts at Iuav University in Venice and an editor for D La Repubblica, the Italian newspaper's style. Gucci Garden, Palazzo della Mercanzia, Piazza della Signoria, 10, 50122 Florence, Italy;

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