On 9th January, Gucci signalled the opening of the new Gucci Garden by illuminating a giant neon eye artwork on the façade of the elegant, ancient Palazzo della Mercanzia in Florence.
Designed by Gucci Creative Director Alessandro Michele, the Gucci Garden is dedicated to an exploration of the eclectic creativity that lies at the very heart of the House. Through curating a wide range of pieces from collections dating back to the House’s Florentine origins in 1921 and marrying these with recent work, memorabilia, ephemera and contemporary art, Gucci Garden is not only a celebration of a rich archive, but a lively, interactive experience.
The name Gucci Garden has been chosen not simply because the House aesthetic imaginatively incorporates references to the natural world of plants, flowers and animals, but also because of its metaphorical meaning. Alessandro Michele says, ‘The garden is real, but it belongs above all to the mind, populated with plants and animals: like the snake, which slips in everywhere, and in a sense, symbolises a perpetual beginning and a perpetual return.’
In 2011, the Gucci Museo opened in this historic Florentine palazzo, which dates back to 1337 and sits between the famous Piazza della Signoria, home of the Uffizi Gallery, and Piazza di San Firenze. Now Gucci has taken the concept of the conventional museum and reimagined it as a living, collaborative and creative space in which to express the evolving aesthetic and philosophy of the House.
Therefore, instead of simply displaying a permanent collection of historic pieces, the Gucci Garden tells the story of the House by colliding past with present. Clothing, accessories, video installations, artworks, documents and artefacts are displayed over the two floors of the Gucci Garden Galleria, organised by themes. Contemporary items are juxtaposed in a dialogue with vintage pieces; friends of the House like artists Jayde Fish, Trevor Andrew (AKA GucciGhost) and Coco Capitán have been invited to decorate walls, and their works sit alongside Gucci fabric patterned wallpaper and a giant nineteenth-century equestrian oil portrait, Fantino con bambina, by Domenico Induno.
Alessandro Michele charged curator and critic Maria Luisa Frisa, head of the BA degree course in Fashion Design and Multimedia Arts at Iuav University in Venice, to work with him to organise the Gucci Garden Galleria, which occupy the first and second floors of the palazzo. She explains that there is purposefully no chronology to the displays, which imaginatively mix objects and video content throughout.
‘We decided to make the space a laboratory where you have all the elements with which to creatively experiment,’ she says. ‘In the rooms entitled De Rerum Natura, for example, we see Gucci’s passion for flora and fauna expressed through vintage and current garments, silver animal statuettes made by the firm in the Fifties and original artwork by Vittorio Accornero, who was commissioned to create the Gucci Flora print in 1966.’
All Gucci designers, she explains, not just Alessandro Michele, are represented here. ‘The past is very much part of the present at Gucci, which is perfectly in keeping with Alessandro’s idea of the brand, and indeed his attitude to Florence, Gucci’s home, which he sees as a city where history is still vibrantly alive.’