By  on April 18, 2006

MILAN — The city of Brescia, Italy, is paying tribute to Gianni Versace's passion for the arts and his visionary designs with an exhibition that highlights the strong ties between the designer and the arts.

"Versace: A Man With a Genius for Fashion and the Arts," will run May 5 to Oct. 29 and will inaugurate new galleries of the Mazzucchelli Museum in Ciliverghe di Mazzano, just outside Brescia, in a neo-Palladian, 18th-century villa. The designer's individual creations will be paired with the artistic pieces that provided the inspiration, making things crystal clear for visitors.

During a presentation of the project last week, company chairman Santo Versace said, "I really believe in this exhibition because Gianni felt strongly about the connection between art and fashion."

The display of about 30 dresses and 30 artistic pieces from private and state collections will cover 3,240 square feet. "Each dress will be juxtaposed to the inspiring art work — a sculpture, a mosaic, a vase, a painting — in a clean, linear way," said Massimiliano Capella, curator of the exhibition and director of the Brescia museum.

The pieces will be grouped in four themes, from Versace's interpretation of antique art and the iconography of the Medusa to that of modern and contemporary art.

"Versace's inspiration was transversal, from Renaissance, Baroque and Romantic artists, from Eugene Delacroix to Michelangelo Pistoletto, from Sonia Delaunay to Andy Warhol," Capella said. "It's simple to understand what inspired Versace because very often he designed with the artwork in front of him, and he named the clothes with precise references to the art or the period."

Examples include the Marilyn and Liz dresses inspired by Warhol, the Eighties metallic dresses inspired by the tops used by Renaissance warriors under their suits of armor in paintings by Delacroix and the full skirts worn with denim shirts inspired by the 19th-century Italian Romantic painter Francesco Hayez. Capella noted how Versace's ad campaigns shot by Richard Avedon in the early Eighties were also inspired by Delacroix.

"Gianni Versace was also the only designer who came up with a new mannequin inspired by art — precisely, by the Venus of Milo — as he hated regular mannequins," Capella said. "We will use his Venus mannequins for the exhibition because these are the best ones to enhance his dresses; the folds, the pleats, and the construction of the clothes."Capella noted that other museums have staged retrospective exhibitions dedicated to fashion and Versace's clothes, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. "But, here, for the first time, we say that art and fashion collaborate together," Capella said.

"The times are ripe today – fashion has the same dignity as art and has its place in a museum," said Capella, underscoring the strategic location of the museum, between Brescia and the Lake of Garda, one of the most important Italian tourist areas, drawing as many as 800,000 people each summer.

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