MILAN — Many of the late Gianni Versace’s treasured artworks, from antique Greek vases to Pop Art masterpieces, will go on display at a major exhibition come September, just one of several initiatives the fashion house is organizing to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the designer’s death.
The fashion house and the city of Milan held a press conference Friday at city hall to outline a series of initiatives honoring the late designer, who was murdered in Miami in 1997. The upcoming projects include a commemorative ballet by Maurice Béjart, billboards throughout the city and a fashion scholarship honoring Versace’s memory.
The city is also planning to name a street or square after the designer, but officials are still in the process of deciding which spot is most appropriate. An announcement is expected July 15, the date of Versace’s death.
Donatella Versace, recently returned from a presentation in New York of her cruise collection, said she was touched to see the effort put forth by the city her brother considered a critical part of his life and career.
“It’s extremely moving to hear about all of these things that the city of Milan and all of Gianni’s friends are doing for Gianni,” she said. “Gianni really loved this city and it’s nice to remember him with cultural activities rather than just fashion-related ones.”
City officials are especially keen to extol Versace’s passion for the art world. Longtime Versace friend and collaborator Béjart has choreographed a commemorative two-act ballet, which will be performed at Teatro alla Scala on July 15. A gala dinner at nearby Palazzo Reale will follow.
The ballet, entitled “Grazie Gianni Con Amore” (“Thank You Gianni With Love”) will feature many of Versace’s dance costumes and also some of Donatella’s new creations for the event. Gianni Versace did the costumes for several of Béjart’s ballets including “Dionysos,” “Pyramid” and “Souvenir de Leningrad.”
In keeping with the performing arts theme, Milan will display sketches of Versace’s theatrical costumes on billboards throughout the city. Over the years, Versace developed a rich archive of designs through his collaborations with choreographers and directors like Béjart, Robert Wilson, Roland Petit and John Cox.
Italy’s well-known art critic and politician Vittorio Sgarbi is curator of the art exhibit, which will coincide with fashion week here. Sgarbi said that the exhibition, entitled “Miti, Dei e Eroi Secondo Versace” (“Versace’s Myths, Gods and Heroes”) will he held at Milan’s Villa Belgioso, a neoclassical structure resembling Versace’s Lake Como mansion. The exhibit will include about 60 artworks, some commissioned by Versace himself, including works by Giacomo Balla, Francesco Clemente, Jim Dine and Julian Schnabel.
Also in September, public officials will reveal the first winner of the Versace scholarship, valid for a three-year course of study at the Istituto Europeo del Design.
A bubbly Santo Versace injected a bit of humor into the proceedings when he told the audience he had just wrapped up a conversation with his brother and said the late designer had a message: “He wanted to remind everybody to love Milan.”