“Luxury has never ceased to accompany the history of humanity, transforming matter into symbol,” explained Stefano Zecchi, the curator of the “Luxus — Lo Stupore della Bellezza [Beauty’s Wonder]” exhibition, which opened Thursday at the Palazzo Reale venue in Milan.
The exhibition, which runs through Sept. 30, explores the notion of luxury, highlighting how much it impacted Western culture over the centuries, retracing its historical changes.
The exhibition path is divided into 11 rooms located in the Prince’s apartments section of the three-story palazzo. Each room explores a different aspect of how luxury has evolved and has been perceived through a Wunderkammer-like display of objects including artworks, fashion items, theater costumes and interior design pieces.
For example, the Room of the Treasure displays items from contemporary jeweler Roberto Coin juxtaposed with gold and ceramic timepieces lent by the Poldi Pezzoli collection, while shoe prototypes from the Atelier Giuseppe Zanotti collection are showcased alongside brocade fabrics manufactured by Gruppo Rubelli and poet Gabriele D’Annunzio’s silk nightgowns.
The 10th space, the Room of the Carousel, is named after the whirligig placed at the center of the room on which pieces of contemporary fashion lent from Palazzo Morando are displayed in an attempt to highlight how “everything changes and returns identical, the old and the new chase each other like in a ride… Luxury comes with different images that are transformed into a fun game of cross-references in which illusion and truth are confused,” said Zecchi.
“This exhibition accompanies the visitor on a path of aesthetic education,” added the curator, who organized the show with the support of the city’s municipality and a number of institutions including Milan’s Musei Civici, the Museum of Decorative Arts at the Sforza castle, the Gualtiero Marchesi Foundation and La Scala Theatre Foundation, among others.
Zecchi is a professor of aesthetics at Milan’s Università Statale and served as a representative of the Italian Ministry of Education at UNESCO in 2005 and 2006; he is also a member of the board at Rome’s MAXXI museum.