Giorgio Armani’s fascination with sports, the commitment it entails and its value system, are channeled into a new photo exhibition called “Emotions of the Athletic Body.” This will be unveiled at Armani’s Silos space on Sept. 22, and will be open to the public from Sept. 23 through Nov. 27.
This story first appeared in the September 21, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“I have always been a sports fan, ever since I was a boy, I suppose it was the excitement and spectacle that attracted me, but over the years I have come to understand that there is something more profound at play here,” Armani said. “Sport is a way to bring people together, it is a social activity. It is also something that promotes the ideal of dedication and expertise — it shows what human beings are capable of when they work hard to perfect a particular skill and talent. And then, speaking as a fashion designer, there is the simple fact that sportsmen and women are extraordinary from a physical point of view — their bodies are at the peak of their development, and this is fascinating for someone who works with the human form.”
Although not displayed in chronological order, the photos date back to 1985, with works by Aldo Fallai, and span until today. There are images by Kurt and Weston Markus that have never been seen before, and photos by the likes of Tom Munro, David Sims and Richard Phibbs.
Armani said he loves the rituals of sports: “In fact, since ancient times, sport has been a byword for top physical prowess and spectacular athletic performance.” The exhibition, said the designer, “aims to highlight sporting endeavor combined with its aesthetic quality — a combination that has always been a part of my design vocabulary and an inspiration for my life philosophy.
“Sports encourage the qualities that, in my opinion, help improve a person: commitment, sacrifice, tenacity and willpower,” continued Armani. “It’s good for the body and soul because it shows that without commitment, there is no success. This is why I always gladly collaborate with athletes. Their muscular build is always a challenge for a designer, but my clothing’s softness and comfort, which are central aspects of my stylistic vision, allow it to effortlessly adapt to various physical builds.”
Armani has selected the photos from images of athletes that he had commissioned over the years. “Through fashion I have shown my interpretation of the competitive spirit by dressing sportsmen and women for my advertising campaigns, choosing to work with both those who are among the world’s most renowned athletes, and also those who are yet to achieve fame in the arena of sport,” he explained.
The exhibition comes on the heels of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and Paralympics. Armani outfitted the Italian team for the events with his EA7 Emporio line. Armani’s longstanding passion for basketball and his financial investments helped save the storied Olimpia Milano team, which had been on the verge of bankruptcy before he stepped in to back it in 2004. The basketball team, owned by Armani and sponsored by his EA7 Emporio Armani brand, in 2016 once again claimed the Italian championship title, its 27th. Incidentally, Olimpia marked its 80th anniversary in 2016.
Athletes of all disciplines have attended his shows, including members of the Olimpia team, Olympic swimmers Federica Pellegrini and Filippo Magnini and Alpine ski racer Christof Innerhofer, among others.
With this exhibition, Giorgio Armani will once again support the Special Olympics, the international sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities.
The Silos space was unveiled in April 2015. Armani said he didn’t like to refer to the space as a museum.
“The plan for the Silos has always been that it should be a home for temporary exhibitions as well as for my permanent collection of work,” he explained. “It is also a center for learning, and as part of its mission to educate it should host work that inspires and enlightens people.”
The Silos building, built in 1950, was originally a granary of the Nestlé company. After the renovation, it covers around 48,600 square feet on four levels. Armani, whose Tadao Ando-designed theater stands on the opposite side of the street, conceived and oversaw the renovation project himself.
The building is modeled after a basilica layout, an open space four floors high with two levels of naves overlooking it on either side. The ceilings are painted black in contrast to the gray cement floors, keeping the rough edge of the building as it was.
“Emotions of the Athletic Body” is the first of what Armani hopes “will be many exhibitions where we give over our space to great work by creative people.”