THE MALE GAZE: The Gucci Garden continues to flourish with the opening, in tandem with the kickoff of the Pitti Uomo men’s fair in Florence, of an exhibition in the site’s Period Rooms.
Conceived by creative director Alessandro Michele, and housing a store and exhibition spaces, Gucci Garden is located in the historic Palazzo della Mercanzia building in the city’s Piazza della Signoria square.
Aptly themed around explorations of masculinity and maleness, the exhibition, titled “The Male — Androgynous Mind, Eclectic Body,” is dedicated to the house’s explorations of masculinity since the Sixties, gathering campaign images and objects — from silver lighters to backgammon boards and a walking stick that inspired the legs of the dark wood display cabinets, offset with green satin — and symbolic archive pieces by Gucci creative directors past and present. Its title nods to a quote by the 19th-century English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge: “A great mind must be androgynous.”
“Male passion is an Italian invention,” said curator Maria Luisa Frisa during a tour of the space Tuesday.
Focal points included the gender-fluid red silk pussy bow blouse from Michele’s first men’s show for the brand for fall 2015. “He was able to intersect l’air du temps,” noted Frisa. Other silhouettes included a look pairing a black cotton jacket and shirt with wide leather pants from Tom Ford’s spring 1999 collection for the house and a blue velvet jacket by Frida Giannini.
Two mannequins in a dark adjacent room sport silk floral-printed kimonos, silk pants and velvet slippers from Ford’s spring 2003 collection for Gucci, lit by a flickering stream of clips of the brand’s men’s shows from across the years.
Accessories range from suede moccasins with metal horsebits from Ford’s spring 1995 collection for the house to a metal crown with laurel leaves and crystal-embellished lyres from Michele’s cruise 2018 collection.
The site’s transitional spaces have been covered in wall paintings of naked figures by Italian street artist and muralist MP5, themed around individuality and sexuality. British artist Alex Merry, who was also present for the tour, has created a series of painted arched windows for the stairwell, depicting metaphysical landscapes and alchemic transformations, a theme close to Michele’s heart.
Merry said she’s been working on a new series of decors for displaying product that will feature on the house’s web site and social media channels. “The history and the location, it’s just so completely overwhelming, and so playful,” she said, adding that she focused on entering a dreamlike state for the project, “to not overthink things.”
Being screened in the Cinema da Camera space, meanwhile, was an hour-long video of a play by Magazzini Criminali, an avant-garde local theater company from the Eighties, dubbed “Nervous Breakdown.”
“Florence really was very productive in terms of its contributions to contemporary culture, with a lively underground scene,” said Frisa. “The theater company collaborated with the most important artists of the day, just as Alessandro Michele is doing now.”
The Gucci boutique has also shed its skin for the occasion, clad in new wallpapers and fabrics in micro-patterns and florals inspired by fabrics used in Michele’s collections for the house.
Fresh merch in the gift shop includes a capsule of T-shirts, hoodies and totes by MP5 in black-and-white graphics inspired by the ancient Chinese texts based on wisdom, the I Ching.