Fashion is inspired by art, Across art and Fashion, Salvatore Ferragamo Museum

Art and fashion have faced each other, often looking at each other, even in the past. If the artists have been fascinated by clothing, as an essential tool to give realism to their representations, the tailor craftsmen have often drawn their inspirations from the world of art and assumed attitudes that equated them to the artists. For art scholars, the clothing documented in a painting helps dating a work of art. On the other hand, for fashion historians, the painted dress gives an account of the movement, gesture and leaning of a dress.

The exhibition itinerary focuses on the work of Salvatore Ferragamo, who was fascinated and inspired by the avant-garde art movements of the 20th century, on several ateliers of the Fifties and Sixties that were venues for studies and encounters, and on the advent of the culture of celebrities. It then examines the experimentation of the Nineties and goes on to ponder whether in the contemporary cultural industry we can still talk about two separate worlds or if we are instead dealing with a fluid interplay of roles.

The distinctive aspect of the exhibition layout lies in the collaboration with other cultural institutions, which took an active part in implementing this concept with the aim of inspiring joint reflection: in addition to the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, promotor and organizer of the project together with the Fondazione Ferragamo, in Florence the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, the Gallerie degli Uffizi (the Galleria d’arte moderna di Palazzo Pitti and the Galleria del Costume), the Museo Marino Marini, and in Prato the Museo del Tessuto.

For Italian fashion, since the early debates in the early twentieth century on the need to give national identity to clothing production in the Bel Paese, the reference to the world of Italian art has been felt as an element of strong distinction, compared to French fashion, then prevailing . Fundamental in this path was the role played by Rosa Genoni, seamstress but also teacher of the tailoring section at the Professional Women’s School of Milan. For the Milan Expo of 1906, he had two clothes made, as programmatic posters of his ideas, one inspired by a drawing by Pisanello preserved in the Condé Museum in Chantilly, the other by Botticelli’s Spring dress. The cloak taken from Pisanello’s work, generously loaned by the Costume Gallery of Palazzo Pitti, is compared with contemporary clothes inspired by famous works of art in a room carpeted with an article by Sergio Tofano, which appeared in “Lidel” in 1920, where the great illustrator hypothesized Italian-made clothes taken from the frescoes by Beato Angelico and Masaccio.

The film of the Biennial of Art and Fashion in Florence in 1996, directed by Germano Celant, Ingrid Sischy, Luigi Settembrini, acts as a sounding board of this theme, a great exhibition that involved forty international protagonists of the arts and thirty-eight world fashion brands, in a project that had the aim of exploring and telling the mutual influences, the creative relationship between the universe of fashion and the visual arts, design, architecture, cinema, photography, customs and history, placing the theme to everyone’s attention.

For centuries the artists have depicted every minute detail of the clothes that have gradually been fashionable, handing down to us the visual testimony of gestures, postures and tastes, but also of tailoring solutions, materials and decorations by many anonymous artisans. The artists actively participated in this luxury race, making designs for fabrics, laces, embroidery and even costumes for court parties and began what would have been fashion communication with engraving masterpieces. During the nineteenth century, fashion began to spread in the cities with the contribution of the textile industry and new forms of commercial distribution. It was a total metamorphosis, which also started original forms of dialogue between art and fashion. The relations between the two worlds became closer and more frequent and the exchanges were no longer limited to the representation of the beautiful world dressed in the latest fashion.

Through a series of examples, the section proposes a path through this dialogue that has been taking place for over a century now.

We start with the English Pre-Raphaelite artists, the Viennese Secession of Gustav Klimt and the Wiener Werkstätte continuing with Mariano Fortuny, without forgetting the futurist experiments. We then move on to the experiences of the artists who made fashion like Sonia Delaunay and the direct collaborations between artists and fashion creators, such as Thayaht with Vionnet or Dalí and Cocteau with Schiaparelli, up to the most recent cooperations. Particular attention is paid to designers who, inspired by art, have deeply innovated fashion, as in the case of Yves Saint Laurent with Mondrian

The theme is carried out taking into account different themes: the artists who created alternatives to current trends and those who collaborated with the fashion industry; the fashion designers who sought the inventiveness of the artists, shared the most original proposals of some avant-garde, but above all who were inspired either in the shapes or surfaces of works of all time.

With his presence on New York’s cultural scene, attending parties, opening nights, retrospectives and fashion shows, he helped shape the relationship between art, fashion and celebrities that we recognise today. This concept is explored in a series of photographs showing Warhol at various New York social events and with the Makos Studio’s famous installation Altered Image.

There is no doubt that with his work, Andy Warhol unleashed high-impact – and frequently sacrilegious – aesthetic input, the most blatant example being The Souper Dress, a distillation of fashion, art and industry. Made in the Sixties out of paper, cellulose and cotton, with a silk-screen print of the famous Campbell soup can label repeating sequentially, this dress is on display as part of the exhibition.

Across art and Fashion
is fashion art? A simple question conceals the complex universe of an articulated relationship that has long been investigated, but without arriving at a clear and unequivocal definition. This project analyses the forms of dialogue between these two worlds: reciprocal inspirations, overlaps and collaborations, from the experiences of the Pre-Raphaelites to those of Futurism, and from Surrealism to Radical Fashion. The exhibition itinerary focuses on the work of Salvatore Ferragamo, who was fascinated and inspired by the avant-garde art movements of the 20th century, on several ateliers of the Fifties and Sixties that were venues for studies and encounters, and on the advent of the culture of celebrities. It then examines the experimentation of the Nineties and goes on to ponder whether in the contemporary cultural industry we can still talk about two separate worlds or if we are instead dealing with a fluid interplay of roles.

This simple question hides the complex universe of an articulated relationship, which has been investigated for a long time over time, without ever reaching a clear or unambiguous definition. Fashion – for its need to be functional and therefore to refer concretely to real life, as well as for its link with craftsmanship and industry – seems to be far from the ideal of art pour arte, a concept that however, it was not always representative even of the art world. Andy Warhol taught us that the uniqueness of the work of art no longer coincides with the artistic production and today the exhibitions of fashion designers proliferate and stylists welcome the practices of contemporary art with availability. Is it still possible, in this context, to speak of the dichotomy between art and fashion as happened in the last century?

This project analyzes the forms of dialogue between these two worlds: contaminations, overlaps and collaborations. From the experiences of the Pre-Raphaelites to those of Futurism, from Surrealism to Radical Fashion. The path focuses on the work of Salvatore Ferragamo, fascinated and inspired by the artistic avant-garde of the twentieth century; on some ateliers of the fifties and sixties, a place of study and meetings, and on the birth of the culture of celebrity, to continue with the experiments of the nineties and get to wonder if in the contemporary cultural industry we can still talk about two worlds distinct, or if instead we are faced with a fluid game of roles.

The peculiarity of the exhibition plan lies in the collaboration of several cultural institutions and in the location of the exhibition in various locations: in addition to the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum, promoter and organizer of the project together with the Ferragamo Foundation, they host the various exhibitions in Florence, the Central National Library, the Galleries degli Uffizi (Modern Art Gallery of Palazzo Pitti), the Marino Marini Museum and, in Prato, the Textile Museum

The institutions involved actively participated in the realization of the idea, with the aim of inviting a common reflection.

It is a tribute to the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum that curated and conceived the project and a symbol: on the one hand a decorative element, essential to the aesthetics of a 1958 model by Salvatore Ferragamo, the Tirassegno décolleté, and on the other a work by one of the great American artists of the second half of the twentieth century, Kenneth Noland, who was an inspiration.

The exhibition at the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum has four curators, Stefania Ricci, director of the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum, Maria Luisa Frisa, Enrica Morini, Alberto Salvadori, who with their different skills and personalities have collaborated day after day in the construction of the route, together with the directors and to the managers of the various institutions who participated in the initiative with enthusiasm and spirit of collaboration and to the authors of the catalog, who helped the curators in the final choice of the works, making available their knowledge and their professional experiences. There are many loans from the most prestigious public and private collections, national and international, which give the exhibition an international feel

Salvatore Ferragamo Museum
The Salvatore Ferragamo Museum in Florence, Italy is a fashion museum dedicated to the life and work of Italian shoe designer Salvatore Ferragamo and his eponymous company. The museum contains 10,000 models of shoes created and owned by Ferragamo from the 1920s until his death in 1960. Following Ferragamo’s death the collection was expanded by his widow and children. The museum also includes films, press cuttings, advertising materials, clothes and accessories from the 1950s to the present day.

The Ferragamo family founded the museum in May 1995 to acquaint an international audience with the artistic qualities of Salvatore Ferragamo and the role he played in the history of not only shoes but international fashion as well.

Like most corporate museums, Museo Salvatore Ferragamo and its archives stem from the vision of an entrepreneur, in this case Salvatore Ferragamo’s widow, Wanda, who has headed the company since the founder’s death in 1960, and her six children. In particular, the eldest of their children, Fiamma, who managed the company’s core footwear and leather goods business after her father’s death, stood at this project’s helm on behalf of her family and brought it to life, shaping its strategy with the assistance of historians and archivists.

The idea for the museum initially came about when an exhibition was organised at Palazzo Strozzi on the history of Salvatore Ferragamo. The exhibition went on tour and was hosted by some of the world’s most prestigious museums, such as the Victoria and Albert in London, the County Museum of Los Angeles, the New York Guggenheim, the Sogetsu Kai Foundation in Tokyo, and the Museo de Bellas Artes in Mexico. The temporary exhibition gradually became permanent.

In recognition of the museum’s cultural importance and that of its many initiatives over the years, in 1999, Salvatore Ferragamo received the Guggenheim Impresa e Cultura Award, given annually to companies that best invest in culture to constructive ends. The museum is located in the historical centre of Florence, in Palazzo Spini Ferroni, which has also been the company’s headquarters since 1938.