Experimental theatre director and former Wallpaper* guest editor Robert Wilson is the latest high-profile artist to get inducted into Illycaffè's tony coffee cup design club. The Trieste-based espresso company tapped the artistic director of New York's Watermill Center for an ambitious performance art spectacle set outdoor last evening in the back garden of Milan's Triennale Design Museum.
The evening event featured eccentric live performances by 20 artists selected from Watermill's International Summer Arts Program, as well as a presentation of the six new cups that Wilson curated and co-designed with five artists for Illycaffè's latest Illy Art Collection. It also happily coincided with the 50th birthday of Illycaffè CEO Andrea Illy.
'We've been working on the [cup] collection for about two years now,' remarked Carlo Bach, Illy's artistic director, who has brokered the majority of the company's collaborations with top notch artists such as Marina Abramović, Anish Kapoor, Daniel Buren, Jeff Koons and Louise Bourgeois. 'So we thought why not bring Bob's whole art centre here to Milan to celebrate the launch?'
Starting with Polish artist Krystian Lyson, who scaled the Triennale's façade as a topless rock climber in a tangle of metallic streamers, each artist hummed to his or her own artistic tune across the museum lawn. Christopher Knowles sat in a wooden cube babbling into a microphone, Alessandra Armenise stood knitting her own red wool prison, Dorian Šilec Petek cross-dressed as a burka-wearing female, and an army of jump-suited models sprouted petal-like sculptural headpieces designed by Christina Sotiropoulou.
In the centre of the pop-up stages was a floating cloud of the new coffee cup collection - each designed in graphic red and white, with touches of black. The cup that Wilson designed features the word 'OK' repeatedly scrawled across its surface. 'My early works in theatre were all silent,' said the theatre and visual artist, as he stood chatting with architect Matteo Thun (the man responsible for the design of the very cup that Wilson, and 70 other contemporary artists before him, have decorated). 'My first play that actually had words only had two-'um' and 'ok'. So this is an homage to that.'
The evening also inaugurated a personal exhibition of artist Christopher Knowle's work entitled 'Black, White and Red all Over'. The installation, on view until 28 September, is housed in the basement of the Triennale, where Illy has set up a dedicated Illy Arts Lab space through Milan's Expo in 2015.