Renaissance man: Gucci’s Alessandro Michele stages a grand Florentine tour
The pre-amble to last nights Gucci Resort show included a journey through the marvels of renaissance Florence. Setting off with a private tour of the Uffizi Gallery, built in the mid-16th century for Cosimo I de’ Medici by architect Giorgio Vasari, this was a rare opportunity to see Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus unobstructed by the usual crowds.
Then a rarer chance still, to walk the 1565 Vasari corridor, currently booked up until 2019, to view the collection of self-portraits from the likes of Rubens to Pistoletto. The corridor – at almost 1km long – was built to allow Francesco I de’ Medici to cross from the Uffizi on the north side of the Arno river, to Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli gardens in the south, without him being subject to the prying eyes of the public.
The show itself was held in the Palatina Gallery of the Palazzo Pitti beneath more than 500 Renaissance period works that once formed part of the Medici and Habsburg-Lorraine family collections. Among the Raphaels, Titians, Peruginos, Correggios, and Peter Paul Rubens, creative director Alessandro Michele’s 115-strong gang of models, paced a bright yellow carpet to a sound track mixed with live harpists.
Michele is a bit of an alchemist, and he makes his own kind of magic. There was definitely a touch of renaissance in the mix, and perhaps something lifted from the wax models in La Specola (or, the Museum of Zoology and Natural History), just up the road. Golden garlands in the hair (and hands) bore reference to ancient Greece, alongside other influences from almost every decade of the 20th century. From Michele’s very own kind of enchanted garden came forth prints, brocades, damasks, embroideries as well as jewellery and hardware featuring flowers, foliage, bugs and beasts.
The show was followed by dinner and music from Beth Ditto in the Torrigiani Garden, the largest privately owned garden in Florence which is a neighbour of the Boboli gardens. It brings us back to why Gucci held its show in the city in the first place. Fashion houses scour the planet for interesting locations for their cruise shows and under Alessandro Michele’s stewardship Gucci has been on the streets of New York and the cloisters of Westminster Abbey. This season alone, Prada showed in Milan’s historic Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II; Dior in the hills above Santa Monica; and Louis Vuitton in the Miho Museum in Kyoto. Gucci’s Resort 2018 choice was particularly relevant.
Aside from the fact that Guccio Gucci chose Florence as his base in 1921, a city that continues to thrive as a centre of excellence for leather goods, the show was also the official launch pad for Primavera di Boboli, (springtime in the Boboli gardens), where Gucci is contributing €2m to the Uffizi Gallery to restore and improve the Boboli gardens, the 33-hectare garden that extends from the hill behind the Pitti Palace as far as Porta Romana and one of the most important of the ‘formal’ 16th century Italian gardens.