Horses and Handbags: An Immersive Exhibition Exploring Gucci’s 102-Year History Kicks Off a World Tour in Shanghai

The brand has tapped artist Es Devlin to delve into its history in the cleverly curated traveling show.

What magic can one find inside the Duomo? Courtesy of Gucci.

The exhibition “Gucci Cosmos,” which opens today in Shanghai, comes at an interesting time for the storied Italian luxury house. It’s barely into the post-Alessandro Michele era and the next creative director on deck, Sabato de Sarno, won’t debut until September.

Instead of laying low and accepting that being between designers is generally construed as a pretty awkward interim, the brand has leaned in to this limbo and continued churning out fabulous projects.

The 'Carousel's dreams. Courtesy of Gucci.

A Carousel of dreams. Courtesy of Gucci.

“Gucci Cosmos” relies on the house’s 102-year history and its products-as-artifacts (with plenty of accessories) rather than on the cult of personality of its pantheon of superstar designers. It also harnesses technology, with conveyor belts, projections, and contraptions galore. At times it can seem like a high-fashion science museum (in the best possible way).

The Italian fashion theorist Maria Luisa Frisa served as curator, and the British contemporary artist Es Devlin handled the exhibition concept and design.

Maria Luisa Frisa and Es Devlin. Courtesy of Gucci.

Maria Luisa Frisa and Es Devlin. Courtesy of Gucci.

Devlin said in a statement, “As a creative endeavor and expression of the times, the house and its history over the past century can be mapped through an ability to evolve and, more broadly, to expand on the mutability of our own consciousness and ability to make cognitive shifts.”

Chic equestrian is explored in 'Zoetrope'. Courtesy of Gucci.

Chic equestrian is explored in Zoetrope. Courtesy of Gucci.

The show runs until June 25 and will then embark upon a world tour. It’s divided into eight thematic sections. The progenitor of the house, Guccio Gucci is honored in the Portals section. Zoetrope explores the unbridled equestrian elements of Gucci’s heritage, complete with galloping animated horses circling the round space. The white-washed dreamscape Eden delves into Gucci’s idyllic side, the perfect backdrop for flora and fauna-inspired pieces.

The idyllic otherworld of 'Eden.' Courtesy of Gucci.

The idyllic otherworld of Eden. Courtesy of Gucci.

Possibly the most resounding room is Two, where the brand’s suit prints and colorways are projected onto two enormous Colossus of Rhodes-sized sentries—it’s also a nod to Michele’s 2022 swan-song runway show that starred a squadron of twins.

The outer limits of suiting are explored in 'Two'. Courtesy of Gucci.

The outer limits of suiting are explored in Two. Courtesy of Gucci.

“The ‘Gucci Cosmos’ exhibition is an immersive experience,” Frisa said, “in which the House’s origin story and its history are continuously put to the test by the imagination of the future.”

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