Gucci Celebrates Its 100th Birthday With an Exhibition Surveying Creative Director Alessandro Michele’s Fantastical Visions

The immersive show was curated by Michele as an ode to his most creative campaigns.

A mural by artist Ignasi Monreal. Photo courtesy Gucci.

In celebration of the luxury brand Gucci’s 100th birthday, creative director Alessandro Michele has debuted his latest fantasia-like experience, this time in the form of an immersive mixed-media exhibition entitled Archetypes” that brings together fashion, art, music, beauty, and the joys of sensory overload to one space. 

The show, which opened last week at Gucci Garden in Florence’s historic Palazzo della Mercanzia—a space that famously houses a multi-room gallery in addition to the Gucci store and a Michelin-star restaurant—was conceived in tribute to sets dreamed up by Michele for 15 of the most artistic and creative campaigns he has overseen since he became creative director for the Italian heritage house in 2015. Ark builders, intergalactic explorers, horses, angels, and aliens are among the elements involved in his many designs.

Inside Gucci's Archetypes exhibition at Gucci Garden. Photo courtesy Gucci.

Inside Gucci’s Archetypes exhibition at Gucci Garden. Photo courtesy Gucci.

“I thought it was interesting to accompany people in these first six years of adventure, inviting them to cross the imaginary, the narrative, the unexpected, the glitter,” Michele said in a statement. “So, I created a playground of emotions that are the same as in the campaigns, because they are the most explicit journey into my imagery.”

The exhibition is indeed a journey, turning each campaign into a real-life wonderland dispersed throughout the rooms of the museum.

The stairs leading to the exhibition, for example, are wallpapered with graffiti that nods to Gucci’s pre-fall 2018 collection, itself an homage to the May 1968 student riots of Paris.

Graffiti recalls Gucci's pre-fall 2018 collection. Photo courtesy Gucci.

Graffiti recalls Gucci’s pre-fall 2018 collection. Photo courtesy Gucci.

In one of the rooms on the first floor, glass display cases enclose 1,400 cased butterflies, 110 period wigs, 420 pairs of sneakers featuring artwork, and 182 cuckoo clocks, among other paraphernalia that collectively recall Gucci’s 2018 “Gucci Collectors” campaign.

Elsewhere, a bright purple discotheque brings to life Michele’s fall 2016 Tokyo Lights campaign, while the space’s bathrooms—decked in cherry red lacquer—recalls the Berlin nightclub in which Gucci’s spring 2016 campaign was shot in celebration of the city’s vibrant youth culture. 

The glass-enclosed nod to the 2018 "Gucci Collectors" campaign. Photo courtesy Gucci.

The glass-enclosed nod to the 2018 “Gucci Collectors” campaign. Photo courtesy Gucci.

For spring/summer 2018, artist Ignasi Monreal created a giant hand-painted mural covering the walls and ceiling of the space—an incredibly ambitious endeavour that took nearly 900 hours to complete.  

The exhibition, which is on this week and next, is accompanied by a catalogue documenting Michele’s creative process and inspirations more generally, with contributions by noted cultural figures including curator Antwaun Sargent, art critic Achille Bonito Oliva, philosopher Emanuele Coccia, artist and researcher Anna Franceschini, and sustainability and culture advisor Shaway Yeh. 

Gucci's "Tokyo Lights" campaign homage. Photo courtesy Gucci.

Gucci’s “Tokyo Lights” campaign homage. Photo courtesy Gucci.

For those who are unable to attend the exhibition in person, a virtual tour will be available through Roblox, which seeks to realize the full Gucci Garden experience online.

Visitors can explore the galleries as digital avatars, which transform into mannequins and absorb visual elements of the exhibition, in so doing becoming digital artworks themselves.

The virtual show will coincide with the timing of the in-person exhibition at Gucci Garden—a fitting idea, as the world slowly comes out of hibernation, albeit at different times in different places. 

Inside the bathroom inspired by the Berlin nightclub that inspired Gucci's spring/summer 2016 collection. Photo courtesy Gucci.

Inside the bathroom inspired by the Berlin nightclub that inspired Gucci’s spring/summer 2016 collection. Photo courtesy Gucci.

“For me, fashion narrates the exact moment which we’re going through; it obviously contains the seed of the future, because the present is the only possible future we know,” Michele said in an interview with Vogue.

“The great power of Gucci is that it’s been able to include and channel the emotional point of view of an enormous variety of people. It’s something that’s almost magical.”

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