Gucci celebrates its heritage with the Gucci Cosmos exhibition in Shanghai

In an urge to boost sales in China, Gucci presents a new Cosmos exhibition, dedicated to the brand’s iconic pieces from the past.

Gucci Cabinet of Wonders

May 8, 2023: On the occasion of completing 102-years, Italian brand Gucci presented the Gucci Cosmos exhibition, paying homage to its iconic creations that have shaped the house’s varied narratives over the years. The exhibition displays the brand’s creative exploration, arising from fine Italian craftsmanship, which has not only reflected but also redefined the times. 

Gucci’s post-COVID sales recovery in China has been slower than expected. The exhibition, which is being held in Shanghai, could be seen as one way of urging sales and reviving its position in China’s luxury market. 

Gucci Cosmos Shanghai Portals

This wonderful Gucci Cosmos world has been conceived and designed by renowned British contemporary artist Es Devlin and curated by eminent Italian fashion theorist and critic Maria Luisa Frisa. The past, present and future of Gucci is realized in eight exhibitions, each pulling off a spectacular perspective of the brand’s heritage. The trove also features some never before seen pieces from the Gucci archive, housed in the 15th-century Palazzo Settimanni in Florence.

Commenting on the collaboration, Ms. Devlin says, “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. Rather like a garment itself that is able to be changed and re-tailored, like a shed skin that constantly renews itself.”

Gucci Cosmos Shanghai Zoetrope

The first of Gucci Cosmos’s eight worlds, ‘Portals’ is dedicated to the brand’s founder, Guccio Gucci and features one of the earliest signature suitcases designed by Guccio in the late 1920s, a case displaying a distinctive GG-print canvas created by Aldo Gucci in the 1960s as an homage to his father, and Disney-print luggage from the Epilogue collection, designed in 2020 by Alessandro Michele, as a sophisticated pop-culture remix. 

Gucci Cosmos “Zoetrope” explores the equestrian world with the Horsebit, invented by Aldo Gucci in 1953, and the iconic green-red-green Web stripe, with the galloping sound of a horse providing the perfect background for the showcase. 

Gucci Cosmos Shanghai Eden

Rodolfo Gucci had artist and illustrator Vittorio Accornero de Testa create a fabulous silk scarf for Princess Grace of Monaco in 1966, which later became the leitmotif for Gucci’s 1981 ready-to-wear collection, presented in the Sala Bianca, in Florence’s Palazzo Pitti. These were brought back in Gucci’s third world ‘Eden’ with the Flora-print silk minidress from 1969, and Alessandro Michele’s signature embroidered shearling-lined denim jacket with its ‘L’Aveugle Par Amour’ motto. 

“Two” showcases the brand’s trend setting androgynous fashion with a red velvet suit created for both men and women by Tom Ford in 1996, one striking Frida Giannini-designed checked suit with cinched waists and many designs by Alessandro Michele.

Gucci Cosmos Shanghai Archivio

‘Archivio’ explores the origins of the House’s most iconic bags. Reflecting the Gucci Archive in Florence, maze-like corridors with mirrored ceilings are lined with numerous cabinets and drawers that showcase the historic bags including the Jackie 1961, GG Marmont in white matelassé leather and a red leather and bamboo-handle tote from the early 1990s, reimagined as the Gucci Diana in 2020, by Alessandro Michele. 

In a rotating cabinet, an eclectic collection of garments, including Tom Ford’s 2001 collection look with a black leather bustier to a 2006 Frida Giannini golden evening gown, and an Alessandro Michele black ostrich-feather fan, are featured in the Cabinet of Wonders. 

Gucci Cosmos Shanghai Carousel

‘Carousel’, a spectacular promenade through Gucci apparel from the 1970s to the present day, is showcased on an array of 32 mannequins, lined to keep up with color and inspiration. From Frida Giannini’s chain-embroidered flapper dress to Tom Ford-designed unisex suits from 1996, the looks are marvelous, and rotate to reveal drawings by selected Chinese artists including Victo Ngai and Vikki Zhang, thus creating a stronger connection with China’s audience. 

Finally for the eighth world, Gucci Cosmos ‘Duomo’, the house pays homage to the city of its origin, Florence, with two large-scale reproductions of Filippo Brunelleschi’s 15th-century dome for the city’s cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore, one of which is inverted beneath the other. As one enters inside, designs and patterns from Gucci’s past and present are projected onto the dome’s interior to create a fascinating play of light.

Gucci Cosmos Shanghai Duomo

The exhibition is ongoing at the West Bund Art Center, Shanghai, China, until June 25, from when it will tour the world.

- By Pritha Debroy

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