Toes have been tapping inside many a pair of “GG” pumps lately, eagerly awaiting the Australian premiere of Gucci Garden Archetypes. The exhibition plunges visitors into a cinematic experience of the fashion house’s advertising campaigns under creative director Alessandro Michele. And after travelling from Florence to Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tokyo, it’s now enlivening the Powerhouse Museum with enough prints, plants and sneakers to “Guccify” the entire country. Gucci Garden Archetypes shows how Gucci has influenced contemporary visual culture through fashion, art, music, history and beyond. The exhibition is also an important reminder: imagination is a force that has no limitations.
Michele’s campaigns for Gucci have a magnetism that resonates with people around the world. The same can be said for Gucci Garden Archetypes. Created last year to celebrate the house’s 100th anniversary, the exhibition is split into thematic sections dedicated to some of Michele’s most exuberant campaigns, including Urban Romanticism (autumn/winter 2015), The Dionysus Dance (cruise 2016), Gucci Collectors (autumn/winter 2018) and Come As You Are RSVP (cruise 2020). When viewed in a museum context, these campaigns – brought to life by Florentine design studio Archivio Personale – appear less as examples of commercial necessity, and more like immersive artworks.
“I thought it was interesting to accompany people in these almost eight years of adventure, inviting them to cross the imaginary, the narrative, the unexpected, the glitter,” says Michele. “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.”
Gucci Garden Archetypes is also a voyage through Michele’s personal “creative manifesto”, offering insights into the motifs, symbols, musings and collaborations that inform his work. From ancient Greek mythology to the 1968 student-led uprising in Paris, the exhibition demonstrates how Michele draws inspiration from a broad tapestry of cultural, social and historical cues for the house’s collections.
Roman native Michele was appointed creative director of the luxury fashion house in 2015, following time spent working under Silvia Venturini Fendi and Karl Lagerfeld at Fendi; he began his Gucci career in 2002 under then-creative director Tom Ford. Since taking on the top role, Michele has made maximalism, kaleidoscopic prints and garments that draw together wide-ranging historical periods and references his signature.
“Being immersed in Alessandro Michele’s stories, it’s like … a metaphor for itself, because it’s like Gucci is reflecting on Gucci, reflecting on the world – both looking to the future and back into the past,” Powerhouse Museum CEO Lisa Havilah tells Broadsheet. “It’s very meta, and it has so many levels of intelligence and so many cultural connections.”
The exhibition’s maximalist design approach layers garments, accessories, sets and props with dynamic lighting and sound elements to create an escapist, cinematic experience. Whether it’s a pastel floral-print tuxedo, a pair of zebra-striped stilettos, or a dizzying display of Gucci Marmont handbags standing to attention in floor-to-ceiling cabinets, the Gucci product is reinterpreted as an art object.
“Alessandro Michele has transformed the identity of Gucci with his inclusive, liberated and audacious philosophy,” says Havilah. “He originally trained as a costume designer, and for each campaign he combines his artistic vision with the work of collaborators across music, art, travel and pop culture to create iconic campaigns which reflect the world we live in.”
Gucci Garden Archetypes runs at the Powerhouse Ultimo until January 15, 2023. Entry is free but bookings are required.
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