The Missoni Colour Art Exhibition has arrived in the UK and opens today at the Textile and Fashion Museum, London. Organised by the MA*GA Art Museum, where it was first shown last year in Gallarate, Italy, it has also been created in partnership with Woolmark. Showcasing over 60 years of Missoni’s iconic fashion alongside paintings by leading 20th century European artists the exhibition artfully showcases the influence Missoni has had across the design industry.
Visitors can enjoy many previously unseen textile studies, paintings and tapestries by Ottavio Missoni. These personal pieces are beautifully curated with modernist masterpieces including several works by Sonia Delaunay and Gino Severini. Taking visitors on a journey through the art that really helped to inspire Ottavio and Rosita Missoni in the development of their signature style, the exhibition explores the influence of 20th century European art on their designs. The works have been drawn from the MA*GA Art Museum and from private collections in Italy, and many have been exhibited in the UK.
At the heart of the exhibition is a striking display of 42 mannequins, standing in a pyramid in the large high ceilinged main room. Here light and sound interplay to create an ambient atmosphere, highlighting the fashion looks which have been selected from the company’s archive starting in 1953 to the present day. Many key designs are displayed here, including the striped red, yellow and green dress that brought Missoni to the attention of Diana Vreeland in 1969, the editor-in-chief of American Vogue.
The atmospheric sounds that can be heard throughout the exhibition are thanks to the musician, composer and performer Pietro Pirelli. Alongside the sounds from the polysensory instrument that he created, the Missoni factory machines & their noises thread through this textile symphony. ‘The textile machines are as rhythmic as the fabric they create. To generate the created design of fabrics, they sound: a plot repeated but changing symphony of threads & colours.’ Pietro Pirelli
Central to the exhibition are the many large paintings and tapestries that Ottavio created, full of the graphic patterns and vivid colour palettes Missoni are renowned for. Angela Missoni explained in the press conference the origins of these art works began when her parents moved into their house; “they really spent all of the money building the house, all the walls were white so my father said ‘you know what I better do some painting for the house.’ And those are the paintings he did (large wall coverings found within the exhibition) for a purpose. But now they are hanging here and you might relate to it, you might understand the period they were made; they were contemporary of those artists in Italy.’
Focusing on the Missoni passion for material, the exhibition celebrates a family firm that has become an international success by combining craft expertise, materials and the latest design trends. Merino wool is featured in many of the garments on display, showcasing the heritage and cultural history of the Missoni family’s association with wool. The exhibition is curated by Luciano Caramel, art critic and historian; Luca Missoni, Artistic Director of the Missoni Archive; Emma Zanella Director of MA*GA Art Museum and contemporary art historian and museologist.
Rosita, Angela and Luca Missoni were all in attendance at the press opening of the exhibition and took part in the intimate press conference. Angela explained that the exhibition is not really a retrospective, but is more part of an evolution, ‘Missoni is very alive now & will continue to be so in the future.’
Luca spoke of how on designing the exhibition he really wanted to express the exploration his parents had for the arts, especially his mother Rosita at the beginning of the century as she was such a champion of the modernist art movement.
‘They were able to translate that (modernism) on their own textile, almost daily with their experimentation to achieve this kind of language, their signature language, that actually went on for so many years up to today, we kind of inherited this from them and through this process my father was actually put to work from Rosita who was actually the curator, and the leading figure into this kind of artwork. He became an artist on his own and we had an in house art factory in the end. We saw textiles being produced daily and work being done with colour; colour became the element which we tried to express and celebrate through this exhibition. And so it is Art, Colour and Missoni.’
Speaking fondly of London, Rosita tells the press conference of how the city is close to her heart as it is where she meet Ottavio Missoni for the first time when she was just 16. In the country on a school trip she was taken to Wembley to watch the athletic heats take place for the first Olympic Games since the war. Ottavio, or Tai as he was known to his family, was running for the Italian track team. She reminisced about how stylish he was describing the tracksuit he was wearing, which actually went on to inspire some of their early designs, and how handsome he was; ‘so thank you London because I meet Tai Missoni here.’
The passion for family, as well as art and colour, are what combine to make Missoni the global lifestyle brand it is today. That, and the unwavering commitment to quality fabric and the importance of manufacturing has ensured that they have stayed at the forefront of the fashion and home style industry and will continue to do so for many more decades to come.
Missoni Art Colour is on show from 6 May – 4 September 2016 at the Fashion Textile Museum, London and tickets can been booked online or in person on the day of the visit subject to availability.