Just as Milan is welcoming the world for EXPO 2015, the nearby Museum of Gallarate is celebrating a unique icon of Italian fashion. The new exhibition, Missoni, Art, Color, mounted in the town where Ottavio and Rosita Missoni first set up their knitwear atelier in 1953, takes viewers on a dizzying trip through the avant-garde art movements that sparked Missoni’s signature textile designs, alongside artwork and clothing from the brand’s archive. From the first gallery, visitors are immersed in the origins of Missoni’s inspiration–the groundbreaking visual ideas that came out of Europe from the 1920s to 1950s, when figurative art broke down and radical new forms of painting were invented. The shocking modernism of Futurists like Giacomo Balla and Fortunato Deppero, the ecstatic lyricism of Sonia Delaunay and Wassily Kandinsky, and the rhythmic color and lines of Luigi Veronesi and Sophie Tauber Arp all fed the new abstract language that the Missonis translated into textiles. Ottavio and Rosita Missoni, who in their sixty years of marriage built a fashion empire from a barebones knitwear operation, were rooted in the fabric making traditions of Italy but they founded their family business on the meeting of art and fashion. Ottavio Missoni’s own boldly striped paintings are hung side by side with the post-1950s artists whose movements reverberated with Missoni’s experimental textile patterns–revolutionary optical and spatial art by Lucio Fontana, Dadamaino, and Piero Donazio, vibrating with kinetic lines. “It’s an honor to see our work presented in an art museum and to witness Ottavio’s paintings and tapestries exhibited among the works of great contemporary masters,” says Rosita, who at 83 serves as the creative director of Missoni Home. Also on view are the large, mosaic-like tapestries Ottavio created in the 1980s and an installation by his son Luca that brings color to life with a forest of polychrome mesh tubes towering over vibrantly dyed bales of wool. Creativity, it seems, is a Missoni family trait. A special selection of 100 historical pieces from Missoni’s archive stand together in a rainbow whir of patchwork, stripes, and zigzags, reflecting the abstractions of the 20th century art that fills the galleries. Luciano Caramel and Emma Zanella, together with Luca Missoni, curated the exhibition, which is on view from April 19 to November 8. As the grand dame of Missoni explains, “For them, it’s been a year-long project to express how significant the arts are for the language that I created in fashion with my husband, Ottavio.”
Photos: “Missoni, Art, Color” Opens in the Label’s Hometown
Missoni collection 1953-2014. Photo courtesy Museum of Gallarate.
Dadamaino, A Study of Color, 1966. Photo courtesy Museum of Gallarate.
Ottavio e Rosita Missoni. Photo by Giuseppe Pino. Photo courtesy Museum of Gallarate.
Hall of Missoni Tapestries. Photo courtesy Museum of Gallarate.
Gino Severini, Ballerina 1957. Photo courtesy Museum of Gallarate.
Fortunato Depero, Biker Speed, 1924. Photo courtesy Museum of Gallarate.
Wassily Kandinsky, Spitz rund, 1925. Photo courtesy Museum of Gallarate.
Ottavio Missoni, Untitled, 1973. Photo courtesy Museum of Gallarate.
Joseph Albers, Study for homepage, 1951. Photo courtesy Museum of Gallarate.
Fontana, Concetto spaziale, 1960. Photo courtesy Museum of Gallarate.
Ottavio Missoni, paper drawings. Photo courtesy Museum of Gallarate.
Luca MIssoni and Angela Jelmini, “Between the Lines” installation. Photo courtesy Museum of Gallarate.