There is no shortage of fashion exhibitions these days, whether they are designer retrospectives or collaborations with artists. The latest to add to the list is Gucci, which unveiled its highly anticipated No Longer/Not Yet exhibition in Shanghai on Friday.
The brainchild of feted creative director Alessandro Michele and high profile stylist (and co-collaborator) Katie Grand, the exhibition doesn’t exactly tell a story. Instead it explores a question that preoccupies the mind of most fashion designers working today – what is contemporary?
“It’s about the now. I am not obsessed about the word future. The future is a beautiful dream but more inspiring to me is what’s now, in my mind and the outside. It also tells a story and shows my personal approach to time and what is contemporary,” said Michele before the opening.
To bring the point home, Michele and Grand approached seven artists to create pieces that explore the subject through various mediums (the starting point for everyone was an essay by philosopher Giorgio Agamben).
Participants range from highly respected Chinese artists like Cao Fei and Li Shurui and New York based sculptor Rachel Feinstein, to fashion photographers Glen Luchford (who shot the images for Gucci’s new advertising campaigns) and Nigel Shafran. One room is also dedicated to the inner workings of Michele’s creative mind.
The exhibition is interesting in that it will appeal to a wide range of people from fashion lovers looking to oogle at Michele’s must-have designs to art enthusiasts wanting to delve deeper.
Indeed the more successful parts of the exhibition are the rooms that explore the idea of contemporary in unexpected ways such as Feinstein’s whimsical Mr Time sculpture or Jenny Holzer’s photographic prints that feature a selection of phrases projected at night onto public buildings such as the Guggenheim in Venice.
Even more intriguing is Cao Fei’s installation called Rumba 2 inspired by the rapid urbanisation currently happening in China. Visitors are lead into a spacious carpeted room where robot vacuum cleaners move around aimlessly. One features a rooster sitting on top, representing the natural world.
For Gucci fans there is also plenty of eyecandy from behind-the-scenes images from fashion shows to glass cases featuring memorabilia form the latest collections. There is also a dark red room covered in illustrated portraits of models wearing the autumn/winter 2015 collection by Unskilled Worker. It reminds me of those rooms you find in art galleries or old English castles.
My favourite part of the exhibition, though, is Michele’s section called Gucci Tian (Tian means heaven). The walls are covered in contemporary floral motifs inspired by 18th century tapestry and folding screens. Further in you will find hidden room featuring a single portrait known as the Boy in Red which was originally created in the early 17th century and that explores the subject of gender, a signature in Michele’s designs.
From glamorous fashion images to the cerebreal, there is something everyone can take away from this exhibition.