Fashion Meets Modern Art: Exhibit at La Villa Bardini in Florence, Italy

I was actually just looking for a quiet walk in a park in the few hours of break from the rain on a Sunday afternoon, but I found an exhibit that has just opened and pairs an Italian fashion brand with an Italian contemporary artist, and the results are surprising.


I chose the Bardini Garden for an early Sunday stroll because I needed some time away from the tourists and hustle and noise of Florence center; and I needed to see some green, hear the birds, and not be nearly run over by a scooter or bike. The ticket to the Bardini Garden (8 Euro) also includes entrance to the Villa Bardini, which houses art exhibits. Never one to waste an already-paid  entrance fee, I visited the exhibit even though I was not in the mood for “another” museum (yes, there are plenty in Florence). In addition, the woman selling me the ticket was extremely excited about the exhibit and mentioned several times how wonderful it is that I am one of the first to see the exhibit since it just opened today.

I did not know what to expect; the poster showed fabric and not much else and the names did not ring a bell I had to admit – “Mariani chez Capucci.” However, I was hooked as soon as I entered the first room and saw the first display.

Capucci Blue

A Capucci Evening Gown in front of a Corresponding Mariani Piece

I am assuming I am supposed to recognize Capucci as the Italian fashion designer  Roberto Capucci famous for his dresses that seem to be sculpted; each one appears more fantastic and dream-like than the last. Pleats, folds, and strong colors seem to be the concept.

The same principle was used by Umberto Mariani in his art pieces that complement the dresses. Mariani is a contemporary Italian artist born in Milan in 1936. The pieces by Mariani vary in color and size but all play with light and dark created by pleats and folds. At first glance, the pieces seem to be fabric, but the pleats are created in lead foil that is painted or covered in gold leaf and some also seem to include sand or another coarse material under the paint.


Close-Up Folds

Close-up of the folds of a piece by Mariani. The folds look like fabric but are actually lead sheets.

The pieces by Mariani are fascinating by themselves – the simplicity, the feeling of movement and energy, the strong contrast of light and dark created by the folds. The gowns by Capucci are worth an exhibit just by themselves as well, but the combination of the pieces by these two artists creates an exciting interplay.

Capucci 3 back

Capucci Evening Gown from the Back and Mariani Art on Display to the Left

I doubt that I would have ever visited the exhibit just for its own sake; after all, there are still so many museums and churches and so much more I have not seen yet in Florence, but I am glad that I stumbled upon this exhibit by accident. And it is good to see that modern art in Florence can be something that is newer than the 16th century. The visit today also reminded me that sometimes it is best to explore a city without clear itinerary or a checklist of the top-ten sights. One never knows what one will find. Instead of fighting long lines at the larger museums on a rainy Sunday, I had this museum nearly to myself (I saw five more visitors in the hour I spent there) and the bright colors created a much-needed counterpoint to the grey Florentine sky .

Capucci 5

A Colorful Capucci Dress – One of My Favorites

The exhibit is still open till May 1, 2016. See the villa’s website for more details.


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