Andy Warhol Retrospective At Fabbrica Del Vapore In Milan

Andy Warhol: The Advertising Of Form

A few days ago I had the opportunity to visit the Andy Warhol retrospective at La Fabbrica del Vapore in Milan. For me and my friend Ali, who accompanied me, it was an opportunity to spend a morning immersed in the artistic universe of Andy Warhol, who has always been one of my favorite artists and whose work I had already seen on display at MoMa in NYC.

It had been ten years since the last art exhibition dedicated to Andy Warhol in Milan (his works have been showcased in the city on several occasions in the past decades), and for this retrospective there were more than 300 works by the artist, many of them previously unseen. The exhibition reconstructs the various historical periods in which he was a protagonist of the art scene, spanning the fields of fashion and visual arts. It starts from the period of the 1950s, in which Andy Warhol began a brilliant career as a graphic designer, through the 1960s, in which much of his most famous artistic production takes place (Campbell’s Soup Cans date from that period of time, but also portraits such as that of Marilyn Monroe and Liz Taylor). The 1970s and 1980s were a decisive and very interesting time for Andy Warhol’s career, as I am currently having the opportunity to read in The Andy Warhol Diaries edited by Pat Hackett and published by Penguin Classics; through Warhol’s voice you get to have a glimpse at the famous personalities of the era, including fashion designers, socialites and contributors to Interview, a pop culture magazine founded by the artist himself and still on newsstands today. In the Diaries, Warhol kept track of his personal expenses, expressed his opinions and feelings about many events of those years, characterized by hard work, parties and social events, as well as important collaborations with legendary artists such as Keith Haring and Jean Michel Basquiat. I have almost finished reading Andy Warhol’s Diaries and I highly recommend them to everyone because I enjoyed their humor, the way they were structured, and his view of the 1980s Manhattan social scene. They are very long (more than 1100 pages) but I find them compelling in many different ways.

Cake, 1956(silkscreen ink and watercolor on paper)
Marilyn series, 1967
Flowers series, 1973

In the 1950s Andy Warhol made his debut on the New York art scene; a graduate of the Carnegie Institute in his hometown of Pittsburgh, he moved to Manhattan to begin his career. His talents were immediately expressed through his early work as an illustrator and advertising graphic designer for magazines such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and The New Yorker, sparking a revolution in the world of advertising (a medium increasingly present in people’s daily lives) and transforming the work of art into a consumer product.


Maria Mulas: Portraits Of The Late 20th Century At Palazzo Reale In Milan

Miuccia Prada, Gianni Versace and Krizia

Last week I visited the Palazzo Reale in Milan on the occasion of a Richard Avedon retrospective, which I will write about in the next weeks. The rooms preceding the retrospective are currently hosting a gallery of portraits taken by photographer Maria Mulas; since photography is my biggest passion, I had already read about this exhibit and was really looking forward to seeing it. The portraits taken by the photographer represent a tribute to great figures in fashion, film, and culture while also including prominent figures from the world of publishing and design.

Maria Mulas started working for her brother, renowned photographer Ugo Mulas, but very soon she developed her own career independently. Taking part in the most important events of the Milanese cultural life in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s brought her into contact with artists, critics, gallery owners, fashion designers, writers, actors and other famous personalities who became the subjects of her portraits.

Her pictures reveal the humanity of her subjects, as they are predominantly shot in an intimate and private dimension; these are the people who characterized Italian cultural life in the last decades of the 20th century and helped make Milan a city of innovation and experimentation.

Maria Mulas was able to listen to the spirit of Milan and helped define the city’s identity on the level of genius and creativity. Her portraits make prominent figures in fashion, film, and literature look more familiar and authentic, thanks to the kindness, sympathy, and selflessness of the photographer, who was able to make her subjects feel at ease. As Domenico Piraina, director of Palazzo Reale, expressed it, “Photography is an eternal presence.”

Maria Mulas: Self-portrait – Milan, 1981
Maria Mulas: Self-Portrait – Milan, 1979
Maria Mulas by Lorenzo Barbieri Hermitte – Milan, 2022

Maria Mulas has always worked as a photographer in the city of Milan, where she arrived in the 1950s (she is originally from Manerba del Garda, a small town in the province of Brescia). The photographer’s series of shots represents a veritable archive of personalities who have intertwined their paths with Milan, playing an important role in its artistic and economic development.


Throwback Thursday: Christian Dior, Designer Of Dreams At The V&A In London – June 2019

The Dior Line, 1950s

I have always loved visiting London’s Victoria & Albert Museum and it is one of my all-time favorite museums because every season they hold great fashion retrospectives that are usually displayed in a very sophisticated and scenic way, like “Cristóbal Balenciaga” in 2017 and “Fashioned from Nature” in 2018 (also, it’s impossible not to mention Alexander McQueen’s “Savage Beauty” in 2015, one of the most popular and successful retrospectives ever held at the museum). I am grateful to have been able to attend some of these exhibitions throughout the years; “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams” has definitely been my favorite so far.

Since it had already been showcased at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, the exhibition was very much hyped even before opening at the V&A and it did not disappoint expectations. According to MF Fashion, “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams” had a record number of spectators, selling almost 600,000 tickets in seven months. I was very lucky to be able to attend the exhibition because it was extended until September 2019 so I got to see it in the month of June during a trip to London.

The exhibition presented about 200 rare Haute Couture garments, starting from the birth of the House of Dior in 1946 and tracing the evolution of Dior’s signature style over the years. It allowed visitors to examine various illustrations, photographs, videos, magazines, accessories, vintage perfumes and make-up, for a total of about 500 objects extracted from the immense Dior Archives. It basically turned out to be one of London’s biggest cultural events in 2019 and I was happy to become a V&A member on the day I attended the exhibition. One of the first pieces displayed was the iconic Bar Suit, which is part of the V&A’s permanent collection, since it was gifted to the museum by the Maison Dior in 1960.

Christian Dior showcased his first haute couture collection in February 1947 at 30 Avenue Montaigne in Paris. The designs offered a great alternative to the masculine style of women’s fashion after World War II and they were widely praised and highly acclaimed by the press, as Harper’s Bazaar editor in chief Carmel Snow told the designer: “Your dresses have such a new look!”

The term New Look was chosen to name the collection and its two silhouettes, Corolle (featuring full skirts similar to flower petals) and En 8 (hip-hugging pencil skirts). The Bar suit was inspired by the bar at the Hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris and became the symbol of the New Look, creating a new fashionable silhouette that was unprecedented for the time; the rounded shoulders and the flowing, elongated shapes made to highlight the waist, along with the voluminous corolla skirts, helped reshape women’s bodies by bringing back feminine beauty and reviving sensuality. At the same time, garments from the past such as corsets and guêpières were brought back into vogue so Dior found itself at the center of a fashion revolution thanks to his innovative spirit. The New Look designs on the walls of the V&A were presented in a majestical way, followed by a section that highlighted the looks from 1947 to 1957 that defined this revolutionary fashion era and a section dedicated to Christian Dior’s love for Great Britain.

Dior - The New Look.
The New Look – Dior
Dior Romanesque dress (1950)
Dior Ulysse coat (1952)
Dior Aladin dress (1953)
Christian Dior: Great Britain

The exhibition was divided in eleven different theme sections; the first one started with Christian Dior’s earlier years and was followed by the New Look section that showcased his groundbreaking approach to fashion.


Newton, Riviera At Villa Sauber In Monaco

Shoe, Walter Steiger, Monte-Carlo, 1983

Earlier this month I visited “Newton, Riviera” at Villa Sauber (part of the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco) in Monaco.

I have been loving photography since I was seven-year-old, when I started using a disposable Kodak during school trips, and this passion has grown with me over the years; “Newton, Riviera” was one of the best exhibitions about photography I have ever attended.

The German-born photographer already had ties with the French Riviera and the area around Bordighera, Italy, when he first arrived in Monaco in 1981. He was also a regular at the annual Cannes Film Festival and would spend his summers in Ramatuelle with his wife June.

Moving to Monaco at the age of 61, he was established as one of the greatest fashion photographers of his generation; the period from 1981 until his death in 2004 is one of the most interesting and productive of his career.

Monaco was the ideal setting for Newton’s fashion photographs. The city’s construction sites have often served as backdrop for fashion campaigns and this also gave Newton the chance to take numerous portraits of iconic people like David Bowie, Paloma Picasso and Michael Cimino; some of them were Monaco residents while others were just visiting the city.

He also worked on a series of photographs with stars of the Ballets de Monte-Carlo and the princely family, especially Princess Caroline, a close friend of his.

In Monaco, Newton was fascinated by the elegant way of life and immersed himself in a world of appearances and glamour in which he was both an actor and a privileged witness.

Newton, Riviera at Villa Sauber (NMNM) in Monaco
Princess Stephanie and Princess Caroline photographed by Helmut Newton in Monaco