Numéro art: You greatly admire several Italian artists.
Maria Grazia Chiuri: I hold Carol Rama, Carla Accardi and Marisa Merz in very high esteem. I’m far from being a specialist, but I’m easily moved by art. I’m confident that one day these artists will gain wider recognition than they have now. Unfortunately, in Italy we tend not to promote our local talents. We’re so focused on elsewhere… For example, I think Italian Pop Art was overly eclipsed by American Pop Art. While Leo Castelli was showing the best artists in New York, we sorely lacked the equivalent in Rome. But I’m convinced that time will bring their dues to these important figures.
How do you explain this tendency in Italy?
In general we’re incapable of promoting our talents on the international stage – not only art, but also Italian cuisine, design, etc. Perhaps our inability to get organized is both our strength and limitation. We’re a nation of individualists, which pushes us to be creative and innovative, but doesn’t encourage us to unite behind our artists and chefs… I see the same thing happening in Italian fashion. And yet what makes Rome beautiful is that art is everywhere. At Valentino, we had an unforgettable experience organizing Mirabilia Romae; it gave us the opportunity to discover a hidden Rome. At one point we had the chance to visit Luigi Ontani’s studio. Ontani is an artist whose universe is pretty close to fashion. Just look at his costumes, ceramics, and paintings, even his personality. He has an exceptional ability to encapsulate the Zeitgeist.
As a native of Rome, how do you view the city’s artistic effervescence in the 60s and 70s? I’m thinking of figures like Franco Angeli, Tano Festa, Mario Schifano and Giosetta Fioroni.
I adore them. I had the chance to work with Giosetta Fioroni at Valentino. She’s incredible, an emblematic figure of Italian art who always fought prejudice against women artists. She also belonged to the Piazza del Popolo School, which is why I feel close to her and her story, since it’s inseparable from my city’s story. I was impressed by her open-mindedness: she was curious about my ideas and wanted to understand the creative processes in fashion. Visiting her studio in Trastevere was a great discovery. I would also have liked to collaborate with Carol Rama, but unfortunately I was too late [Rama passed away in 2015]. There’s Alberto Burri too. I remember, during his centenary retrospective, I excitedly asked, “How much would it cost to restore the Cretto di Burri?” Everyone looked at me like I was crazy. I’d like to do something, it’s a monument to a catastrophe after all [the 1968 earthquake that destroyed Gibellina]. Italy’s most famous piece of land art is in a state of total abandon.
“I like collaborating with contemporary artists. They deal with subjects, in one way or another, affect us directly as women.”