Gucci displays show Hieronymous Bosch and Ophelia Drowning getting a Gucci mark stamped on them. During Fashion Week, Gucci sent models down the runway with subtle references to Renaissance art. Models held hyper-realistic severed heads and dragons, a reflection of Alessandro Michele’s long-standing fascination with Renaissance motifs.
Gucci has now rolled out massive digital installations in stores across the world, featuring iconic artworks reinterpreted alongside items from its Spring 2018 collection. As part of the project, the young Spanish artist Ignasi Monreal borrows from paintings like “Arnolfini Portrait” by Jan van Eyck (1434), “Ophelia” by John Everett Millais (c. 1852), and “Garden of Earthly Delights” by Hieronymous Bosch (1480-1490). To each painting, Monreal and Gucci have added a twist; calling it, ‘Utopian Fantasy.’\
When I first saw the installations, I was not sure how I felt about them. I initially found the choice of artwork slightly odd because Ophelia was a painting a young woman’s suicide, and Bosch was dramatising religious scenes of torture and suffering. However I have come to quite like how the Fashion house has adapted the classic pieces of art and combined them with fashion, making them more modern and relevant. Monreal’s take on Bosch includes illustrations of people wearing the latest Gucci clothing within the fantasy world that the Renaissance artist created. I like that some of the illustrations don’t directly relate to art, such as a scene featuring a sleeping Snow White, which echoes a sweater in the Gucci’s Spring 2018 collection.
The part of the campaign that I found most interesting and eye-catching was the digital reinterpretation of Ophelia, which has been installed in video format in Milan Montenapoleone, the brand’s boutique. Gucci state, ‘Stores around the world will feature windows dedicated to promoting this digital initiative.’ Looking at short video clips and images, it appears as if a large screen is positioned as part of the window display and shows an animated digital illustration, as if it were an artwork in a gallery. On most windows, there is the presence of a bench facing the screen on which coloured velvet-covered mannequins sit, as if looking at the art hung on a gallery wall. This, in my opinion, encourages more people to stop and watch the screen also to see what Gucci have created for this current campaign. It is so different compared to anything I have seen from any other brand’s recently. I do like the incorporation of art culture and history.
Since designer Alessandro Michele became Gucci’s creative director in 2015, he’s frequently referenced fine art in his fashion, recruiting artists like Monreal and illustrator, Angela Hicks, for campaigns and products. However, the direct appropriation of art in these displays seems different. Gucci has chosen to install mannequins lifelessly watching the video versions of appropriated art, while people move around the space shopping. This I feel makes the painting lose some of its original narrative. Those who know ‘Ophelia’ will recognised the reference, but others who enter the stores may not have ever see the painting previously and know the original meaning and message behind it. I didn’t know the story of Ophelia before starting on my course and I don’t believe many other people would have either. Some people may view the art and just see it as a corporate interpretation of fashion and art or just think it was selected to match Gucci’s aesthetic for their campaign.
I did notice that Monreal removed some of the defining elements of the painting, dressing her instead in a yellow dress and pearls from the Spring 2018 Collection. The symbolic flowers she holds are also missing: poppies for death, pansies for love in vain, and daisies for innocence. Those who know the paining might question why, whereas others may think this is always how it had looked. The missing elements take away some of the morbid connotations in my opinion, maybe making it more about celebrating her female beauty.
Gucci’s campaign also has a social media component: a sticker on the window will allow anyone with the Gucci app to access a special microsite, with downloadable wallpapers and access to a catalogue of more of Monreal’s Gucci-ized artworks. This could show that fashion is now looking to art to create an installation with a different interpretation; taking on a seemingly new form.