Above and beyond twinning the work of distinguished artists, our exhibition presents the pairing of two creative statements between art and design whose origins are worlds apart. Nonetheless, a red thread runs through both linking our protagonists: work underpinned by an agenda and minimalist in character, uncompromisingly pure and straightforward, a deliberate linkage of history and modernism, undeniable mastery of their craft. All this is revealed in a single gesture, a subtle movement – in the form of a bend or curve – in textiles, in silver or gold.

Issey Miyake, born in Hiroshima in 1938, has transmuted the traditions of Japanese culture into an instrument for elevating the body and its presence to a new plane. In fashion Miyake speaks of art by associating with it. He is one of the first fashion designers to have graced the cover of the American monthly magazine Artforum. In a Miyake gown, the wearer’s body fuses with idea to become a lucent figure. As a stylist, Miyake works with material, structure and colour to lend his vision expression and the casing of a man or woman, their clothing, vital elasticity. Elasticity that stems from cut and cloth itself but above all the art of folding, which contributes crucially to the design in planimetrically defining the silhouette. Light and air are partners in this quasi sculptural process. Miyake later deepened his aesthetic message and developed it in interior design and accessories, often teamed with stellar designers such as Ron Arad and Tokujin Yoshioka. Championing the view that fashion is a cultural factor to be reckoned with, Miyake has a reputation for being a consummate pioneering promoter of “East meets West”, one who, moreover, has manifested this quality in museum contexts. Issey Miyake’s work is contrasted with that of Ulla + Martin Kaufmann.

Both were born in Hildesheim in 1941, hence are contemporaries of the Japanese master’s. Superlative gold- and silversmiths, the Kaufmanns have been showered with prestigious awards. Their work revolves around some pivotal considerations informing their jewellery and objects in silver: utmost concentration and an overriding ambition to capture absolute beauty with contemporary means, uniting tradition and the present. Be it gold or silver, jewellery or tableware: their response to each challenge represents passionate adherence to the “simplicity” principle as a compelling agenda. The Kaufmanns invite us to read everyday things in a new way, to live their spirituality while tapping their aesthetic to its full potential. All this is concealed in a springy strip of metal wrapped around us as jewellery or articulated in the body of a vessel, ultimately to visualise the core of a thing devoid of all fussiness or extraneous ornament. The Kaufmanns’ art signifies calculated simplicity, seductive understatement – between art and design, functionality and beauty freed of the constraints of function.

The Miyake – Kaufmann linkage signalises all that + art as the factors uniting the distinguished artists whose work we are showing, despite distance and cultural différance. Their perfectionism, their use of light, body and movement as their materials, more than justify our presenting them together in Mantua.

Mi piego ma non mi spezzo – I bend but do not break
Issey Miyake – Ulla + Martin Kaufmann
3 - 18 February 2013
An exhibition under the auspices of the lecture series “Storia del Costume” FAI (Fondo Ambiente Italiano)
Curated by Ellen Maurer Zilioli and Michele Venturini
Spazio Bernardelli
27, Corso Umberto I
Mantua (MN) Italy
Opening hours: Wednesday - Sunday 3.30 - 7 pm
For more information:
Ellen Maurer Zilioli: info@maurer-zilioli.com
Michele Venturini: michelev72@gmail.com

FAI lectures:
Brigitte Bardot, curated by Riccardo Vannetti: 20 January 2013, 4 pm
Issey Miyake, curated by Michele Venturini: 3 February 2013, 4 pm
Burberry, curated by Michele Venturini: 17 February 2013, 4 pm
Sala Convegni dell’Associazione Industriali
Via Portazzolo 9
Mantua (MN) Italy

Exhibition architecture: Stefano Gozzoli, Spazio Bernardelli, Mantua (MN) Italy