Enter Angela Missoni’s salotto, or living room, above the Missoni boutique on Madison Avenue, and it’s like being transported to nonna’s house in Italy – except with a whole lot of creativity thrown into the mix. The space is meant to make Missoni’s friends and customers feel like they are a guest in one of her homes; and indeed such was the case as right away when an Italian assistant insisted we have an espresso and some lasagna. With a quick stroll through the intimate space, that image is fortified by personal pictures and memorabilia from Missoni’s family. In the corner sits a stunning mosaic round table, where guests can interact while making crafts and bond through the beloved Italian arts of conversation and food.
The space is also meant to be an immersive experience of contemporary art. Dispersed around the salotto are art pieces from Missoni’s personal collection, some of which are available for purchase. It’s all part of the brand’s ongoing Surface Conversion project, dubbed as such from the concept of Missoni lending the space to artists to convert as they will.
This particular exhibition, the second in the series, is dramatically titled Surface Conversion Presents Kreëmart “Salotto Angela Missoni,” and was dreamed up by Missoni’s longtime friend Raphael Castoriano, the founder of Kreëmart – which brings the worlds of art and sugar together. As Missoni mentions, the two share a similar aesthetic; hence was born the idea of the performance art piece on display, “La Veglia,” by artist Romina de Novellis – who unravels 20,000 meters of custom-made red Missoni yarn in a contained area. In order for the intimacy of the piece to be achievable, Castoriano suggested the space also be intimate…thus, the birth of the salotto.
“La Veglia” the performance was by private invitation only – the result, an intricate sculpture of yarn, will be on display afterward for the general public.
We caught up with Missoni to discuss the project more extensively.
How did the idea of this project come about?
It started a few years ago, thinking that maybe this location, this shop, this area is full of interesting art centers – and I thought of an art space. I have a lot of friends and parties so I thought let’s make an interesting space, a project that I called Surface Conversion, which means I give out the space to an artist to reinterpret it. The artist this past November used the windows. For this project with Romina I made her a special yarn for her performance. Since it is a “home” performance, it needed to be done in an intimate space. So basically this became an installation like my house, like a salotto, so she could perform. In fact this area could be my house, because any artist that you see around, those are all artists that I have.
Tell us about the process of choosing the artists for the salotto?
I am not a professional collector and I don’t call myself a collector. I am an assembler. There is no regular process. I might bump into an artist at a fair, but fairs are becoming too much, too much stress…it’s not anymore what I like to do. One of my bigger passions is flea markets. I also love second-hand shops, so my house is a mix up of values – even though the pieces are all precious to me. I often reassemble as well, bringing a second life to abandoned pieces.
In fashion, you seem to be drawn to ethnic elements. Does that also attract you in art?
I am very much attracted to arts and crafts, so I do have a fascination for artists who work with texture or artifacts. But at the same time, I also have a big fascination for conceptual artists, which is exactly the opposite. I am a very curious person, attracted to many, many things, those that surprise me.
What are your favorite museums and galleries here in New York? And worldwide?
Definitely the Guggenheim. I love the Smithsonian museum [in D.C.]. I try to see them all. I love the MET. I try to go to Naples once a year, and I make a point that I try to see all of the city. So this year it was the Museum of Capodimonte, at which I saw Barroco Napolitano. Last year I went to see Pompeii. I stop at Museo Provinciale della Ceramica di Vietri, and I get so inspired by the tiles there, every time! I just am very, very curious. Yesterday a Mexican artist stopped by and showed me her work through her book. And I said, but I know your work, I saw an exhibition of yours ten years ago in Puebla. And she was amazed! So it’s how I am, sort of random and curious.
This conversion space for artists – could it one day be a host space for aspiring designers?
No, not at the moment. But actually one thing I would really like to do is a museum for Missoni…and to make the history available for young designers to study – because I have amazing archives not yet organized. It’s sixty-five years of fashion history, so it would be great if I could do it.
What is your ultimate goal for the surface conversion project?