I tell Valentino’s creative director that it’s bold for him to align himself so deeply with a work of art that questions the very period of Italian success in which Valentino first flourished. “You can see in the installation the big failures and mistakes of the industrial period,” Piccioli replies. “Having said that, I think in the end what you take away is hope – hope that you can create a new future. Italy, we never talk about the work – the work process – [being done] in another way. But with Valentino, I think it’s different. Because I think it’s a business that comes from sewing. People have always been at the heart of the company. An added layer to the setup, in fact, is that last July’s stunning Valentino couture show was held right next to the venue for this artwork.
Piccioli adds: “Experiencing this work of Gian Maria, I felt a lot of the reality that I know in Italy. Fortunately, this is not our reality… for me, [couture] is very important as a working method because this work is not only a question of showing or creating, but also a question of social responsibility. Ours may be a big business, but that’s why it’s important to run it in a human way. Couture is relevant because it creates culture, and when you have that in your DNA, you have to manage all the work – including the industrial one – in the same way. Couture becomes a culture that permeates the company.
For me, combining the artisanal, high-quality, low-waste values of precise craftsmanship that are at the heart of both tailoring and the pre-industrial history of Italian creativity with the environmentally beneficial innovations offered by the technology points a way forward in the century ahead. But what does Tosatti think? His answer is self-consciously enigmatic, as elusive as those trails of fireflies in his works. “That’s the question, because at the very end of the book you are asked, ‘Where are you ready to go?'”
“We don’t take a position, because we believe that art should raise questions – more questions than answers,” says Viola. Piccioli adds, “Community is about sharing values, and that’s why I’m here today – just sharing its vision, its art, its thoughts.
The 59th Venice Biennale until November 27.