Art raises the roof for Fendi in Rome
Graffiti’s cultural position has long been a polarising topic – vandalism to some, a valid art movement to others. Fendi is clearly in the latter camp as street art forms the focus of The Ring of the Future, a circular artwork featuring the word ‘Future’ painted in six languages on the roof of the Italian fashion house’s HQ in Rome.
‘I see the rooftop as a blank canvas,’ says Cristiana Monfardini, Fendi’s vice president of communications and the project’s mastermind. Working in collaboration with London-based agency Global Street Art, Fendi commissioned a sextet of street artists to add their own typographic style to the piece. The six artists come from the four corners of the globe and include Hong Kong artist Roes, London-based Iranian artist Cave, Korean artist Jodae and La-based artist Hillel Smith. Smith works in Hebrew to add a spray-painted vibrancy to Jewish storytelling. ‘He takes something old and reinterprets it with an unexpected aesthetic,’ says Monfardini.
Street art made an early impression on Smith, when he used to cycle past the graffiticovered Melrose Alley in West Hollywood. When he paints, he uses tape to control the spontaneous flow of the spray paint, and his colourful, geometric designs are inspired by Spider-man comic strips, Ed Ruscha and René Magritte.
‘My work is about making Hebrew global, fresh and exciting,’ Smith says. ‘This is an alphabet that is more than 2,500 years old. It has changed and developed. I love taking elements of other styles to make the alphabet part of the modern design conversation.’ Smith’s manifesto reflects Fendi’s bid to update its own aesthetic. The Ring of the Future is part of its F is For project, a digital platform launched last year with the intention of attracting a new generation of Fendi fans among millennials. The artwork is also part of Fendi’s drive to change the cultural associations surrounding the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, its HQ since 2015 (W*201). The building was originally commissioned by Mussolini in the 1930s and Fendi has found it hard to shake off its Fascist connotations.
The Ring of the Future celebrates a boundary-blind art. ‘It reflects the spirit of international collaboration,’ says Smith. ‘The harmony of all the scripts is what makes it so powerful.’
right and below, the roof of Fendi’s hq in rome with the ring ready For contributions From the artists, such as hillel smith (right)
below right, a sketch showing how the six artists’ works will Fit within the ring