Fon­dazione Alda Fendi Un­veils New Cul­tural Hub

WWD Digital Daily - - News - BY LUISA ZARGANI

ROME — Why is a life-size resin statue of a rhi­noc­eros po­si­tioned a few steps away from Rome’s Arch of Janus, built in the fourth cen­tury B.C.?

It’s a bea­con for the new Fon­dazione Alda Fendi - Esper­i­menti ex­hi­bi­tion space nearby, de­signed by ar­chi­tect Jean Nou­vel and called Rhi­noc­eros.

“The rhi­noc­eros is a sym­bol of Rome and of strength,” Fendi ex­plained dur­ing a walk-through of the cul­tural hub, which spreads over 37,800 square feet and six floors, re­cov­ered from the restora­tion of three run­down, neigh­bor­ing build­ings.

With her name­sake foun­da­tion es­tab­lished in 2001, Alda Fendi, one of the five sec­ond- gen­er­a­tion Fendi sis­ters to­gether with Anna, Carla, Franca and Paola, has been sup­port­ing the restora­tion of sev­eral mon­u­ments and land­marks in Rome such as the floors of the Basil­ica Ulpia. She also mounts the­ater per­for­mances open to the pub­lic be­cause she be­lieves “every­body should be able to en­joy art.”

Start­ing on Dec. 14, Michelan­gelo’s sculp­ture “Crouch­ing Boy,” dat­ing back to around 1524, will be on dis­play at Rhi­noc­eros for three months, on loan from the Her­mitage Mu­seum in St. Peters­burg, Rus­sia, as part of a cul­tural col­lab­o­ra­tion with the pres­ti­gious in­sti­tu­tion. Fendi asked Academy Award win­ner Vit­to­rio Storaro to de­sign spe­cial light­ing in­stal­la­tions for both the resin rhi­noc­eros and Michelan­gelo’s sculp­ture. Ahead of the ar­rival of the “Crouch­ing Boy,” the mu­seum is show­ing 10 au­to­graphed Michelan­gelo ar­chi­tec­tural draw­ings. “They are very rare, spe­cial and im­por­tant,” said Fendi, point­ing at the dis­plays. “Not many know that he was also an ar­chi­tect as well as a pain­ter and sculp­tor.” In a nearby room, the Fon­dazione is run­ning “The Agony and the Ec­stasy,” the 1965 film star­ring Charl­ton He­ston as Michelan­gelo. All these ini­tia­tives are open to the pub­lic for free.

Through­out the con­ver­sa­tion, Fendi talked about artis­tic “ex­per­i­ments” and new art forms. “I hope with this palazzo to con­vey this mes­sage — to do art start­ing from real things, so­cial events, the news. Art to­day has be­come trade and it’s wrong, the value of artists has been in­flated by gal­leries and it’s un­bri­dled com­merce. You can’t use art for fi­nan­cial gain.”

With the lo­ca­tion, Fendi mused that she wanted to cre­ate a space that would be in­ter­na­tional and “shake up” the art world. “My goal is to break away from in­sti­tu­tions and pro­vide a non­stan­dard cul­ture, the same way we have done this over the past years, tak­ing art from the street, from all that hap­pens in the world and make it into cul­ture.”

In ad­di­tion to the ex­hi­bi­tion space, Nou­vel de­signed 24 apart­ments avail­able for rent, but Fendi clar­i­fied that the apart­ments are man­aged by the in­ter­na­tional com­pany The Rooms of Rome and Span­ish en­tre­pre­neur Kike Sara­sola, and not by the Fon­dazione.

“You live with art in­side and out­side,” said Fendi, tak­ing in the breath­tak­ing view of Rome as each win­dow frames land­marks such as St. Peter’s Basil­ica, the sev­enth- cen­tury church of San Gior­gio in Ve­labro or the park on the Palatino hill. “You can al­most touch the mon­u­ments from here,” she said, gaz­ing out­side. The size of the apart­ments range from 432 to 1,188 square feet.

Nou­vel paid tribute to the his­tory of the build­ings with a con­ser­va­tive restora­tion while adding new el­e­ments in­clud­ing sleek steel struc­tures that hide el­e­ments such as bath­rooms and kitchens. The steel con­trasts with the ex­posed brick­work of the walls, the ce­ment floors and iron el­e­ments. “I like his strong ar­chi­tec­ture,” said Fendi, adding that this was Nou­vel’s first and ex­clu­sive job in Rome. “The choice of the ar­chi­tect was not easy. I also thought of Tadao Ando and

Kazuyo Se­jima, but then I found Nou­vel’s po­etic ap­proach to the lo­ca­tions very ap­peal­ing. You see, he says he re­stored the ‘ wrin­kles ‘ of the build­ing,” she said, point­ing to the fa­cade, which re­tains its orig­i­nal ap­peal. Fendi did not dis­close the amount in­vested in the project. “It would be hard to tell, the works were sup­posed to last 12 months, then they spilled over to 28 months — you have to be very de­ter­mined to do some­thing like this,” she said.

On the ter­race, there is the Caviar Kaspia Roma restau­rant and bar over­look­ing the heart of Rome, where le­gend has it that the city was founded on the river Tiber. “I wanted a very in­ter­na­tional but very tra­di­tional and el­e­gant restau­rant here,” she said of the venue. “Rome needs to be in­ter­na­tional, the cri­sis has slowed it down, it’s sleepy like the rest of Europe, but big ideas and cul­ture can restart from here. Politi­cians here are guilty of a very big mis­take, cut­ting in­vest­ments in cul­ture and this is a very se­ri­ous is­sue, be­cause cul­ture means democ­racy. With­out it, a decay of the coun­try is in­evitable.”

Fendi said she al­ways har­bored a strong pas­sion for the arts. “I had a won­der­ful job for 40 years, work­ing with Karl Lager­feld and al­ways at the fore­front,” said Fendi, who was in charge of the furs for the brand and has not been in­volved in fash­ion since the sale of the fam­ily com­pany to LVMH Moët Hen­nessy Louis Vuit­ton in 2001.

She still touted the de­ci­sion to sell for “a very valid rea­son. We thought that, at that mo­ment, on the eve of glob­al­iza­tion, there was no more room for a fam­ily like ours based on ar­ti­sanal crafts­man­ship, stand­ing among huge multi­na­tion­als. We were the first to un­der­stand this and we lev­er­aged our in­cred­i­ble im­age in the world.”

Fendi has never looked back and is fully fo­cused on the Fon­dazione, which will live on for 120 years, she ex­plained, and she sees con­ti­nu­ity as her daugh­ters Gio­vanna and Alessia are al­ready ac­tively in­volved in it and so are their own chil­dren. “I al­ways tell them that to live near artists and the arts we do our­selves a fa­vor, as they al­ways re­ward us and make us feel young.”

Lo­cated in Rome, the build­ing also houses 24 apart­ments and a Caviar Kaspia restau­rant. “I hope with this palazzo to con­vey this mes­sage — to do art start­ing from real things, so­cial events, the news. Art to­day has be­come trade and it’s wrong, the value of artists has been in­flated by gal­leries and it’s un­bri­dled com­merce. You can’t use art for fi­nan­cial gain.” — Alda Fendi

Alda Fendi

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