Portrait of Cinzia Ruggeri. Photo: Occhiomagico. Courtesy Occhiomagico.
Cinzi Ruggeri: Cinzia Says…, Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art (5 Nov 2022-12 Feb 2023). Courtesy Goldsmiths CCA. Photo: Rob Harris
Cinzia Ruggeri, Stivali Italia, 1986. Photo: Rebecca Fanuele. Courtesy Archive Cinzia Ruggeri, Milan; Campoli Presti, London, Paris.
Cinzia says… was the first major retrospective of artist and fashion designer Cinzia Ruggeri (1942–2019), a unique figure of Italian postmodernism who moved freely across artistic disciplines. Her life and versatile practice were driven by a desire to redefine the form and function of elements of everyday life. From clothing and accessories to furniture and lighting – and in sculptural installations often including these objects – Ruggeri created worlds that were continually imaginative, provocative, elegant and unpredictable. Consistently boundary-pushing, her objects sat somewhere between performance and architecture, always questioning how the body might inhabit space.
A seminal but overlooked figure within Italian postmodern art and design, the exhibition offered the widest and most complete overview of Ruggeri’s career to date, thanks to in-depth research conducted by MACRO (Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome) in collaboration with the Archivio Cinzia Ruggeri in Milan. Ruggeri shared an affinity with the Radical Design scene in Milan in the 1970s, and was associated with the city’s Studio Alchimia and Memphis groups. She founded her own fashion line in 1977, and immediately became known for her use of architecture and geometry like the ziggurat and representations of the shape of Italy. Playful components of the natural world like eggs, dogs, pigs, and flowers all became recurring motifs in her work. She was one of the first designers to experiment with electronic technologies, incorporating liquid crystals, LED lights and kinetic movement into her garments and artworks.
The exhibition featured a wide selection of garments from Ruggeri’s Fluxus, Cinzia Ruggeri and Bloom collections, newly restored and presented for the first time since their runway debuts in the 1970s and 1980s. Selections of her accessories – bags, shoes, gloves, and ties – were presented, including her famous Slap-glove bag (1983), which fuses a glove and a clutch, and a pair of boots shaped in the outline of Italy (Italy boots, 1986). Among the clothing was Ruggeri’s famed Bed Dress (1986), a gown with matching pillow headpiece that has since served as inspiration for both Viktor & Rolf (A/W 2005–06) and Maison Martin Margiela (S/S 2015). Ruggeri’s mosaics, sculptures, sofas, jewellery and glassware were displayed alongside the clothes, as well as footage of her theatrical catwalk shows and music videos for which she designed clothes. Much of her work has a sense of familiarity, such is the extent to which her designs have been borrowed from over the decades.
A major highlight of the show was the reconstruction of la règle du jeu?, the artist’s last exhibition, presented a few months prior to her death in 2019. Using Jean Renoir’s 1939 film of the same title (The Rules of the Game) as a pretext, Ruggeri’s sculptural installation became a kind of cabinet of curiosities of autobiographical puzzles and formal play that is indicative of the rest of her work.
Ruggeri’s impact on the world of pop music and defining a particular postmodern look was implied in the show’s title Cinzia says… This title is a play on the first verse of the lyrics of the song Elettrochoc by renowned Italian pop band Matia Bazar, with whom Ruggeri frequently collaborated. During her lifetime she also worked and collaborated with Brian Eno, Occhiomagico, Alessandro Mendini, Casa Vogue, Maison Carven, and Studio Alchimia. One of her celebrated ziggurat dresses, Homage à Lévi-Strauss (1983), is in the collection of the V&A Museum.
Ruggeri’s importance as a polymath, and her links to Milan, a city known for its design and culture, have led to her being seen as something of a cult figure. In 1960, aged just 17, she had her first solo exhibition at Galleria del Prisma in Milan, which was accompanied by a text by novelist and poet Dino Buzzati. Overwhelmed by the press attention it received, she gave up art to study design, and worked in Paris at fashion house Carven before returning to Milan in 1970. After she closed her fashion lines at the end of the 1980s, she moved towards interior design before returning to art towards the end of her life. Ruggeri’s fluidity between disciplines was highlighted in the exhibition’s presentation at the CCA. Her work continues to be a significant example of how artists can navigate outside of the confines of medium-specificity so often forced upon them. Both the familiar and idiosyncratic nature of her work are testament to how influential and forward-thinking her designs were for her time, and how late relatively to her male peers her recognition has been in coming.
The exhibition was curated by Luca Lo Pinto, Artistic Director, MACRO, and produced in partnership with the CCA. The exhibition ran at MACRO from 14 April–28 August 2022.
Cinzia Ruggeri (b. Milan, 1942–2019), artist, fashion and interior designer. After studying at the Accademia di Arti Applicate in Milan, interning at the Carven atelier in Paris, and working at her father’s tailoring company Unimac (Vimodrone, Milan), at the start of the 1970s she created the brand Bloom, with which she made her ready-to-wear runway debut in Milan. She then launched the experimental line Cinzia Ruggeri (1981), and the menswear label Cinzio Ruggeri (1986). She left the world of fashion at the end of the 1980s to concentrate on her work as a product designer, collaborating with both Italian and foreign brands. Her projects have been exhibited in many significant international solo and group exhibitions.
Recent solo exhibitions include: …per non restare immobili, curated by Rita Selvaggio, Casa Masaccio, San Giovanni Valdarno (2020); la règle du jeu?, Galleria Federico Vavassori, Milan (2019); Finché si scherza, Galerie Francesca Pia, Zurich (2019); Home. A User’s Manual, curated by Fredi Fischli & Niels Olsen with Valentina Enhimb, GTA Exhibitions, ETH Zurich (2019); déconnexion, Campoli Presti, Paris (2019); Umbratile con Brio, curated by Mariuccia Casadio, Galleria Federico Vavassori, Milan (2018). Recent group exhibitions include: Lonely are all bridges, Birgit Jürgenssen and Cinzia Ruggeri, curated by Maurizio Cattelan and Marta Papini, Galerie Hubert Winter, Vienna (2021); FUORI, Quadriennale d’arte 2020, curated by Sarah Cosulich and Stefano Collicelli Cagol, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome (2020); We need more than one term for these big things, curated by Melanie Ohnemus, University of Applied Arts, Vienna (2019); The Estate Summer, Kim? The Contemporary Art Centre, Riga (2019); Lost in the Pool of Shadows, curated by Luca Lo Pinto, Emanuel Layr, Rome (2019); Article 132–75, The Art Side of Kartell, curated by Ferruccio Laviani and Rita Selvaggio, Palazzo Reale, Milan (2019); Tra l’inquietudine e il martello, Galleria Federico Vavassori, Milan (2018); ITALIANA. L’Italia vista dalla moda, 1971–2001, curated by Maria Luisa Frisa and Stefano Tonchi, Palazzo Reale, Milan (2018).