we spoke to an archaeologist about gucci’s new campaign
Because it’s set in the ruins of an Ancient Greek city.
Alessandro Michele’s Gucci is a Quixotic, time-hopping vision of fashion. It takes in everything and anything. It spans centuries, continents, subcultures and species (remember those baby dragons?). There are punks, flappers, babushkas, Byzantine royalty, all distilled through Michele’s opulent, genre-defying lens. Whatever it is, it is distinctly Gucci.
So it was a natural fit for Gucci to set its pre-fall 19 campaign in the distant past, reframing an Italian archaeological site as a contemporary setting for Michele’s magpie eye for juxtaposition, which makes Gucci just as at home in a chippie as a campy Old Hollywood movie set.
This time, Michele enlisted his photographic collaborator Glen Luchford to create high-contrast tableau vivantes of characters that might be found in Venice Beach: leather-clad punks, costumed Greek gods, sun-drenched surfers, Italian princesses and ripped bodybuilders. The result is a homage to classical frescoes depicting symposiums of people apres banquet, full of wine and music, talking politics and poetry.
The photos are set against a backdrop of the Selinunte Archaeological Park, an ancient Greek city founded in the second half of the seventh century BC on the south-western coast of Sicily. As a diehard history buff, Michele was keen to develop a relationship with the park that would highlight its preservation of ancient culture. We spoke to Professor Enrico Caruso, director of the Selinunte Archaeological Park, to find out more.
Can you tell us about Selinunte Archaeological Park?
Selinunte Archaeological park is one of the largest in the Mediterranean, covering more than three hundred hectares, once occupied by the Greek city of Megara Nisea. The city was huge and extremely rich and powerful. This power was manifested in some of the most impressive temple constructions of ancient times. You can trace the evolution of Doric architecture across its temples. Among them is Temple G, one of the greatest of ancient times and its ruins represent one of the most strikingly evocative and imposing ruins.
What would this site have been in the past and what would have happened here?
It was a very busy Greek city with two ports and it must have been an extraordinary place where people of all races lived together. It would have been common to hear Phoenician, Egyptian, Gaelic, Latin, reflecting the city’s position as a meeting place between traders from the various worlds around the Mediterranean. One can imagine how its markets, and squares would have accommodated people of hugely diverse origins, idioms and styles, creating a multicoloured, multi-faceted world.
How did Gucci come into the equation?
Gucci's collaboration with Selinunte Archaeological Park is intended to promote and at the same time contribute to the preservation of this ancient site. The campaign echoes that very cosmopolitan dimension of the ancient city, which, like Gucci, is home to a multifaceted, heterogeneous community. They’ve created a magical place place that enables people’s minds to travel to far off and distant destinations and immerse themselves in timeless reality.
What do you think Alessandro Michele found inspiring about Selinunte?
Undoubtedly the desire to resurrect, through his collections, what was once that highly vivacious area of the Acropolis and the western hill, with its immense, historical sanctuaries that could be re-experienced. The beauty of the site is that it is already a rendezvous between nature, pagan temples and humanity, and the campaign was conceived precisely to recall a classical world that we believe to be lost.
At the heart of the campaign is one of the most powerful, convivial customs of the time: the symposium. The symposium was usually held in special places like the monumental houses of the agora, or in the most important houses of the Selinunte, where wild parties followed banquets and guests would socialise, surrounded by dancers and musicians, accompanied by more solemn moments when guests would speak, recite poems, and engage in lengthy conversations.
In reinterpreting this unique site, once the home of pagan culture, Alessandro Michele imagined evoking a mythical place, suspended in time, where diversity coexists harmoniously. He has created a contemporary fresco of expressive freedom in which antiquity becomes the driving force for the present.
How might Gucci's involvement help the Selinunte Archaeological Park in its mission?
The fact that the Gucci collection, thanks to the imagination of Alessandro Michele, is shown within this historic location, gives the park the attention it deserves, presenting it to a wider, international and young audience, inextricably linking the past with the contemporary. The magnificent scope of the ancient city is easy to perceive, the physicality of its ruins still speak of a lost era. All our own culture starts from there, and we are, like it or not, children of that time. It laid the foundations of knowledge, philosophy, art, geography, mathematics and so many other disciplines that we unconsciously use today, but which nevertheless inform and characterise our existence.