Visual field. 2 – Carpaccio or eating with your eyes
Think about how many less or more recognisable brands or huge and small companies come to mind whose names include the word “art”, either in English or in its Latin version “ars”, as a prefix, suffix or interfix. Some of them can really be associated with artistry, sophistication, sensitivity (including the aesthetic one) or brilliance and acuteness. Most, however, similarly like in the world of actual art, represent an average level at best. And there are also those being as far away from these values as possible.
Naming does not exhaust the topic – the list of products with art as part of their names is just as long, if not even longer. Such verbal games use artists’ names as well. The conclusion is simple: associations with art are found attractive by representatives of almost all professions – bakers, plumbers, accountants, bankers, new technology experts or craftsmen. Among them – by a barkeeper from Venice very sensitive to colour nuances, to whom we will return in a bit. What is it about art that makes people so eager to wield it at every opportunity and put as a label on everything?
Nothing can stimulate the imagination as much as art, and nothing is better than artistic provenance or at least distant kinship to give charm to mundane things. The world is full of self-made geniuses like Janko the Musician, who can easily see art where others need someone to point a finger at it. And there are those – probably the majority – who, like Mr Jourdain, the protagonist of Molière’s The Bourgeois Gentleman, discover with much self-admiration that they have been speaking prose all their life.
Italians do it better
Italians are no doubt virtuosos when it comes to talking about themselves and their heritage – they play with form and let it resound properly. And they often do it better and in a more interesting way than the rest of the world. They do not spread their cultural capital too thin – they know how fragile it is and do not run the risk of exhausting, devaluing or discrediting it. The reason is probably their love for their own culture – sincere and often unconditional, even though they sometimes use it for obvious business purposes.
On the Italian Peninsula a phrase la bella figura is used, which is difficult to translate without losing its meaning and charm. The significance of this term lies in the fact that it expresses the Italian way of perceiving reality and at the same time depicts the Italian culture in general – it contains both sprezzatura, first mentioned as early as in the 16th century by the writer Baldassare Castiglione, and dolce vita. But bella figura is more than just a nonchalant elegance or postcard hedonism. It is not limited to good appearance, taste or refined superficies – it is a philosophy and a lifestyle. It comprises proper manners, presentability, conversational skills, charm, ability to make unconstrained (even though fully thought out and created) impression. All this results from constant communing with beauty and understanding its value, not only in aesthetic, but also in social and intellectual terms. Garments form only a part of this spectacle – a very important one, true, but equally important roles are played by art, cuisine, surroundings, interiors, all aspects of everyday and festive life – from the manner of decorating a table with flowers, through choosing the right shirt collar, all the way to how confection is packed at a pasticceria. So nobody should feel surprised that the name of one of the world’s most famous appetisers or the name of a popular drink were taken from artists.
Carpaccio, Bellini and Titian at Harry’s Bar
Giuseppe Cipriani, the founder of the famous Harry’s Bar, used to name his hors d’oeuvres and drinks after the greatest painters active in Serenissima. Bellini, so widely known nowadays, is a combination of peach juice and bubbled specialty from the Veneto region and from Venice itself – Prosecco. Cipriani was inspired by the shade of pink (which today could be compared to Millennial Pink) which Giovanni Bellini had liked to use in his works – just take a look at the colour of robes on the paintings Madonna and Child Blessing or Madonna and Child with Saints. And an inspiration for the carpaccio dish was deep ruby often seen in the works by Vittore Carpaccio, to name for instance Two Venetian Ladies or The Birth of the Virgin Mary. Bloody shades of red had counted among the painter’s favourite, so it comes as no surprise that they reminded Cipriani of the colour of raw beef. The dish itself he invented for Amalia Nani Mocenigo, who was recommended to eat raw meat due to her anemia. Slices of beef thin as parchment and served with a bit of sauce and arugula seemed the most subtle form in which rawness can be accepted. Today, carpaccio is known all other the world, also in many other versions with sirloin replaced by beet or tuna.
The bar itself has become legendary. It owes its fame probably to a great extent to the upper crest visiting it eagerly, to start with Peggy Guggenheim, Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, Barbara Hutton or Arturo Toscanini. And we cannot omit Ernest Hemingway himself, a very frequent guest at Harry’s. The American took a particular liking to northern Italy, and visiting Venice he usually stayed at The Gritti Palace hotel nearby, lavishly drinking Valpolicella which he used to describe as “warm like a friend’s house”. Of course, the world knows more such examples, not only from Italy. There are lots of dishes or food products named to honour artists (or take advantage of their fame). Let’s just mention Mozartkugeln chocolates, Caruso sauce, Bizet cake or Tournedos Rossini steak.
A Question of Taste
Art branding has existed for a long time, although in various forms, appropriate to the current times and set in a specific context. Much like in other areas, success depends on others’ liking, but what counts most are taste, talent and fresh ingredients. Nowadays, when cooking has become an important aspect of our lifestyle and awareness about healthy and valuable nutrition is steadily growing, brands’ interest in cuisine and culinary art can be observed as well. This is so also because experience treated as a product or service is becoming a highly desirable commodity. Besides, cuisine is clearly one of the key elements of culture. And brands tend to build increasingly complementary and multidimensional worlds to more fully seduce all senses of the audience and retain them longer. That is why we can meet for dinner at Gucci’s, Dior’s or Chanel’s, finally eat breakfast at Tiffany’s, have a coffee at Ralph Lauren’s or Louis Vuitton’s, drop by for a drink at Bvlgari’s, and at home – delight in Fendi pasta in the shape of the company signet ring (yes, the one designed by Karl Lagerfeld).
What is more, cafés, invented as socialising spaces, are used by brands to build communities. It can be well seen in the case of Rapha, a manufacturer of cycling products, or Maison Kitsuné which has music background. A few years ago, Prada bought the famous Milanese confectionery Marchesi, and at the Lombard branch of its Fondazione the company runs Bar Luce the interior of which was designed by Wes Anderson. And those hungry for cornetto and espresso who visit the capital of Italian fashion, design and finance can easily get to another Marchesi confectionery as well – leaving Prada Osservatorio located in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, all they need to do is take the lift and get off on the right floor. For now, the present situation renders such hedonistic escapades impossible or at least difficult, but it will certainly not result in people abandoning them. Quite the contrary – once the pandemic situation is under control, everyone will be even more hungry for real experience.
Bar Luce, Fondazione Prada, Milan
, source: https://www.unprogetto.com/registi-che-fanno-interior-wes-anderson-e-il-bar-luce/
Gucci Osteria, Beverly Hills, USA, source: https://www.wallpaper.com/travel/usa/beverly-hills/restaurants/osteria-gucci-da-massimo-bottura#0_pic_1;
Kitsuné Cafe, Seul, South Korea, source: https://hypebeast.com/2018/10/maison-kitsune-seoul-flagship-korean-capsule
Experience design is today an almost artistic activity in the world of marketing communication. Joy invoked by an excellent wine or dinner may offer experience as profound as communing with art. And anyway, relationships between food and art are strong and old, older even than the Speyer wine bottle.
Raising a glass of Veuve Clicquot champagne poured from a bottle from the edition prepared based on the design by for instance Yayoi Kusama or of cognac from bottles designed by Felipe Pantone, JonOne or KAWS will probably not increase our cognitive skills in the field of art, but can provide us with a bit more diversified experience. Such details gain particular meaning in the era of mass-produced luxury.
Veuve Clicquot x Yayoi Kusama, „My Heart That Blooms in The Darkness of The Night”, source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/katedingwall/2020/09/11/veuve-clicquot-taps-yayoi-kusama-for-limited-edition-champagne/ ;
E. Hemingway and G. Ciprani at Harry’s bar, 1950’s, source: https://stevenewmanwriter.medium.com/a-history-of-harrys-bar-venice-hemingway-s-favourite-watering-hole-ee02929e2d32