Fluxus-inspired designs by artist Cinzia Ruggeri influenced Martin Margiela and others. Now she gets her due in London


For her Fall-Winter 1986-1987 “Fluxus” collection, instead of a traditional runway presentation, Cinzia Ruggeri (1942-2019) created a video projection that featured models performing a series of dramatic scenes in her designs – a “non-show” that stands out both for its transgressive nature and for its pioneering approach to technology.

Likewise, from her Slap-glove bag (1983), which combined a glove and a clutch, to her Italy boots (1986), which took the form of its homeland, to dresses inspired by the ancient Mesopotamian architecture of a ziggurat (Tribute to Lévi-Strauss1983) and made from salami string (Abito salam1989), it would be limiting to qualify Ruggeri’s creations as “fashion”.

She was one of the first designers to experiment with electronics, creating interactive, emotion-sensitive clothing – “behavioural clothing”, as Ruggeri called them – covered in LED lights that could be turned on and off, for example, or liquid crystals that would change color depending on body temperature.

Nightdress , fall-winter 1984-1985. Photo: Alessandro Zambianchi. Courtesy of Cinzia Ruggeri Archive, Milan; Galleria Federico Vavassori, Milan.” width=”768″ height=”1024″ srcset=”https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/11/1.Nightgown-768×1024.jpg 768w, https ://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/11/1.Nightgown-225×300.jpg 225w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/11/1. Nightgown-1152×1536.jpg 1152w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/11/1.Nightgown-1536×2048.jpg 1536w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news- upload/2022/11/1.Nightgown-37×50.jpg 37w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/11/1.Nightgown-1440×1920.jpg 1440w, https://news. artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/11/1.Nightgown-scaled.jpg 1920w” sizes=”(max-width: 768px) 100vw, 768px”/>

Cinzia Ruggeri, Nightdress, fall-winter 1984–1985. Photo: Alessandro Zambianchi. Courtesy of Cinzia Ruggeri Archive, Milan; Galleria Federico Vavassori, Milan.

While training at the Accademia di Arti Applicate in her hometown of Milan, and at her father’s local tailoring business (as well as the Carven workshop in Paris), the late artist and designer became involved in the city’s radical 1970s design scene. She went on to forge a career that transcended creative disciplines, reimagining the form and function of everyday objects and cultural motifs with a fluidity that was decades ahead of her time.

“Clothes became art and art became furniture,” said Sarah McCrory, artistic director of London’s Goldsmiths CCA, of Ruggieri’s work. It was, she told Artnet News, “a non-hierarchical approach to different media.”

He was also highly influential, with many of his works being referenced (if not still recognized) and even reproduced over the years. Among them, she bed dress (1986), with its matching cushion headdress, inspired Viktor & Rolf (see: fall-winter 2005-2006) as well as Maison Martin Margiela (see: spring-summer 2015).

However, Ruggieri’s work remains largely unknown. Thus, in collaboration with the Italian MACRO (Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome), which organized an exhibition of his works in the spring, Goldsmiths CCA opened “Cinzia Says…”, the largest retrospective of his work nowadays. The show lasts until February 12, 2023.

Cinzia Ruggeri, <i>Stivali Italia</i> (<em>Italy</em> <em>boots</em>, 1986).  Photo: Rebecca Fanuele.  Courtesy of Cinzia Ruggeri Archive, Milan;  Campoli Presti, London, Paris.” width=”1024″ height=”683″ srcset=”https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/11/2.Stivali-Italia-1024×683.jpg 1024w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/11/2.Stivali-Italia-300×200.jpg 300w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022 /11/2.Stivali-Italia-1536×1025.jpg 1536w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/11/2.Stivali-Italia-2048×1367.jpg 2048w, https://news .artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/11/2.Stivali-Italia-50×33.jpg 50w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/11/2.Stivali- Italy-1920×1281.jpg 1920w” sizes=”(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px”/></p>
<p id=Cinzia Ruggeri, Italy (Italy boots, 1986). Photo: Rebecca Fanuele. Courtesy of Cinzia Ruggeri Archive, Milan; Campoli Presti, London, Paris.

The Slap-glove bag, Italy boots, bed dressand Abito salam are all on display, alongside jewelry (think quail egg earrings), glassware, canapes, sculptures and other items from Ruggeri’s manufacture. “Its playfulness lies in a refusal to be pinned down,” said McCrory, who curated the show in conjunction with MACRO artistic director Luca Lo Pinto. “An object is a sculpture, a piece of furniture or perhaps an accessory.”

The London show emphasizes Ruggeri’s cinematic work, projecting “Fluxus” sequences while reconstructing Rules of the Game ?—a sculptural installation inspired by Jean Renoir’s 1939 film The game’s rules and filled with autobiographical riddles, originally featured months before Ruggeri’s death in her last exhibition, as well as music videos for which she designed clothing.

(The title of the exhibition refers to the lyrics of the song Electroshock the Italian pop group Matia Bazar, with whom she has frequently collaborated; she has also created light and sound installations with Brian Eno.)

An installation view of

An installation view of “Cinzia says…” at the Goldsmiths Center for Contemporary Art, London. Photo: Rob Harris. Courtesy of Goldsmiths CCA.

Although she never had the exposure offered by the age of social media and Virgil Abloh, Ruggeri was the ultimate polymath. “Cinzia set no limits, either in the creation or the curation of her works,” said Lo Pinto in the corresponding book of the exhibition, published by Mousse. “His research was in constant evolution, a perpetually ongoing metamorphosis, like a chameleon in response to the everyday and cultural environment that surrounded him.”

Of his eponymous men’s brand, he notes: “While accepting a color, pink, imposed by convention, she knew how to create a manifesto for a new man, while maintaining her fascination for the possibilities offered by hermaphroditism, and she even suggested that the PCI, the Italian Communist Party, should adopt it.

This was long before gender fluidity became fashionable, of course. “I love freedom and I hate prejudice,” Ruggeri once said. “I just want to express myself and my ideas in a completely free environment and in different fields and make people smile.”

‘Cinzia Says…’ is on view at Goldsmiths CCA, London, until 12 February 2023.

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