This spring, illycaffè returns to Frieze New York this week in celebration of the 30th year of the illy Art Collection. For the past three decades, the classic espresso cups have been a blank canvas, showcasing the work of world renowned contemporary artists.
The classic cup was created for illy by one of Italy’s foremost designers, Matteo Thun, in 1991. He saw the cup as both an elegant vessel for drinking and a channel of conscious and subconscious information. Thun’s original design, a pure and balanced cup with a thoughtful shape and rounded handle, at once became a medium for artistic enthusiasm and one of the largest collections of obtainable art in the world.
“The illy Art Collection project represents the intellectual stimulus entrusted to the creativity of 125 contemporary artists including world famous talents,” said Carlo Bach, global creative director of illycaffè. “I’m very proud of this 30-year milestone knowing the cup has become a recognizable symbol of beauty and quality that is a source of inspiration and pleasure for illy coffee lovers every day.”
Visitors to Frieze New York at The Shed at Hudson Yards can savor the iconic Italian coffee experience and the beauty of art through sight, taste, and smell. A selection of historic illy Art Collection cups will be on view, including Sandra Chia (1997), David Byrne (2001), Jeff Koons (2001), and Ai Weiwei (2021). Frieze guests will also have the opportunity to explore the newest illy Art Collection inspired by the theme of the current Venice Biennale, “The Milk of Dreams.” The exhibition drew its inspiration from the book of British writer and painter Leonora Carrington, in which she describes a magical world where life is continually re-invented through the prism of imagination, and where all beings have the agency to change, transform, and transcend the self.
Cecilia Alemnai, curator of biennale, chose the six artists, with highly diverse techniques and backgrounds, to create the spring 2022 collection: Cecilia Vicuña, recently awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, Felipe Baeza, Giulia Cenci, Precious Okoyomon, Alexandra Pirici, and Aki Sasamoto.
“Although they all worked on the quintessentially iconic shape of the illy espresso cup, each artist managed to transform this small everyday object into a window into their own imaginary worlds. I like to think that anyone holding one of these cups in their hands will feel the presence of the artist as their imaginary travel companion and develop over time an intimate and personal relationship with each one of these visionary minds,” said Alemani.