“Italy in Hollywood” is the next exhibition to be staged at the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum, located in the 13th-century Palazzo Spini Feroni in Florence, which also houses the brand’s headquarters. The exhibit runs May 24 through March 10.
Curators Giuliana Muscio and Stefania Ricci focused on 1915 to 1927 — the years the namesake founder of the company spent in Santa Barbara, Calif. — from his work with famous directors of the time, such as D.W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille, to the opening of his Hollywood Boot Shop on Hollywood Boulevard. Ferragamo was nicknamed “shoemaker to the stars,” as artists ranging from Mary Pickford, Pola Negri and Charlie Chaplin to Joan Crawford, Lillian Gish and Rudolph Valentino were his regular customers.
Based on Ferragamo’s autobiography, the exhibition explores Italian migration to California and the influence that the country had on the state’s film productions and music.
Maurizio Balò has taken inspiration from the 1920s American film studios to design an exhibition that will make visitors feel as if they are on-set, but “Italy in Hollywood” also highlights the contradictions that emerged from this cohabitation, “showing how Californians were torn between their positive regard for Italian history and tradition and their negative view of certain Italian stereotypes, such as their tendency to be overly instinctive, passionate and sentimental,” said the company.
With photographs, film clips, objects, clothing and artistic depictions, the exhibition will illustrate the relationships and the role played by Italians and Italian art in the birth of silent film, while also exploring this theme in a contemporary light.
Space is also given to American productions filmed in Italy at that time, like “Ben Hur” and “Romola,” starring Lillian Gish and shot on location in Florence at the Rifredi film studios.
The exhibition ends with a room devoted to Ferragamo, in which the museum will faithfully re-create the Hollywood Boot Shop that the he opened in 1923. A video installation will show clips of real life in Hollywood in the ’20s.
“Italy in Hollywood” will succeed the exhibition “1927 the Return to Italy,” which kicked off on May 18 last year and will end its run on May 2. Ferragamo left his hometown of Bonito in the Campania region in Southern Italy for California in 1915, returning to the country in 1927 and setting up his namesake company in Florence, so that exhibit last year marked the 90th anniversary of the company.