In Depth

Giorgio Armani gets emotional about sport

The Italian fashion designer unveils a powerful exhibition of sports photography at the Armani/Silos in Milan

A cocktail reception marked the launch of the Emotions of the Athletic Body exhibition of sports photographs, which opened its doors to the public at Armani/Silos in Milan today.

"I have always been fascinated by the values of sport and loved its rituals. Sport has been a byword for top physical prowess and spectacular athletic performance since ancient times," says designer Giorgio Armani, who has curated a selection of photographs from a wealth of sports images he has commissioned over the years.

"This photographic exhibition aims to highlight sporting endeavour combined with its aesthetic quality – a combination that has always been a part of my design vocabulary and an inspiration for my life philosophy," he says. "Through fashion, I have shown my interpretation of the competitive spirit by dressing sportsmen and women for my advertising campaigns, choosing to work with both those who are among the world's most renowned athletes, and also those who are yet to achieve fame in the arena of sport."

The iconic shots, which date from 1985 to the present, occupy the entire ground floor of Armani/Silos, the exhibition space the designer opened last year that houses a permanent collection of his fashion drawings, as well as an archive of material that is made available to the public and students.

Armani has personally conceived the exhibition design to reflect the space and the subject matter – the images are printed onto giant slabs with a concrete finish to echo the look of the building's walls, while the floors are covered in the red material used for running tracks. A huge life-sized model of an athlete balancing on a globe has pride of place in the central atrium.

"Sport has always been one of my passions," says Armani. "I believe it represents the qualities that improve us as people: dedication, sacrifice, perseverance and willpower. It is beneficial for the body and spirit alike as it shows that there is no success without dedication."

Of course, sportsmen and women are not only wonderful role models; at the peak of physical condition, they also make fine subjects for photography. Over the years, Armani has invited many of the world's greatest athletes to wear his clothes in front of the camera. Emotions of the Athletic Body presents some of the notable results of these collaborations, with images taken from a variety of sources, including Armani advertising campaigns, Emporio Armani magazines and the books Athlete and Facce da Sport, which were both produced by the designer and feature images of sportsmen and women.

Alongside a selection of previously unseen pictures by Kurt Markus and Weston Markus appear works from the likes of Aldo Fallai, Howard Schatz, Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, Serge Guerand, Cliff Watts, Eric Nehr, Vangelis Kyris, Tom Munro, Richard Phibbs and Antoine Passerat. Video installations also feature previously unseen footage.

The exhibition forms the backdrop to the fourth in the Armani/Silos Film Series, which next month showcases a selection of sports films.

With Emotions of the Athletic Body, Armani is once again lending his support to the Special Olympics, the international sports organisation for people with intellectual disabilities, a charity he has supported for some years now.

Emotions of the Athletic Body is open to the public Wednesday to Sunday, 11am-7pm, from 23 September to 27 November at Armani/Silos, Via Bergognone, 40, 20144 Milano, Italy. Entry is €12; armanisilos.com

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