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“Avanti!” It’s a word heard frequently among Furla employees, whether at the 90-year-old Italian leather-goods brand’s sleek Milan HQ or its buzzing factories on the outskirts of Florence. Despite heading up a house steeped in history, 74-year-old Giovanna Furlanetto, the president of the company (founded in Bologna by her father, Aldo), eschews nostalgia. For her, the only way is forward.
It’s a mantra that applies to everything from handbag design (this spring saw an inflatable version of the best-selling Metropolis bag) to the art in both Furlanetto’s Bologna villa and her Milan office (where Marina Abramović, Vanessa Beecroft, and Michelangelo Pistoletto hold pride of place). And it defines Furla Series, a program launched this fall in which up-and-coming contemporary artists headline an exhibit at Milan’s Museo del Novecento.
“I felt like giving something back to this country where our roots are based,” says Furlanetto, who also founded the Fondazione Furla nearly a decade ago to recognize young talents (many of them Italian or based in Italy), inspired by the model of Britain’s Turner Prize. The new series, which will run through April 2018, came about after the director of London’s White Cube gallery paid Furlanetto a visit to make the case that public interest in contemporary art has grown dramatically over the last 15 years (Furlanetto, who views White Cube as “probably the most important art gallery in Europe,” took note). This month’s featured talent? Swiss/Greek artist Alexandra Bachzetsis’s unique blend of dance, theater, and visual arts. Her solo performance Private: Wear a Mask When You Talk to Me examines tropes of contemporary femininity through body language, fashion, and even music videos. Quite a thing in a city better known for its centuries-old treasures—but, as Furlanetto insists, “Art doesn’t stand still.” And neither does she.
This article originally appears in the December 2017 issue of ELLE.