Explore Florence history of arts and trades, a world of beauty, imagination, technology and invention, through one of its great men, Salvatore Ferragamo.
Fairy tales are true
This is how the story begins, a true story, told in the first person, because, as Italo Calvino wrote, “Fairy tales are true.”
Salvatore Ferragamo’s story has all the essential ingredients of a fairy tale. Each chapter of his story and even its happy ending, hold the appeal of an imaginary tale: young Salvatore’s ocean voyage to the United States in search of the secret behind a shoe with the perfect fit; the juxtaposition of Italy with the new, immense and yet familiar country; the opening of a small shop for shoe repairs and custom-made shoes in California, which soon becomes famous; Salvatore’s success in Hollywood; and film, the seventh art, with the power to turn back time and obliterate space, making anything possible, even for a young Italian shoemaker, who finds himself, before he knows it, fitting the most beautiful women in the world – the princesses and sorceresses of the twentieth century – for his custom-made shoes.
Just over twenty years of age, having already found his success and become the brave young hero of our story, Salvatore returns home. Fascinated by the beauty of a city that is new to him, he chooses Florence, with its rich tradition in all the arts, a city that has seen disappointment and ruin, but also rebirth. This magic is infused in a grand Medieval palace every day, where he hosts his famous clients.
A mine of contemporary art and creativity
Museo Salvatore Ferragamo has therefore transformed itself into a mine of contemporary art and creativity, in collaboration with the newly established Fondazione Ferragamo, created specifically to share Ferragamo’s story and instil in young people the principles in which he believed. This is one of the first times that contemporary institutions in Florence explore in such a comprehensive manner the history of this city of arts and trades, a world of beauty, imagination, technology and invention, through one of its great men, Salvatore Ferragamo.
The exhibition draws significantly on the participation of many artists. Messenger by Annette Lemieux has been compared to the myth of Mercury, while Carol Rama’s work is a modern version of Cinderella and Daniel Spoerri’s little shoe filled with bread has been compared to Hop-o’-My-Thumb. Some artists, as art critic Demetrio Paparoni writes in his essay, preferred to create new pieces, taking inspiration from different fairy tales, like Liliana Moro with Donkey Skin, Ann Craven with Cinderella and Puss in Boots, Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz, Timothy Greenfield–Sanders with The Wizard of Oz, and Liu Jianhua with Cinderella, while Jan Švankmajer, renowned for the surreal in animation, has looked to The Red Shoes for inspiration.
An entire section is devoted to the sculptures and drawings of Mimmo Paladino, magical visions that use the world of shoes to tell the story of our amazing shoemaker. For the occasion, Paladino, from Italy’s Campania region, has collaborated on an original animated story with writer and comedian Alessandro Bergonzoni, author of a visionary tale. The exhibition also includes a sculpture by Paladino of a goddess in the world of shoes, created specifically for this exhibition.
We could not, of course, leave out a modern form of storytelling: the comic. Frank Espinosa, the creator of famous comic books, has written a new series based on the life story of Salvatore Ferragamo. Son of a Cuban shoemaker himself, Espinosa could not help but show enthusiasm for this initiative.
As Cristina Campo so poetically writes, “The narrator of a fairy tale is mysterious, but everyone knows that the perfect tale is the story of one man alone, and that only precious experience, chance bestowed on one single individual, can reflect, like an enchantment, the dreams of many.”
Salvatore’s creativity, his experimentation with materials and his thaumaturgical ability to restore health to feet through shoes fall within a continuous creative flow from the mind to the hands passing through the heart, overcoming danger, difficulty and war. Ferragamo’s creative verve springs directly from an ancient awareness, the memory of the past and the invaluable teachings of other cobblers whose fascinating appeal has inspired myriad legends in all the cultures of the world, some of which are well known, while others less so, but in which shoes always have mysterious powers, are makers of a metamorphosis, and embody good or evil spells.
A Ferragamo Fairy Tale: White Shoe
Finally, two short films will complete the project. One, directed by the Italian director Francesco Fei, gives the shoe a truly psychopompal role. The other is an animated short inspired by an episode in the life of young Salvatore Ferragamo. It was written by Mauro Borrelli, the storyboard artist for movies like The Adventures of Baron Munchausen by Terry Gillman, but mainly known for his collaboration with Tim Burton. The art director for this short film is Rick Heinrichs, Oscar-winner for his work on Sleepy Hollow