Pirelli’s triumphant display of street art to accompany its 2014 annual report reinforces the company’s long links with contemporary culture and provides an apt and unconventional reference to its own cultural touchstones: emotion, art, technology and the roads on which we travel.
Three artists, Marina Zumi from Brazil, the German artist Dome and Russian artist Alexey Luka, were commissioned to produce a piece, one on each side of a large truncated pyramid. Each artist incorporated the Pirelli tyre in their work, which in each case suggested modernity and the future.
Zumi produced a magical dreamscape in which the tyre was a moon shining upon a fictional world, while Luka did a constructivist vista of shapes including the circle of the tyre. Dome’s work combined classical figures in a futuristic setting, the tyre acting as a gesture of love. The work, curated by street art expert Christian Omodeo, was displayed in the giant HangarBicocca before the world’s press.
Pirelli has long been close to exciting and globally recognised artists. Its showcasing of art alongside the release of the Annual Report, which has become a yearly practice, reveals how vitally important the company views creativity. Art is inherent in the Pirelli tradition, both as a language and in its way of viewing the world; the innovation proposed by artists underlines the innovation of the company itself, and the social connection of the art forms that are chosen highlights Pirelli’s connection with people.
This year, Marco Tronchetti Provera, the Chairman and CEO, suggested that street art was a natural choice. Since Pirelli provides the materials that connect the car to the road, why not? “Street art is an expression of place,” he said. “Through the tyre, we can be in all places.”
The futuristic style of the three artists helps narrate the story of Pirelli, where innovation, evolution and creativity have always been key. The artists’ internationalism reinforces a multicultural message of diversity and respect.
Throughout its 140-year old history, Pirelli has always suggested there is more to the tyre than meets the eye: it has commissioned artists to interpret this with brilliance, style and wit many times over. The strength, flexibility, safety and dynamism of the Pirelli tyre has been glowingly depicted by artists who have turned the tyres into a chain (Ezio Bonini), an elephant (Armando Testa), or an eye and an umbrella (Riccardo Manzi). Writers such as Hanif Kureshi, Umberto Eco and William Least Heat-Moon have also considered the importance of the tyre to civilisation. Without the tyre, Pirelli and the artists seem to suggest, global progress would not be what it is today.
In all over 200 artists at the top of their game, from all disciplines and all countries, have worked with Pirelli since the company’s birth when it started by commissioning the top painters of the day to illustrate its new factory buildings. The company’s constant interaction with art and culture creates campaigns that, like the tyres themselves, are forward looking, dynamic, international and durable.
Of course, Italian industry has long been innately connected with high art and sleek, brilliant design. Pirelli’s long ‘P’ graphic was a key feature within Pirelli advertising from as early as 1907, and in the 1930s, Pirelli deliberately positioned itself at the forefront of the latest in contemporary graphic trends.
After the war, the in-house magazine Rivista Pirelli went further, including contributions from intellectuals, internationally famous journalists and photographers, as well as brilliant graphic design from the world’s greatest draughtsmen. The company magazine, now called World, continues this work.
Recently, the campaigns have had a new ambition. Each year has seen the annual financial report released alongside a particular artistic ‘story’, which seeks to pick up on core Pirelli values of technology, innovation and people.
In 2011, the Dutch illustrator Stefan Glerum wittily illustrated pieces from four international authors, while a year later, New Yorker cartoonist Lisa Donnelly created drawings to run alongside the words of ten university students, each of whom was asked to describe their values for the future. Last year’s report was curated by the writer Hanif Kureishi, who worked with artists on the concept of ‘Spinning the Wheel’, each reinventing it through their own discipline.
And so back to this year’s street art. Here, the work is not confined to the images on the giant pyramid – it can also be seen in a series of online videos which show viewers how each piece was created, and why. The videos encourage an understanding of the geographic, cultural and social contexts in which each piece was created: the international reach of the artists helps to underline a number of different viewpoints, and in turn the global nature of Pirelli itself.
Modern communication modes have of course not been overlooked. There is also a major social networking initiative as visitors to HangarBicocca have been encouraged to take photos and share them using the hashtag #TakePart. The most original will be published on the Pirelli social network channels as a bespoke work of art.
Society’s progress and innovation links back once again to the production of an industrial object, with the beauty and style of the classical Italian manner receiving in Pirelli’s eyes a thoroughly modern overhaul.