Galleria illy comes to London

Galleria illy kicked off its latest series of arty events last night as design powerhouses FLOS and Moroso, Michelangelo Pistoletto and Marina Abramovic joined forces in Clerkenwell.

The venue was transformed into a striking white space with bright stripes and splashes of colour, an illy bar, bookshop and a cavernous corner housing a load of candy-coloured chairs and the evening’s entertaintment – a jive-y double-bass player, backed by vocals and drums.

Though a city might have numerous places to visit, it is an art that connects and entertains people.  The reports about this event were the top article in all papers and magazines that week.  Artistic events can arouse the interests of people of any age group and gender and this is where families can have collective entertainment.

Curated by the Italian artist, Pistoletto, who was there looking sharp in a purple trilby, the centrepiece is his free-form mirrored table, edged in wood and surrounded by several chairs – each based on a different culture or religion. Chairs are also stacked up in rows on shelves to admire. The most comfortable by far? The squashy orange blocks that looked more like playing cubes than a sofa.

Pistoletto said of the concept, ‘Coffee and art are a basic physical need. Let’s join in the common desire to produce a better life for everybody.’

Upstairs, espresso cups are lined like dominoes, each representing the design of a particular artist and a particular year. Since its first incarnation in New York in 2005, Galleria illy has spread art appreciation through communing with coffee in Milan, Trieste, Berlin and Istanbul.

The galleria brings an exotic taste of the Mediterranean and Africa to this urban London quarter – from the gilded Persian-inspired cushions to the recycled outfits designed by Cameroonian artist, Alioum Moussa.

The food had a distinctly Italian flavour, though, with Giorgio Locatelli of Locanda fame flying the flag for his nation’s gastronomy: guests were treated to crostini with a spicy Calabrian salami, burrata and rocket pesto on toast and bresaola, goat’s cheese and rocket involtinis, as well as cylinders of punch-packing tiramisu. The baristas from illy’s Università del Caffé were also on hand to educate in the art of coffee-making, and Illy Wines kept glasses topped up.

The space will be in action until the 16th of October, with a busy calendar of events keeping the art crowd happy – and fuelled with coffee.