Artists Working with Illycaffe

Illycaffè, the Italian coffee roasting company that specializes in the production of espresso and espresso makers, has been making contributions toward the creation and exhibition of contemporary art, by supporting artists, institutions and international exhibitions, for over 25 years.


Sponsor in 2011 for the Venice Biennial, “Ascension”, a site specific installation by Anish Kapoor, marked by a whirling white smoke inside the Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore.




One of their most interesting activities has been to transform an everyday object — the coffee cup  — into a small work of art, using ceramic cups as the medium.  For 25 years, this project has elevated the simple pleasure of drinking an espresso into an experience which involves the senses and the mind.

Over 100 artists have contributed designs, each adorning the white porcelain illy cup introduced by Mattheo Thun in 1992.   In 2006, the project expanded to another common,  if  unexpected medium —  illy’s own coffee cans.

The beginning of the Illy Art Collection was in 1992 when Francesco Illy asked a group of artists to express their creativity and over the years, over 100 artists — from well established artists to young talents — have been commissioned to decorate a set of six cups.

25 years later, leading names in contemporary art continue to create designs,  Some of the artists that Illy has worked with include Yoko Ono,  Marina Abramovic, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Jannis Kounellis, Daniel Buren, Louise Bourgeois, Jeff Koons, Robert Rauschenberg, Joseph Kosuth, Jan Fabre, Sandro Chia, and James Rosenquist, who created the iconic white brushstroke-on-red square illy logo.


One of the latest commissions is the set by Yoko Ono. “Mended Cups” which consists of six cups that bear gold, shattered and mended crack lines. These are accompanied by six individual saucers with Yoko Ono’s handwriting, naming six catastrophic events that have directly affected her life, and others only indirectly; but have brought death to millions of people.

Each saucer states the date and location of the event and concludes with the words … mended in 2015. The seventh cup in the collection, the “Umbroken Cup”, is untouched with no cracked or mended lines, reflecting peace and hope with Ono’s handwritten words on the saucer, “This cup will never be broken as it will be under your protection. “



2 Yoko Ono cups of 2015, and Sandro Chia cup from 1997

Emilio Pucci Fashion House Collaboration


Another one of the recent commissions was the collaboration with the Florentine fashion house, Emilio Pucci.  The new project represented the company’s first partnership with a fashion label. Florence, Rome, Milan, New York, London and Paris: Emilio Pucci’s signature patterns have now been applied to a special collection of decorated coffee cups, featuring 6 “Cities of the World” prints, exclusive, hand drawn prints depicting scenes from global metropolises, including one designed by the Marquis Emilio Pucci in 1957.

The story of Emilio Pucci’s “Cities of the World” prints began in 1957 when the Emilio Pucci penned his Battistero illustration, a drawing showing Florence’s Piazza Santa Maria del Fiore shot with bright flashes of vibrant lemon yellow tangerine orange, “Emilio” pink and deep fuchsia.  Originally produced for his chic silk scarves, the print was conceived as a portable postcard; a love letter to the Marquise’s hometown and a souvenir his clients could carry and treasure when they returned home. Roughly sketched and brightly colored, the original artwork embodies Pucci’s signature, well-known style and became the blue print for the other cities which were subsequently hand-drawn by the atelier of the Maison. 


Each print replicates the architecture, landscape and charming details of its tribute city in a stylized way. Rome’s historic Spanish Steps and Coliseum, Paris’ famed Eiffel Tower, Milan’s soaring Duomo, London’s whizzing city streets and New York’s sky scrapers, are all interpreted in a uniquely Pucci way.  Each city has been assigned two original color schematics from the Emilio Pucci palette, which are divided between the espresso and cappuccino cups, as well as the brightly patterned saucers.



two Emilio Pucci cups, 2016, and one Maurizio Galinberti cup


Cups by Robert Rauschenberg, 1998 and James Rosenquist, 1996


Other Art Projects:

At the Magazzini del Sale in Venice, Robert Wilson has designed an installation: “the dish ran away with the spoon everything you can think of is true”. The installation was inspired by the collections of coffee cups, in which images, lights and sounds mark a pathway which winds its way through various landscapes inhabited by objects and sculptures. The illy Art Collection cups live in this theatre-like landscape which Robert Wilson has composed through contrast and juxtaposition, creating a rhythm of audiovisual images and experiences.

In 1997 and in the editions of 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013 illycaffe has been partner in Italy of the Venice Biennial of Visual Arts, where it sponsored projects and built spots to take a break and to put the visual suggestions in order. Some of these projects included:

In 1997 the sculpture “Valentine Perfume” at Venice Biennal

In 1997 the sculpture “Valentine Perfume”, an aluminium statue of seven meters, positioned at the entrance of the Biennial, and made by Claes Oldenburg, and his wife Coosje van Bruggen.

In 2007, illymind evolved into Push Button House, a work of art designed by the American artist and architect Adam Kalkin: a compact container that changed by simply pressing a button and opened as a flower in a viable and perfectly furnished space.

In 2011, “Ascension”, a site specific installation of Anish Kapoor, marked by a whirling white smoke inside the Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore.

Some of  the other art initiatives have included:

Opening temporary spaces – the Galleria illy — that offer visitors a program of art, literature, and science; events with international names in design and haute cuisine. Galleria illy has been already opened in New York, Milan, Trieste, Berlin, Istanbul, London and Beijing

Launched in 2007, the illy SustainArt project offers artists of the emerging countries chances to be more visible. The core of the project is the Website, a showcase open to the contemporary art world, which acts as a reference point, a meeting place, a cultural exchange occasion for artists and curators coming from emerging countries. In this place they have the chance to show their works to major figures in a global contemporary art panorama: Meskerem Assegued, Carlo Bach, Carlos Basualdo, Suman Gopinath, Gerardo Mosquera, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Mariangela Mendez Prencke, and Angela Vettese.

The IllySustainArt Prize goes in this same direction: the company awards it to an artist and a curator registered at the Website and to emerging talents selected on the occasion of significant international events, among which Arco Madrid, SP-Arte Sao Paulo, and Art Rotterdam.

Salgado: “Scent of a Dream” — A Journey in the Coffee World

In photography, Illy has maintained an ongoing collaboration with the well-known photographer Sebastião Salgado, who was commissioned to chronicle the origins and people in the world of coffee — bringing to life through black and white images, the multi-nation story of sustainability.

Started in 2002, when Sebastião Salgado and illy met, Scent of a dream is a photographic journey through coffee growing countries. The project is based on a shared common value: sustainable development.

The series, “Scent of a Dream”, was constructed, shot by shot, in ten of the countries from which illy buys coffee: Brazil, India, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Colombia, China, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Tanzania. The black and white photographs celebrate the daily lives of those on the plantations, and the beauty of the regionsr from which the coffee bean is grown and harvested.

With the collaboration of Bevilacqua La Masa Foundation “Scent of a Dream” was exhibited at the Foundation’s gallery in Piazza San Marco in Venice. The exhibition consisted of 75 images from the photographic journey. The exhibition had an extensive tour in 2015 that included the Coffee Cluster curated by illy inside Expo 2015 Milan.

A book was published in conjunction with the exhibition, Scent of a Dream, with images selected by Lélia Wanick Salgado, with texts by Andrea Illy, Luis Sepulveda, Angela Vettese and Sebastião Salgado.

Salgado was born in 1944 in Minas Gerais, one of Brazil’s major coffee growing regions, he found work as an economist for the International Coffee Organization. But photography went from avocation to calling, and in 1973, Salgado started a career in images by documenting the lives of poor, migrant workers in Latin America and Africa.

Additional information about Illy’s art programs can be found at



Results of the Research – 100 Best Corporate Art Programs


For the research for our book, Celebration of Corporate Art Programmes Worldwide,  my co-author Peter Harris, and I researched nearly 400 corporations, and  100 art programs were selected  that demonstrate the highest standards in for acquiring, caring for, and exhibiting their artworks

These following charts summarize some of the findings for those 100 programs.

The 10 Best Corporate Art Foundations- Part I

One of the most effective ways to assure the future and safeguard a corporate-owned art collection from being sold, has been to establish a foundation or trust. This provides a solid legal structure and also makes it easier to exhibit the collection publicly. The formation of foundations is now a trend, particularly in Europe and Asia, and more companies are looking into this as a future strategy.

Japan has a deep tradition of corporate foundations, such as the Bridgestone Museum of Art, which is now known as the Ishibashi Museum. Korea has seen the development of a surprising number of corporate foundations, most created since the 1990s. Some of the most important for visual-arts programmes include the Daelim Culture Foundation (1996), the Daeyu Cultural Foundation (1992), and Kumho Asiana (1977), which has the Kumho Museum of Art and Kumho Art Studio.  Korea’s Samsung Corporation’s Cultural Foundation oversees several museums that house only a fraction of its approximately 25,000 artworks.

Many of the Spanish corporate art collections operate in this manner, as do Siemens Stiftung in Germany, and the AKZONobel Art Foundation in the Netherlands.

This is our pick of the 10 best around the world.

Hoam_HeewonSamsung:  The Ho Am Art Museum and Heewon

Samsung – Korea

Certainly one of the most impressive corporate foundations in the world, Samsung’s dynamic art programme has created the Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art; the Ho-Am Art Museum; and PLATEAU; as well as many other cultural and artistic activities, and academic research. The mission of the Samsung Foundation of Culture, established in 1965, is to preserve and promote the achievements of traditional Korean arts, while supporting emerging and established artists in all media and enriching the country’s cultural landscape through the finest art exhibitions, performances, cinema and literature.     Hoam_Wooden FurnitureThe Leeum opened in 2004 and is the only art institution in Korea where visitors can view works of art that range from Korean traditional art to international contemporary art – all in one location. It consists of two buildings, Museum I and Museum 2, designed by Mario Botta and Jean Nouvel, along with the innovative Samsung Child Education and Culture Center designed by Rem Koolhaas.   The diversified educational programs include lectures, family workshops, teachers’ programs and tours.

The Ho Am Art Museum opened in 1982, and is the permanent home for traditional Korean works of art collected over about three decades. The museum’s annexe, Heewon, opened in 1997 and is a traditional Korean garden that allows visitors to enjoy Korean aesthetics through not only artworks but traditional Korean landscaping as well.

Formerly known as the Rodin Gallery, the PLATEAU, was inaugurated in 1999, presenting the permanent installation of Auguste Rodin’s monumental masterpiece The Gates of Hell. Since then it has become one of the central institutions in the Korean contemporary art scene. Its new name, PLATEAU, provides an experimental ground where art historical achievements of the past and future coincide and become reinterpreted with new perspectives.

 Banamex – Mexico

As the oldest private bank in Mexico, Banamex has been important in disseminating and protecting the artistic heritage of Mexico, and its art collection is considered to be part of the country’s national heritage.

Banamex is part of the worldwide Citibank financial network, but the art collection is administered by the Fomento Cultural Banamex, a non-profit affiliate that was founded in 1971 to purchase and exhibit art, and also promote the cultural development of Mexico, from its base in the Palace Iturbide in Mexico City.

Palacio de Cultura Banamex – Palacio de Iturbide. Photograph: Fomento Cultural Banamex, AC Mexico

IFPart of the bank’s social commitment has been to preserve several historically important colonial buildings – what are called Casas de Cultura Banamex – such as the Palace of Iturbide (house of the counts of San Mateo and Valparaíso), the Casa del Diezmo in Morelia, the palace of the count of the Suchil Valley in Durango, the Casa de Montejo in Mérida, and the home of the Majorat of Cane in San Miguel de Allende.

The Palace of Iturbide houses temporary exhibitions and a permanent museum and also has a library (6,060 titles and 29, 521 image records), educational workshops, consultation, and video and multimedia rooms.

The Banamex historical collection includes more than 4,000 works of Mexican art that range from the colonial period to the present. The diverse collection includes all traditional media as well as colonial buildings, furniture, textiles and pre- Hispanic objects. Some of the artists represented include Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Rufino Tamayo, Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco. tn_GMIPERME23-IMG7107_4

The bank has also concentrated efforts in the rescue of Mexico’s folk art through programs that encourage and strengthen practices. The folk art collection includes work by 2,500 Mexican artisans from each of the Mexico’s 31 states, with 21 indigenous cultures represented.

The Program in Support of Folk Art was founded in 1996 to identify and provide support for accomplished artisans and to collect, preserve and promote folk art. It includes sculpture, furniture, ceramics, weaving, toys, religious objects, glassware, beadwork and leatherwork. Banamex has also focused on the rescue of cultural heritage, often linked to community development and promoting tourism in traditional cities and small communities of Mexico. These activities focus on the recovery of the original design, and on urban improvement – comprising the remodelling of facades, lighting, underground wiring and signage – as well as educational programmes and outreach.

UBS – Switzerland

UBS has a rich history of actively collecting art and supporting art activities around the world, focusing on promotion, collection and educational activities in contemporary art. The bank’s impressive art collection of over 35,000 objects includes thousands of contemporary works by some of the newest emerging talents as well as some of the most important artists of the last 50 years.

The present UBS Art Collection is the result of the merger of several different and important corporate art collections, each with an important history of its own:  Union Bank of Switzerland, Swiss Bank Corporation, Paine Webber and SG Warburg.

The comprehensive art program includes a global partnership with the Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation, launched in April 2012, and long-standing commitments to the international art fairs Art Basel, Art Basel Miami Beach and Art Basel Hong Kong.


Max Bill, Pavilion Sculpture, 1983, Black Forest granite, 63 blocks, 20m x 5m x 4m Zurich, Bahnhofstrasse 45/Pelikanstrasse Commissioned by UBS and donated to the city of Zurich.

The UBS Arts Forum enhances the experience of contemporary art with internationally recognized authorities from all fields of the contemporary art scene, such as artists, institutions and markets. Through its Culture Foundation, UBS promotes the advancement of cultural activities and artistic creativity, communication and exchange between artists and society, and the diversity of cultural expression. The Foundation supports Swiss artists, foreign artists with permanent residence in Switzerland, cultural projects by professionals that focus on Switzerland as well as the acquisition of significant works by art or cultural-historical museums in Switzerland.

The information in the article has been excerpted from our new book on the 100 best corporate art programs around the world.  Further information and ordering is available at

Further information on over 700 corporate art programs are available in our International Directory of Corporate Art Collections.  Further information and ordering is available at    .