The latest edition of the illy Art Collection celebrates the great intellectual, painter and art critic Gillo Dorfles, one of the most eclectic figures in the world of Italian art and culture. For the illy Art Collection signed by Dorfles, the artist has taken inspiration from some of his works from the end of the 1930s, made with egg tempera: a technique favoured by the great masters of the fifteenth century.

illy has created a special cup, designed by the artist, to celebrate the exhibition Gillo Dorfles. Essere nel tempo at MACRO in Rome from the 26 November 2015.


Gillo Dorfles is a philosopher, an artist and a tireless explorer of taste, fashion and techniques. He is an art critic, intellectual, sociologist of the arts, semiologist and scholar of aesthetics. He has been one of the keenest observers of the development of art and aesthetics since the 1940s. Since the 1930s Gillo Dorfles has pursued his own career as an artist alongside his academic career as a professor of aesthetics. He has written numerous essays on the latest developments in the arts and social behaviour.
Gillo Dorfles was born in 1910 in the mittel-European city of Trieste. In 1928 he enrolled at University in Milan and graduated in Medicine in 1934, with a specialization in Psychiatry. However, he left medicine behind and turned to the study of aesthetics and art criticism, writing some of the most influential texts on contemporary art. From the 1960s onward he taught as a lecturer and then as a professor of Aesthetics at the Universities of Milan, Trieste and Cagliari.

His most important essays
The years of teaching and the writing activity

In the years of teaching (from 1958 to the 1980s), Dorfles also investigates many aspects of contemporary culture: examining art and architecture, design and fashion, taste and social behaviour.
In works such as Il divenire delle arti (1959) or Le oscillazioni del gusto (1970), he explores the complexity of the 20th century art, aiming to eliminate many preconceptions towards it.
In 1965, he published the highly successful Nuovi riti, nuovi miti, a socio-anthropological analysis of modern civilization, from art to business and science, from religion to the myths of adolescence.
Of his many works, one of the most celebrated is Kitsch. The World of Bad Taste. Published in 1968, this is an analysis of the aesthetic and social phenomenon of kitsch.
On Elogio della disarmonia (1986), Dorfles emphasizes the importance of going back to the mythical thinking, the irrational, in order to be able to fight against conformism; while the notes collected on Horror Pleni: la (in)civiltà del rumore (2008) are a dramatic warning on the nowadays phenomenon of over communication turning into absence of real communication.

Gillo Dorfles’ painting
Gillo Dorfles started painting as a young man. The works from this period used egg tempera, a technique favoured by the great masters of the fifteenth century, and were influenced by surrealism and metaphysical art.

Gillo Dorfles and MAC (Movement for Concrete Art) - 1948 -1958
In 1948 Gillo Dorfles founded the Movimento per l’Arte Concreta (Movement for Concrete Art) in Milan together with Bruno Munari, Atanasio Soldati and Gianni Monnet.
MAC promoted a non-figurative art, a new form of abstract art where the artist draws on forms, lines and colours from his own imagination, with no references taken from nature or real world.
The synthesis of arts is a central theme for MAC. Its activity is characterized by an interdisciplinarity among all areas of modern life, merging together painting, sculpture, design, architecture and graphic design.

In the late 1950s Gillo Dorfles moved away from MAC and formed a very personal artistic language. However, he chose to keep his art completely private during the thirty years when he was teaching

applied art by Gillo Dorfles
Gillo Dorfles also tackled forms of applied art in the fields of design, architecture and fashion. He created ceramics, mosaics and prepared designs for carpets and fabrics.