If coffee is experienced with all five senses, the very objects that hold coffee should please the eye. Twenty years ago, illy considered how an everyday object like a coffee cup could be rethought – elevated, in fact, to meld the sensory pleasures of coffee and art.
This insight gave rise to the illy Art Collection: small works of art, taking ceramic cup as medium, transforming the simple pleasure of drinking an espresso into an experience that fully engages the senses and the mind.
Every illy Art Collection project starts with the same, elegant canvas: the iconic, white illy espresso cup introduced by renowned architect and designer Matteo Thun in 1992. Taking cup as muse, more than 100 of the world’s foremost artists have created collections since -no two ever alike, and each a revelation. Jeff Koons, James Rosenquist, Julian Schnabel, Robert Rauschenberg, Michelangelo Pistoletto and Marina Abramovic are just some of the contemporary masters who have contributed to the collection, along with emerging talent from around the globe.
The illy Art Collection is available in sets of cups and companion saucers for espresso and cappuccino. Some special editions contain a single limited edition companion cup. In 2006, illy broadened the project to include its iconic, 250-gram can as medium.
Borne of cup, can or both, relationships among illy and contributing artists grow and strengthen over time, extending to other media and locales, like museums, exhibitions, books and events. Yet more proof of the special bond shared by coffee and culture.
2017 marked the 25th anniversary of the project. illy celebrated this milestone with a special collection, "THE DISH RAN AWAY WITH THE SPOON everything you can think of is true" created by the artist Robert Wilson and debuted during an installation at the Magazzini del Sale in Venice. The exhibition drew inspiration from the power of dreams where everything becomes possible just like the white porcelain surface of the cups, entrusted to the hands of an artist to create the illy Art Collection.