illy and Contemporary Art

The concept of kalokagathia is at the heart of illy’s deep interest in the arts.  For a company that pursues excellence in every facet, the search for beauty isn’t merely a nice thing to do, or a marketing exercise, but a cornerstone of corporate culture and decision-making.

illy's longstanding interest in the arts takes many forms.  For one, in making important contributions to the creation and exposure of contemporary art, by supporting artists, institutions and international exhibitions.

Kalòs kài agathòs

The Greek philosopher Plato believed that goodness and beauty are inseparable ideals that together represent the concept of perfection.  In the Platonic sphere of ideas, that which is beautiful (Kalòs) is also good (Agatòos) and true.  Their union as kalokagathia represents a constant striving for excellence, in seeking and creating beauty, and in aspiring to harmony.

Illy’s collaborations with contemporary masters include Marina Abramovic, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Jannis Kounellis, Daniel Buren, Louise Bourgeois, Jeff Koons, Robert Rauschenberg, Joseph Kosuth, Jan Fabre, Sandro Chia, and James Rosenquist, creator of the iconic white brushstroke-on-red square illy logo.
In the realm of fine photography, an ongoing collaboration with celebrated humanist photographer Sebastião Salgado is chronicling the origins and peoples of coffee: a multi-nation story of sustainability brought to life through moving black and white images.
illy has developed cross-cultural projects for artistic expression, including illywords magazine and a short story collection entitled illystories. Each installment has combined the artistic creativity of international graphic schools and editorial content with innovative and varied themes. 

Undoubtedly, the illy Art Collection stands as illy’s highest profile, ongoing cultural project.  Transforming that most everyday of objects, the coffee cup, into small works of art, using ceramic cup as medium, the project has for 20 years elevated the simple pleasure of drinking an espresso into an experience that fully engages the senses and the mind.  More than 70 contemporary masters have contributed designs, each adorning the signature, white porcelain illy cup introduced by Mattheo Thun in 1992.  In 2006, the project expanded to another common if wonderfully unexpected medium, illy’s own coffee cans.