The House of Peroni: Into the Blue…
Labyrinthine galleries, a modern take on classic Italian cuisine and the latest from Milan’s wardrobe; with its third residency well under way, Jessica Basi heads to Lincoln’s Inn Fields to scope out ‘the house that 1963 built’…
A young neckerchiefed house guest marches up to Theo, the twinkly-eyed barman manning one of The House’s many Peroni ‘infusion’ rooms. He’s confident. He’s dramatic. He is unmistakably Italian. ‘Fabulous, just fabulous.’ It takes Theo a moment to realise this is not in fact a drinks request, but an entirely unbidden proclamation on the house at large.
Scaling each tier of the four-story fun factory, it seems this is a common reaction. Not quite so forthcoming perhaps, but the faces of wonder, the approving nods, the ill-concealed looks of glee from cool nonchalant urbanites, are in full flow. And with 12 rooms filled with contemporary Italian fashion, film and food, it’s not hard to see why; for any trendsetting Londoner with an ache for inspiration, this place is Toytown…
Message in a bottle… 25 to be exact. Playing with dimensions of the new piccola design, Andrea Morgante has made use of some pretty jazzy 3D modelling software to sculpt 25 Peroni miniatures. Each piece is a little tower of modern design, inspired by Italian architecture through the ages, though Morgante leaves interpretation open to the viewer. And while a Romanesque statue, and mini Leaning Tower of Pisa are among the first to jump out, to British eyes it’s easy to see a London influence too (a Gherkin-like lattice, a helter skelter…) Whatever your impression, it’s a refreshingly simple concept, which hinges on taking a single idea and pushing the boundaries every which way.
It’s perhaps misleading to bracket off something that shapes all the goings on at 64 Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Even the hallways are dripping with fabric art, with crinkled curves of Peroni blue forming sculptor Daniele Papuli’s literal take on ‘new wave’ Italian fashion.
Angela Loveday’s Art That Demands Independence, a tribute to the emancipated housewife figure of the 1960s, signposts a turning point for women all over Europe; in an immersive photographic gallery, femme fatales emblazoned in colour ditch the arduous chores of yesteryear, don stilettoes and swap hoovers for high end fashion.
Next, Francesco Rugi and Silvia Quintanilla, or Carnovsky as they’re known in the upper echelons of Milan’s art circle, capture the many faces of modern Italy with their own installation; layers of red, green and blue prints, one on top of another, form a room of intricately patterned optical-effect wallpaper, each layer illustrating a different story of contemporary Italy.
Raise a Glass to Modernism, an immersive light installation by digital artist Leonardoworx, throws me slightly. An abstract crystal grid is projected across all walls, neon yellow strands on a stark black background. Two guests are embroiled in animated debate:
Guest 1: ‘It’s so clever. This is clearly a comment on technology and human emotion.’
Guest 2: ‘Yes. Or, it’s a picture of a giant bees nest.’
Granted, on first impression I may have felt like I’d been swallowed by my screensaver, but when you actually sit and allow yourself to indulge a little, other interpretations spring to mind. The ever-changing patterns a reflection of frenzied modern life… Percussive piped music the sounds of Peroni bottles clinking… I could be entirely wrong, could be an interpretive genius, who knows. It seems reaction to Leonardoworx can be somewhat polarised, even within one person, but it certainly inspires discussion, and three days on, I find myself still pondering its meaning. So worth a wander over to Lincoln’s Inn Fields I would say.
Maybe it’s the creative bravery on display throughout the House. Maybe it’s temptation of the unknown. Maybe it’s the floor-to-ceiling monochrome stripes addling my senses, but by the time I round on the ‘Black and White Bar’, a Peroni, barley vodka and rhubarb pairing seems the natural choice… It’s unmistakably ‘beery’, and yet this non-lager drinker instantly turns convert. As with so many Peroni concoctions on offer (the Genoese – a heady mix of Peroni, Prosecco, elderflower, basil and peach purée – is another for the hit list), you will read the ingredients with intrigue, look on with trepidation as it’s made, sup tentatively, and six minutes later be standing at the bar empty glass in hand, craving another. They. Are. Awesome.
The food’s pretty special too, with head chef Daniele Miconi (half of creative duo Bottega Wapping), preparing dishes inspired by songs of the sixties. A velvety tuna steak carpaccio is served up with a honey, soy and popcorn crust, while Miconi celebrates strictly Italian flavours with a mozzarella, olive and tomato mussel gratin, a gastronomic interpretation of tracks by Italian pop star Mina, banned in 1963 for her ‘promiscuous’ behaviour and controversial public image. While bold flavours are what really make each dish sing, it’s a novel take on reinventing Italian classics, and as it turns out, I’m rather a fan of this swing-singing muse.
For more information on Peroni Nastro Azzurro’s London residency, visit thehouseofperoni.com