On Thursday March 22, IFA Paris’ Shanghai students met with two of Bvlgari’s top executives for an exclusive presentation in preparation for their visit to BVLGARI 125 Years of Italian Magnificence’ at Tadao Ando’s Aurora Museum in Shanghai (99 Fucheng Road, Lujiazui, Pudong District, Shanghai, P. R. China).

Open from February 17-April 17, 2012, the Retrospective exhibition offers a unique historical and decorative perspective of the jewelry label’s 125 (plus) successful years in fashion and luxury.

Eager students awaited their journey, after viewing photographs and documents from the exhibition, which originally launched in Rome in 2009 has since traveled to the Grand Palais in Paris and most recently the National Museum of China in Beijing.   The exhibit’s inauguration originally launched to coincide with the milestone anniversary, and now finds its most dynamic and modern home in Shanghai’s Pudong District.

Spanning an impressive 6,316 square meters over six floors, Ando’s Aurora Museum evokes a cultural union between the Italian jeweler’s celebrated success and the emerging luxury market in China.Situated on the Lujiazui Finance & Trade Zone (recently named a cultural landmark of the Huangpu River), the site’s location perfectly exemplifies this unique union, as do the innovative contemporary designs inside. A seven-room parlor takes visitors on a chronicled journey through the brand’s iconic evolution, spanning the last twelve decades from Sotirio Bulgari’s silver debut in the 19th century up to Bulgari’s current contemporary collection.

300 privileged peers attended the exhibit over a three-day period, chartered on bus by the brand’s own team who kindly accommodated guided tours for groups of 50. Each student received a personal invitation to the event: an opulent barrage of Bvlgari’s jewels photographed on each parchment, enclosed in a sleek black envelope.The museum contains an equally eclectic curated group of jewels.  A total of 600 pieces including items from Bvlgari’s vintage collection and others lent from private collections especially for the event.  Bvlgari’s executives explicated the importance of the current venue in Shanghai, as a cultural coalition between the two nations, and even some of the jewelry captured this.  “I think it is nice that I can see something unexpected inside like the Chinese jewelry,’’ noticed Yeta an Fashion Business student from Hong Kong.

Though it’s not Bvlgari’s first time in China, this particular exhibition features Mainland China’s first ever display of Elizabeth Taylor’s private collection with the Elizabeth Taylor Hall.  Since her tragic passing last year, the iconic starlet’s jewelry collection generated a record-breaking $115,932,000 (or £74,196,480/€89,267,640) at Christie’s landmark auction in December of 2011. Taylor’s love of fine jewelry is well remembered on Bvlgari’s exhibition walls, represented by legendary quotes from her longtime lover (and twice married husband) Richard Burton. “The only Italian Elizabeth understands is BVLGARI,” the actor famously remarked of her distinguished taste, and “I taught Elizabeth about beer, while she taught me about BVLGARI.”

Apart from the focus on Taylor’s exquisite collection, including a 23.44-carat octagonal cut emerald diamond brooch (given to Taylor as an engagement present from Burton), the museum showcases a wide range of the jeweler’s influences over the past century.  From the 1920s and 30s Art Deco inspirations, to the 1940s and 1950s Parisian elegance, to the opulent and iconic 1960s gems that embody the label’s most traditionally identifiable aesthetic today, this particular exhibition showcases an impressive spectrum of Italian glamour. 

Further influences include 1970s pop art and Andy Warhol, as well as luxe Eighties ready-to-wear jewelry worn by Tina Turner and Grace Jones.   In fact, the Bvlgari celebrity following has amassed such an cult image today, that the Retrospective has dedicated an entire section to film, the Dolce Vita years, which incorporates film screenings and stills of iconic Hollywood actresses such as Sophia Loren, Ingrid Bergman, and Anna Magnani adorned in the jewelers famed designs.  Other highlights include the necklace gallery designs, where mirrors reflect the jewelry to appear as if the visitor is wearing the designs.

Bvlgari’s interactive Retrospective and modernly curated collection quickly captured the attention of IFA Paris’ Fashion Business students– not to mention the sheer opulenceof jewels amassed in one space.  “It was beautiful,’’ recalls Mona, a Fashion Business student from Germany of thevast array of precious stones and diamond encrusted confections.

After all, when it comes to quality in luxury goods, Italians seem to know best, and when it comes to jewelry, so did Elizabeth Taylor.  “I adore wearing gems, but not because they are mine,” the starlet famously said, “You can’t possess radiance, you can only admire it.” 125 years later, we still do.

For more information about the BVLGARI Retrospective, please visit www.bulgari.com