When you visit glorious Italy, at some point a 1489 museum building doesn’t even seem that ancient because you’ve just seen palaces and necropolises dating back to BC. However, you get really surprised when you see a modern and fun museum shop with exclusive design objects in a 15th century Palazzo, because for now most Italian museums have only boring touristy souvenirs to offer. When we bumped into a unique AgoraZ museum shop in Palazzo Strozzi, Florence – the birthplace of the Renaissance – we had a chat with Sandra Rosi, public relations officer and store manager about their objects, designers and fun wine accessories.
It is so rare to see a design museum shop in Italy! How did Palazzo Strozzi begin the collaboration with Mandragora and when was AgoraZ shop opened?
The collaboration started with the “Women in Power: Caterina and Maria de’ Medici. The Return to Florence of Two Queens of France” exhibition, for which we published the catalogue and managed the bookshop. Soon Mandragora won the contract to develop a bookshop in the courtyard and AgoraZ was opened in 2009. Shop’s designer is Claudio Nardi, our architect. He also designed Mandragora’s headquarters in via Capo di Mondo. We have a close relationship with him and we always try to find solutions together.
What makes AgoraZ shop different from other museum shops?
Since Palazzo Strozzi is not a museum and does not own a permanent collection, AgoraZ’s offer is diverse: it follows the exhibitions, there have been objects specifically created for this shop. We also hold events: photographers, painters, illustrators, workshops, and book presentations. The shop collection is renewed twice a year and it tracks a common thread linked to the city, design trends and the artisanship that is characteristic of Italy.
There are many jewelry objects, how do you look for new names and how do you choose them?
There is a wide range of jewelry because it is a successful product; the choice is based on quality, variety and designers’ creativity. Regarding the search for new names – we are both looking online and in the real world, going to fairs and thru seeing successful collaborations; sometimes artists themselves come to us with spontaneous proposals.
Are there any success stories when AgoraZ shop gave a start to an emerging talent?
We cannot say that our numbers are big enough to proclaim the success of any of them but the relationship that usually develops is characterized by a reciprocal growth and encouragement and it makes us extremely proud.
Does AgoraZ work with Palazzo Strozzi curators, or you are rather autonomous?
We are autonomous in our decisions but we are always more than open towards suggestions and proposals from which our offer could benefit.
We couldn’t pass by the wine accessories, can you say a few words about that collection?
Culture is everything that a country and a territory express and the convivial aspect perfectly exemplifies this style; wine and cuisine are in our blood and we want to communicate and share these aspects of our heritage with our visitors, in the hope of sharing with them the many pleasures of life.
What is your personal favorite object of the museum shop?
I love jewelry, especially when the design makes it precious, and creativity enriches materials that would otherwise be ordinary or poor.
Museeum also loves when art is created of the most unexpected items, instruments and gizmos, just look at the purses embellished by can taps! And we have so much respect for artists, who undertake a social mission – look at the pretty earrings by Marina and Susanna Sent, through buying their works you sponsor a restoration project in Venice! Maybe its just a few euros, but it makes the €20 souvenir much more precious. So don’t give up on Italian museum shops! There are unique ones like AgoraZ and we hope there are many more to come!