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Pirelli: Ambassador of Art and Culture in the United States

Art, architecture and design. The bond between Pirelli and the United States can also be seen in the world of culture, from the Pirelli-branded works on display at MoMA through to the commingling of manufacturing and art in partnerships with internationally renowned architects and artists


Bruno Munari, advertisement for Pirelli "Coria" soles, 1953, courtesy of Fondazione Pirelli

The bond that binds Pirelli to the United States is truly special. Not only because the American market is one of the most strategically important for the Italian group today, but also because of the close artistic, design and cultural ties that bind Pirelli to the United States, where, it is said, the Long P logo was actually first created over a century ago. A logo that has been the face of the brand across the world ever since

One need only consider that MoMA (the Museum of Modern Art in New York), one of America’s most famous cultural institutions, includes many works featuring Pirelli in its galleries, such as the advertising poster by Bruno Munari for Pirelli Coria soles or the advertisement by the Italian designer Massimo Vignelli for Pirelli bicycle tires

In 1954, with the rise of what became known as “industrial design”, Bruno Munari’s work became part of MoMA’s permanent collection. Catalogued in the “Architecture and Design” department of MoMA, the poster had been designed by Munari for the display at the Milan Trade Fair of a line of soles “neither in rubber nor in leather, but rather a mixture of the two: light, flexible, adherent, waterproof. And, especially, extremely long-lasting.”

A few years later, in 1959, it was Roberto Menghi’s turn: the Milanese designer, who created a line of plastic containers produced by Pirelli’s Azienda Monza, brought his polyethylene container for liquids to the Packaging Exhibition organized by the museum in New York, where it was certified by MoMA experts as an iconic object of 1950s Italian industrial design.

These are just a few examples. But the link between Pirelli and the art world in the U.S. goes well beyond museum galleries.

In 1988 Pirelli acquired the American company Armstrong, moving its U.S. headquarters to the Armstrong Rubber Company Building, which became known as the Pirelli Tire Building. Designed by the architect Marcel Breuer, the edifice is one of the world’s most important examples of brutalist architecture. In 1999 Pirelli sold off Armstrong and moved its headquarters to Rome, Georgia, where it opened its first factory in America in 2002.

And in more recent years Pirelli has retained its unique blend of manufacturing and art in the United States.

For its 2021 Annual Report – a project entitled “A Beautiful Place – The Art of Manufacturing” – Pirelli worked with the famous American street artist, Lisette Correa, who created a highly colorful mural in the Rome factory. Bright and vivid, the work portrays the most emblematic locations in the city in Georgia, interweaving them with the faces of Pirelli employees, with the shapes of tires and elements linked to the company’s commitment to sustainability. All of this highlights how a factory can indeed be a place of beauty and culture.

And with the aim of promoting, sponsoring and supporting cultural projects also in the United States, in 2013 Pirelli launched the “Pirelli Visiting Professorship in Italian Studies” at the Department of Italian and French Studies at Princeton University. The aim is to help promote the study of Italian culture and history using new media and technologies within the Italian Studies department.

By doing so, Pirelli becomes an ambassador of art and culture in the United States and in the world. The same is true today of the project Imagining the Future. Leonardo da Vinci: In the Mind of an Italian Genius, the first monographic exhibition devoted to the Codex Atlanticus in the USA, with Pirelli as one of the supporting partners.

immagine Pirelli: Ambassador of Art and Culture in the United States

Massimo Vignelli, Aldo Ballo, advertisement for Pirelli bicycle tyres, 1964

immagine Pirelli: Ambassador of Art and Culture in the United States

Pirelli stand at the Milan International Packaging Exhibition (IPACK), 1961, courtesy of Fondazione Pirelli