Here at Faena we like to say that the artist Juan Gatti is our Michelangelo. It’s a reach, but only just.
Gatti, who was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1950, has lent his seductively ornate style to Faena Hotel Miami Beach, having created everything from the mosaic tiles in the swimming pool to the wallpaper in Tierra Santa spa and the eight awe-inspiring murals in the Cathedral hall that were inspired by Alan Faena’s life and the journey on which we all travel.
“The term genius is overused, but there is no other word to describe Juan. The visual universe that he has created for us is spectacular. His influence is everywhere at Faena Hotel.”
– Alan Faena
Over the years, Gattti has worked as an illustrator for different advertising agencies and magazines, and illustrated record covers. After a brief time in New York, where he worked as a designer, he moved to Madrid in 1979. Gatti was an art director for CBS Records in the 1980s and designed the covers for the first records by Mecano, Miguel Bosé and Alaska. Throughout the countercultural movement in Madrid, he worked in graphic design and collaborated with the greatest minds in fashion and culture before decamping to Milan, where he worked as the art director of Italian Vogue from 1989 to 1990. Importantly, Gatti, who was bestowed with Spain’s National Design Award in 2004 and the Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts in 2009, has designed the graphic art for most of Pedro Almodóvar’s films.
Take that, Michelangelo.
The eight murals in the Cathedral illuminate the way to Futopia, a mystical continent of utopic communities and perfect worlds.
Hidden in one of the murals is a Latin phrase rich in symbolic and allegorical resonances: ET IN ARCADIA EGO. “And I am in Arcadia” or “I also am in Arcadia.”The mysterious phrase points back to the utopian land that Classical minds imaginarily placed in the Greek region of Arcadia—an earthly paradise that, over the centuries, has enthralled the mightiest of imaginations, from Virgil to Dante and Nietzsche.Futopia is an Arcadia for the days to come. Gatti’s masterful paintings ostensibly place it somewhere in the lush jungles of the Americas, where the ships and the relics of long-lost conquistadors evoke their quests for Eldorado and the fountain of youth. But the murals are also loaded with a profusion of symbols that mark the way to Futopia—above anything else—as a path for the spirit.
The eight landmarks that compose this fertile visual universe were inspired by Alan Faena’s life and the journey on which we all travel. The path of the spiritual warrior starts within himself, with the conquest of inward virtues such as those depicted in GNOSIS, ILLUMINATIO, PAX and POTERE, so that he may then exert a positive influence on the rest of the world through outward virtues like the ones illustrated in SCIENTIA, REVELATIO, AMOR and ENERGOS.
The Ancient Greek adjective, meaning to be engaged “in work,” embodied the belief that the true measure of power could be realized only through action. The image of the bee has been used to illustrate the organized nature of power. When the poet Virgil tried to set a model for his compatriots, he pointed towards Phoenicians saying of them: “Such is their toil, and such their busy pains/As exercise the bees in flow’ry plains.”
For most Latin speakers, “truth” was a species of “revelation.” And among Romans, deep thinking and profound knowledge were generally associated with mystical inspiration. By extension, throughout Classical art and thought, the celestial sphere and Phoebus—the sun and the god of oracles—are traditionally associated with the miraculous and supernatural nature of true insight and wisdom.
Widely used in ancient times to describe the virtues of being strong and able-bodied.
After the teachings of Plato, winged horses came to represent such powerful impulses, and the armillary sphere (the instrument used by ancient astronomers to determine celestial position) emerged as a symbol of the intellectual direction that sheer force always requires.
Among Romans, the masculine noun “amor” stood for what we would now call “love” and “fervor.” Yet Latin speakers did not think of love as an idle passion felt in the presence of virtue. For them, love was a powerful force flowing naturally from the hearts of the virtuous to those around them. In classical iconography, springs and fountains were therefore usually associated with this flow of love.
Usually translated from Latin as “enlightenment” rather than the more literal “illumination,” this noun has become a universal byword for the type of rational knowledge that results from individual analysis, and not from faith in some form of superior authority. The single eye of consciousness and the five senses are identified as its only sources. It is only by the synthesis of natural and mystical experiences that wholeness can be achieved.
The Latin word for science suggests an intellectual and mystical knowledge of the world that stems from gnostic insight: only those who are fully aware of themselves can reach a deep understanding of everything that surrounds them. Mathematical instruments like the sector, the square and the compass, represent the calculations and extrapolations involved in scientific knowledge. Still, for the classical mind, the accuracy of such tools is only as great as the virtue of those wielding them.
Used to denote personal and inward knowledge. Looking into oneself, symbolized here by the skull that reminds us of our innermost nature, is the first step in the journey towards true knowledge. According to gnostic tradition, it is only by meditating about the feelings that influence our thoughts and motivate our actions that we can know the thoughts and passions of others.
In Latin, the feminine noun “pax” meant peace, quiet and tranquility. But for Romans, peace was not merely an absence of war or toil, but rather a virtue—a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence and love, to be attained through struggle and exertion. Thus, the laid down sword symbolizes the hard won “pax” at the end of the warrior’s path.