artist cups
tazzina illy1
tazzina illy2
tazzina illy3
tazzina illy4

In spring 1990 Francesco Illy had the idea to change the design of Illycaffè cups, entrusting an italian designer the job of drawing a new model.
So Matteo Thun carried out the coffee cup (la tazzina di caffè like himself names it), all in white china that will become the base of the next cups produced both with the company logo (first image on the left) and decorated.
In the meanwhile the idea of the "illy collection artist cups" was born, which gave the possibility for well-known artists and contemporary art new talents to decorate the Thun's cup.
Thun himself for considering the chromatic look decorated the first prototype: the so called naif cup that, even if it's a prototype, it is considered the first decorated cup and now it has become greatly appreciated because of the production of about 60 pieces only. For the fact that it's a prototype, this cup has been made even with a colour variance, as you can see on this page.

After coffee cups, in 1994 another cup was produced with the same shape but in a bigger dimension, the cappuccio, and Andrea Manetti decorated the first series of six cups. These cups are based on the white cappuccio cup, always designed by Matteo Thun in 1990. From then on it's not hard to find artists that used also this cup to produce series based on the principles of their coffee cup (for example Chia or Kosuth), or to propose new works (like Manetti or Pottorf).

In 1999 James Rosenquist made his personal interpretation of the Illy corporate logo using the Matteo Thun's white cups (second image on the left). The production of these cups was neither signed nor numbered so we can not include them among the illy collection artist cups. These cups were sold in a packaging including two cups and two all white saucers.

At the end of 2003 in the illy collection artist cups was introduced a new cup shape: the mug. Mostly widespread in America, this cup is wider and higher then the coffe one but it is drawn with the main features of that. The icon of the american pop-art James Rosenquist decorated the first series consisting of two mugs: coffee flowers ideas.

In 2004 a new cup (as in coffee version as in cappuccio version) with Illy corporate logo and the inscription decaffeinated in many languages was decorated (third image on the left). This cup has no inner inscription and is without numbers or signatures at the bottom; it's used for serving decaffeinated coffee in snack bars, coffee shops or pubs.

In 2005 a cup with Illy company logo and the inner inscription "La mia tazzina 10+" has been realized (fourth image on the left). This cup has been distributed with a white saucer in a special packaging including a subscription to 10 coffee to be consumed in Illy coffee shops.

Every cup, both coffee and cappuccino is accompanied with a saucer that is normally white. For the first time in 1994 Luca Trazzi with his series called trazzine decorated also the six saucers. After him many other artists followed his example, establishing a harmony between cups and saucers.

Every cup has inside an inscription that allow to distinguish the illy collection artist cups series into three versions: illy collection, illy espresso and amici collection. Besides these inscriptions, there are also particular inscriptions made for specials cups, as for example the inscription of arti e mestieri convention series or the one of teatro cup. In 2006 with Michael Lin series a new inscription for the signed and numberd cups has been used: illy art collection, and we can say that this is the evolution of the illy collection inscription.

illy collection illy espresso
amici collection art collection
  • illy collection: in all shapes (coffee, cappuccio and mug) these cups are considered the true collection cups and, with the exception of the first series made in 1992 arti e mestieri, these cups have allways the artist's signature, the progressive number and the manufactured year at the bottom.
    Each set of cups that is for sale consisted of cups with different numbers applied to each of them, excluding the special series made in 1999 called minimalia that was sold with seven cups of the same mumber, from 1 to 333.
    Inside the cups there is the inscription illy collection and until 1994 there was also the year of manufacturing.
    During the years single cups or series made in an exact number of exemplary were produced (for example from 97 pieces of venexia gold cup or from 333 pieces of minimalia's special series until the 6000 pieces of ginger & fred cup). Sometimes these cups or limited edition series are sold with special packaging.
    Some series were produced either as normal illy collection cups, or as limited edition series for special events like for example stati d'animo by Mario Giacomelli or texture of home by Francis Ford Coppola.
    In 2003 Matteo Thun carried out a transparent crystal cup, called nude. This cup is not to consider like illy collection version, for the fact that is without signature and number, but can be considered like the evolution of the bianca (white) cup and so in my personal opinion I think it can be find a place in each collection.
    In 2004 during the 11th edition of the Internazionale Exhibition of Contemporary Art - "Art issima" in Turin a special packaging has been made, with a totally white cup, like the 1990 prototype. This cup has been made by Ipa (note that the prototype has been made by Richard Ginori). This cup is not to consider like illy collection version, for the fact that is without signature and number, but cause of the low quantity of the special packaging and for the fact that is a re-edition of the original prototype, in my personal opinion I think it can be find a place in each collection.
    Each illy collection series is sold with a booklet that illustrates the artists and their works.
  • illy espresso: these cups are either as coffee shape or as cappuccio ones, become different from those illy collection for the lack of signature, number and the year inscription at the bottom; moreover from 1994 inside of cups there is the inscription illy espresso.
    These cups are usually used for snack bars, coffee shops and pubs.
    Almost all the illy collection cups are made the same as illy espresso except the limited edition cups (the "special" ones).
    Some illy collection series were just made as illy espresso version in cappuccio cups, like for example basket play ground by Paolo Cervi Kervischer.
    We have to note that the 2003 Shizuka Yokomizo dream series, both coffee and cappuccio, has been made in version with different artist decorations from the ones in illy collection version . Always in 2003 during the "Esposizione d'Arte Biennale" in Venice Francesco Bonami carried out a series consisting of four cups both coffee and cappuccio, illy espresso sogni e conflitti-dreams and conflicts, that were produced only in illy espresso version. In 2005 and in 2007 always during the "Esposizione d'Arte Biennale" in Venice, Maurizio Cargnelli taking cue from the graphic of the "Esposizione" catalogues has realized a 4 cups series only in illy espresso version, both coffee and cappuccio. For my personal opinion I think that these last three series, as the dream series have to be included in every collection even if they are not in Illy collection version. In 2006 new cups only in illy espresso version have been made, with the inner inscription anteprima illy michael lin. Made as in coffe as in cappuccio version, they are different from the ones in the illy collection version for the fact that the cups in illy espresso version are decorated and the saucers are white, instead the other ones in illy art collection version have the saucers decorated, signed and numbered.
  • amici collection: some of the most important series or single limited edition cups (the "special" ones) of the illy collection version were produced with the inside inscription amici collection.
    These versions of cups are produced mainly for the Switzerland market.
    A few of the cups were made only in amici collection version and not as illy collection (like for example native america art series by Eric Mac Pherson).
    The 1997 cup drawn by Luca Trazzi called venexia gold is different, in addition to the inside inscription and to the total number of pieces produced, for the saucer: it's all in white like most of the common saucers while the one in the most impressive illy collection series is gilded.
    As for the amici collection series, a low quantity of 2500-3000 pieces are produced in average except for the venexia platinum and venexia gold where they were sold in pairs and 250 pieces of each cup were produced.
  • illy art collection: introduced for the firt time in 2006 with Michael Lin series, these cups are allways signed and numbered and this inscription can be considered the natural evolution of the illy collection one.

More then fifteen years from naif, first decorated cup, illy collection cups represent nowadays one of the most completed collections of contemporary works of art. From 1992, the year of the first illy collection series arti e mestieri, until June 2007 92 artists contributed to increase with their works this art gallery. From 1990 bianca cup, base of the illy collection cups, until June 2007 in all 341 different cups (316 coffee version, 18 cappuccio version and 7 mug) were decorated with 131 saucers and 1 sugar bowl.

In my personal opinion I believe that a complete illy collection artist cups collection has to include at least all the cups produced in illy collection version (coffee, cappuccio and mug), plus the ones produced only as illy espresso (coffee and cappuccio), with the integration of the amici collection coffee and cappuccio series never produced neither as illy collection version nor illy espresso version, without forgetting also the first two prototypes made by Matteo Thun in 1990 and his crystal cup made in 2003. Note that if a series was both produced as illy collection and in limited edition, only these "special cups" have to be included in the collection. Schematizing all we have:

  • cups as illy collection version to be collected
  • cups as illy art collection to be collected
  • cups as illy espresso version to be collected
  • cups as amici collection version to be collected
  • prototype and crystal cups to be collected
  • SERIES IN TOTAL for a completed collection
  • illy collection artist cups in TOTAL to be collected

Note that this count is updated until June 2007.

For summarizing all the different kind of cups, of versions, of series, clicking here you can have an Adobe Reader© (*.pdf) summary chart that collects all the series made from 1990.
Adobe ReaderIf you don't have the free Adobe Reader© version for your personal computer, you can get it now at Adobe web site.

At the end I want to point out that from 1990 until now the illy collection artist cups were produced by four firms: the first was the Italian Richard Ginori, then Ipa (always Italian), the German Mitterteich and, always German, Rosenthal.

The purpose of these web-pages is to give the most up-to-date guide for collecting the Illy collection artist cups made by Illycaffè spa in Trieste, Italy. All the photographed cups you can see in this Web-site are from my private collection, they are not for sale and all the pictures are Copyright © by Luca Cattaneo.

booksThe company at the end of 2002 produced a book called "illy collection - a decade of artist cups by illycaffè" (publisher Charta - ISBN number 88-8158-406-9) where in 216 pages are collected the pictures of the illy collection series produced. Note that a special version of the book, exclusively sold by Illycaffè, has in rilief on the cover the outline of Matteo Thun's white cup. Even if it lacks of some important cups and series images, until now this volume is the first official paper catalogue of the collection.

For every possible inaccuracy or correction you can write me pointing out the mistake.

The contents of this site are Copyright © 2007.
All Rights Reserved.
This is only a collector site and is in no way associated with
Illycaffè spa business or with cups manufactures.
All pictures on this site are Copyright © by Luca Cattaneo.
Page updated on June 2007.