New illy Cup Collection Supports Emerging Artists and Raises Broader Consciousness for Coffee Sustainability

1622629_10152621420062976_210714855342460581_nNEW YORK, Sept. 16, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — A limited-edition illy cup collection will go on sale this week in the U.S. and its purpose goes beyond sipping beautiful espressos and cappuccinos to relaying a message about coffee-growing communities and sustainable coffee production around the world, while also supporting creative artists in coffee producing countries with an opportunity to have their work seen by millions of people.

For the 83 percent of adults who drink coffee in the U.S., the world’s biggest consumer of the beverage, according to a 2013 survey from the National Coffee Association — the timing for this cup launch, just two weeks before National Coffee Day on September 29, 2014, creates an important reference for the journey coffee takes from bean to cup including the land, communities and cultures that produce it.

The cup collection is tied to the upcoming EXPO Milano in 2015 and will include a total of ten cups representing the works of creative artists from emerging regions including coffee-producing countries ranging from Ethiopia and Honduras to Costa Rica, Guatemala and others.  Officially named the sustainArt collection for EXPO, it is one of the most prolific endeavors for an illy cup collection that will serve as “World’s Fair” collector memorabilia while also creating a legacy for the biggest event in the world dedicated to a crucial topic facing the human race, which is feeding the planet for future generations.

Today, four of the ten cup designs have been released for sale representing the work of four artists who have harnessed the power of their art to interpret the EXPO’s food-centric theme; “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”.  The collection is available in espresso cups/saucers ($90) and cappuccino cups/saucers ($120), individually signed and numbered and available through espressamente illy cafes and online at

“This cup collection is emotionally and intellectually inspiring because it represents a broad range of topics significant to the world we live in today,” said Carlo Bach, illy’s global artistic director.  “The coffee cup is not just a cup for illy– it continues to be a canvas for creative ideas and a medium to communicate coffee culture and the beauty that surrounds us daily.”

Since 1992, the famous artist cups known as illy Art Collections have transformed an everyday object by serving as a blank canvas for more than seventy internationally renowned and respected artists including Michelangelo Pistoletto, Marina Abramovic, Anish Kapoor, Daniel Buren, Robert Rauschenberg, Jeff Koons, Jan Fabre, James Rosenquist, Jannis Kounellis, Julian Schnabel, Louise Bourgeois and William Kentridge.

Sustainability & EXPO
Within the EXPO’s dedicated food theme, a first for the 160-year history of World’s Fairs, 140-plus exhibiting countries will unite and inspire new solutions for the many challenges and opportunities facing the global food system and sustainable development of our planet.

Illy was chosen as an official partner of EXPO 2015, designated to spearhead the creation of a “Coffee Cluster” in collaboration with the International Coffee Organization (ICO).  The Expo 2015 governing body’s choice to align with illy was directly tied to the Company’s passion, knowledge and extensive relationships forged within the global coffee industry over the past 80 years.  The Coffee Cluster is one of nine themed Expo 2015 pavilions that will focus on specific foods and related subjects.

Illy’s sustainability practices have been anchored in its ability to pioneer direct trade 25 years ago, which incentivized farmers with guaranteed higher-than market prices for the farmers who met increased quality standards, while at the same time adopting best agronomical practices for sustainable coffee production.  The direct trade model has been supported by initiatives including the creation of the Ernesto Illy Quality prize for Brazilian growers in 1991, which to date has provided 4 million dollars in prize money to farmers.  Other initiatives that continue to thrive include the Universita del caffe with more than 20 branches worldwide providing a center of excellence of coffee research and knowledge for producers, hospitality professionals and coffee enthusiasts.  Illy remains the world’s only coffee company to have earned a Responsible Supply Chain Process certification from DNV GL Business Assurance, a world leading independent authority that certifies the performances of products, processes and governance across a wide range of industries.

sustainArt Collection Artists
The four artists were selected by the curators of illy sustainArt, a project started by illy in 2007 to expand its approach to sustainable growth to the international art community and offer creative talents from emerging countries opportunities to be seen. At the heart of the project is the website, which acts as a showcase for the world of contemporary art, a point of reference and a place where artists and curators can meet, exchange cultural ideas and have the opportunity to display and promote their work.

Open space for thoughts, like a psychological landscape.

“The artistic research for this cup was based on the concept of an ideas workshop, and balancing a series of materials, methods and ideas rather than the production of individual components. This is a starting point for experiencing space within the home and social behaviour, trying to generate dialogue about and references to new places, and exploring the relationship between topography, archaeology and architecture.”

Esteban Piedra Leon is an artist, professor and curator. Born in Costa Rica in 1978, he has a degree in painting from the Universidad de Costa Rica, where he has been a professor in the painting department since 2003. He has had five solo shows and taken part in more than twenty group exhibitions in various countries around the world.

From the “zero” degree of the volcano a potential force for movement and prosperity is generated.

“The cup is a kind of allegory of the rich lands in Guatemala, the ash and stone that pour out of the countries many volcanoes. These volcanoes fertilise and enrich the soil where the coffee plants grow, giving the coffee its distinctive flavor.”

Naufus Ramirez-Figueroa was born in Guatemala City in 1978, and now divides his time between Vancouver and Guatemala City. He has exhibited and performed in numerous art galleries and for public organisations. He has a degree in photography from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Emily Carr University in Vancouver.

ELIAS SIME (Ethiopia)
To feed someone means taking care of them physically and emotionally. Energy is the power needed to produce something.

“The work on the coffee cup is a collage of goats and motherboards. The goats are realistically painted using acrylics and watercolours. The saucer is a collage of motherboards with a large coffee bean in the middle which is also painted in acrylics and watercolours.”

Elias Sime was born in Cherkos (Ethiopia) in 1968 and graduated from Addis Ababa University’s School of Fine Art and Design with a degree in graphic design. Sime finds inspiration for his works in the streets of the Ethiopian capital and has strong bonds with the communities he documents, and especially with the neighbourhood children who bring him objects gathered from the street. His work focuses mainly on collages, needlework and three-dimensional sculpture. Sime lives and works in Addis Ababa.

The evolution of life compared with the ripening of coffee berries.

“I’ve applied my passion for Pantone to the cup starting with the stages of color that coffee berries go through as they ripen. This is combined with the idea of a graphic concept of energy for life expressed by the concentric rings.”

Adan Vallecillo was born in Danli (Honduras) in 1977. After studying at the National School of Fine Arts in Tegucigalpa (1995) he attended the School of Visual Arts in San Juan and graduated from the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Honduras with a degree in sociology. His career includes dozens of solo and group exhibitions and workshops in Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe and the United States of America.

About illycaffe North America, Inc

Illycaffe North America imports, distributes and markets illy products throughout the US, Canada and Mexico. With global headquarters in Trieste, Italy, illy is a leader in providing super-premium coffee known for its distinctly balanced and beautiful taste, produced to the industry’s highest quality standards. Its full range of roasted coffee (whole bean, ground and single serve), espresso machines, artist-created cups and other accessories can be experienced at leading cafes, hotels, and restaurants, and purchased for the home at higher-end retailers and at  Through a global partnership with Coca Cola, illy also offers the illy issimo line of ready to drink coffees available worldwide.  Illy pioneered the direct trade model for coffee over 25 years ago and purchases nearly 100 percent of its Arabica coffee directly from growers, who are educated by illy to produce coffee that meets the highest standards for quality and sustainability. Illy is frequently recognized for its industry leadership in sustainability and ethics, its long-held core values.

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