Posts filed under Exhibitions

Gio Ponti at the Georgia Museum of Art: a new exhibition

 Giò Ponti in his studio, Via Dezza, Milan, 1950s. Courtesy:  Giò Ponti Archives . 

Giò Ponti in his studio, Via Dezza, Milan, 1950s. Courtesy: Giò Ponti Archives

The Georgia Museum of Art has just announced a new exhibition dedicated to one of the greatest designers of the 20th century – Gio Ponti.  The show, “Modern Living: Giò Ponti and the 20th-Century Aesthetics of Design”, will present more than 50 objects borrowed from American museums and private collections, representing some of Ponti’s most outstanding pieces of furniture and decorative objects starting from the beginning of his career in the 1920s through the 1950s. The museum will also publish a fully illustrated exhibition catalogue, the first major work in English on Ponti's career. 

 Giò Ponti (Italian, 1891–1979) Scrolled chair from the Contini Bonacossi residence, Florence, 1931 Made by Mario Quarti Italian walnut and leather Private collection 

Giò Ponti (Italian, 1891–1979)
Scrolled chair from the Contini Bonacossi residence, Florence, 1931
Made by Mario Quarti
Italian walnut and leather
Private collection 

Gio Ponti was much more than a designer of objects although he did begin his storied career collaborating with Richard Ginori, creating designs and motifs of classical inspiration through porcelain decorative art.   He became a designer and architect present on every continent, taught for 25 years at at the Faculty of Architecture in Milan, was the director of Design Domus magazine, creator of the famous Compasso D'Oro award, curator of the Triennale of Milan, and a painter. Essentially he was always ahead of his time and calling him a designer, when this word was not yet in vogue in his times, would seem too reductive.

 Ponti was an early proponent of industrial design when this concept was still in its infancy. His works are immediately recognizable by their‘weightless’ design and extreme functionality and yet imbued with a fundamental aesthetic and craftsmanship that he had refined in collaboration with the 20th century Italian master artisans – the aforementioned Richard Ginori and Fornasetti.   . And no work captures that ethos better than his quintessential masterpiece- the Pirelli skyscraper, the first skyscraper in Italy and an ode to simplicity distributed over 32 floors (1956).

Above all, for Italy, he was the first true cultural promoter of Italian aesthetic throughout the world. Architecture, design and art are the foundations of this great artist, inspired by the great movements of the twentieth and nineteenth century, Futurism, Impressionism and , as Gio Ponti himself said, classical music.

 Giò Ponti (Italian, 1891–1979) Display cabinet, model 2140, 1951 Made by Singer & Sons Italian walnut, lacquered wood and brass 79 x 81 x 18 inches Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Museum purchase funded by the John R. Eckel Jr. Foundation, 2016.145.A-B 

Giò Ponti (Italian, 1891–1979)
Display cabinet, model 2140, 1951
Made by Singer & Sons
Italian walnut, lacquered wood and brass 79 x 81 x 18 inches
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Museum purchase funded by the John R. Eckel Jr. Foundation, 2016.145.A-B 

Observing historical images of Ponti at 85 years old, coming down from his apartment in Milan to work at his architecture studio means witnessing the enthusiasm of a man who looked to the future and who conceived modern architecture as a form of functional art whose purpose was to service the community, a man who believed that perfect architecture has yet to be designed. His was a continuous search for the ultimate concept of the ‘Italian abode’, which in his view would have to be a ‘living’ and versatile environment, adaptable to the constant changes of a modern person’s life but, above all, exempt from any functional space constraint and non essential form. As a matter of fact his home in Milan was the perfect representation of his ideas : a series of spaces divided into different interchangeable rooms where there should have been no set bedroom, living room or dining room area but a modular ever-changing simple space. He said that one should boast of the simplicity of one’s own home because that is where you find your peace. He also created the "Finestra Arredata" where glass windows were equipped with shelves and modular elements so they could be functioning as windows as well as usable room walls. 

Among the furnishing objects he designed, we cannot help but recall the "Leggera Chair" and later the Superleggera manufactured by Cassina and still in production today, or the "La sedia di Poco Sedile" a chair with a shallow seat and a wide, comfortable, backrest. And of course, the Pavoni coffee machine, the Venini lamps, Ginori pottery and Fornasetti furniture and all his amazing buildings around the world. 

 

EXHIBIT INFO:

Modern Living: Giò Ponti and the 20th-Century Aesthetics of Design

JUNE 10, 2017 - SEPTEMBER 17, 2017

http://georgiamuseum.org/art/exhibitions/upcoming/gio-ponti-20th-century-renaissance-designer

 Giò Ponti (Italian, 1891–1979) Desk, 1938 Fruitwood, reverse-painted glass, and brass 31 x 53 x 26 1/2 inches Private collection 

Giò Ponti (Italian, 1891–1979)
Desk, 1938
Fruitwood, reverse-painted glass, and brass 31 x 53 x 26 1/2 inches
Private collection 

 Giò Ponti (Italian, 1891–1979) Desk from the Societa Vetrocoke Building, Milan, ca. 1939 Vitrex glass, laminate, Italian walnut, enameled steel and brass  

Giò Ponti (Italian, 1891–1979)
Desk from the Societa Vetrocoke Building, Milan, ca. 1939
Vitrex glass, laminate, Italian walnut, enameled steel and brass
 

 Giò Ponti (Italian, 1891–1979) and Paolo De Poli (Italian, 1905–1996) Horse, ca. 1956 Enameled copper and silver - Courtesy of Casati Gallery 

Giò Ponti (Italian, 1891–1979) and Paolo De Poli (Italian, 1905–1996)
Horse, ca. 1956
Enameled copper and silver - Courtesy of Casati Gallery 

20th Century Italian Design part 1: history defines a new movement

We are not surprised that Italian design has reached the highest level of popularity worldwide. We all looking to embellish our homes with wonderful Italian furniture which we stare at, standing fiercely in those beautiful showroom or printed over some of the most popular magazines. It is not anymore perceived as a trend, but more likely as a movement.  And 20th Century Design has made a sharp and impressive come back, with Italian 20th Century Furniture leading the market. As of today, a Beautiful Carlo Mollino wardrobe desktitled “ Psiche Armadio “  is for sale at a famous New York Auction house starting at 250,000$. 

Carlo Mollino "Psiche Armadio" from the Ada and Cesare Minola House, Turin, Circa 1944-46

But how far back Italian design dates? We could historically place the beginning of Italian Design somewhat immediately after a long and dark period, which saw Italy bending on its knees in the middle of the 20th Century: World Wars. It all started because of the Wars. Italy had lost almost everything, but not it’s citizens’ pride, citizens could not wait to start over and fuel back that fire which always had defined them, impatiently looking at a more profitable second half of the 20th Century. Italians needed to get back to work, to open their stores once again, to lead a normal life and to hope for a brighter future. 

The first sign of Design becoming an active part of society had something to do with mobility. In 1945 we were gifted with the first project of a motor scooter, the evergreen Vespa, designed by Corradino D’Ascanio, still an icon in our modern days. But the Vespa was not an isolated great project, because two years later a new exciting product was conceived, this time designed by two aeronautical engineers: the Lambretta scooter by Innocenti. Transportation and mobility also saw the creation of the beautiful and iconic Fiat 500 reflecting how Italian Design may become timeless, and not many remember another interesting project which we can call a predecessor of the Smart, the captivating Isetta compact car by Ermenegildo Preti.  Among other projects we must mention the Berlinetta Cisitalia which will be then permanently exhibited at the Moma Museum of Modern Art in New York City. In 1958 Olivetti who created some of the most technologically engineered aesthetically appealing typewriters such as Letters 22 and Lexicon 80 started a collaboration with Ettore Sottsass. So we have a clear picture on how industry, engineering, architecture were all united into the process of creating new ideas. 

Vespa Motor Scooter 

This need of a new start brought Italy years of economic wealth and the Design set its root into the field of Industrial Design with the creation of mass production affordable and reusable every day objects, made of plastic and other low cost materials. Architects and Engineers were again involved in creating every day objects, from cutlery to furniture for the mass.

 

But when does Italian Design became recognized internationally? We could see its peak in 1972 when the Museum of Modern Art in New York dedicated a whole exhibition named “Italy: the new domestic landscape” . The preface of the catalog started with this sentence: It has been a long -standing assumption of the modern movement that if all man’s products were well designed, harmony and joy would emerge eternally triumphant". Can we still affirm such idea 43 years later?

to be continued on chapter two...stay tuned!