This event offers both an introduction to, and a critical reading of, one of the most popular brands and concepts in the world. By opening the exhibition with a weaving installation, the curators have created a visual representation of the complex position women have occupied in Italian design—the tension between craft and design, the individual and collaborative creation. It is surprising that in the mid-1970s a second wave of Radical Design arose which saw the creation of the groups Alchimia (founded 1976) and Memphis (founded 1981). It is a key example of how 1960s design experimentation came out of innovation in plastics technology. Giulio Cappellini: Italian design worldwide is very well known, but sometimes it works too much on lifestyle. Although they are not producing furniture anymore, it had a big impact on furniture design of the 1990s and 2000s. I think we have to move back to the origins of Italian design in the 50s and 60s – doing beautiful and useful objects.
In addition to all this there is the quality of the Italian design, that makes our furniture a must-have. Jose Escobar, of Five Star Painting, applies plaster to a recreation of an Italian apartment at Contents Interiors. Massimo and Lella Vignelli made great success in the United States as representatives of the purer Italian design. The Isetta epitomises the element of fun that is so often prominent in Italian design. Many people at the time were thinking, look, Cappellini is working on design, so you can’t make money doing design.
Instruments for Italian design promotion were the Compasso d’oro prize, exhibitions like the Triennale and the new Salone del Mobile in Milan and the big objects-manifests like Italian ocean liner laying up for United States. When the industry was open for the new design culture of the young designers, the wind was taken out of there sails. In the context of Corporate Identity Programmes the names of Designers and companies became more important. And really thanks to Haworth, we are growing a lot in the contract market, because today it is easier to sell design products for contract – for hospitality and for offices – more than for residential. The original design and many current models are made from aluminium with Bakelite handles.
As Jonathan Martin, International Directory of Company Histories once said: A preoccupation with design developed into a comprehensive corporate philosophy, which embraced everything from the shape of a space bar to the color scheme for an advertising poster.
You get to see objects from design powerhouses like Patricia Urquiola and Gae Aulenti along with ambitious and sometimes eccentric works from relatively ignored Italian designers of the past—the presentation intentionally presents no hierarchy between the two groups, again for the purpose of highlighting ideas as opposed to names and singular authorship.