A brief review of the most eclectic and creative voices of Design Week 2023, whose authorial research is positioned halfway between design, art and craftmanship
About twenty years ago, the newborn concept of collectible design began to make inroads in the world of contemporary design, influencing both the buying habits of design enthusiasts and the approach of designers to production in the years to come. Collectible design pieces are usually limited edition or unique works, meaning that they are not mass-produced and their value is thus partially due to their scarcity. These pieces possess unique features derived from the style and tastes of their creators and are the result of refined workmanship and manual skills. The constant growth of this trend has given rise to the proliferation of design studios specializing in the creation of these products and galleries willing to exhibit them. Events such as the Milan Design Week are international stages for these creatives whose practice is positioned halfway between design, art and craftsmanship.
It is now clear to everyone that Fuorisalone 2023 – the first post-pandemic – was a triumph: under the theme Future Laboratory, designers, brands, companies, researchers and universities met in Milan to find together new languages and visions to rethink the future. On this occasion, design and art dialogued once again to give life to events, projects and exhibitions with a strong evocative power, putting human creativity in all its most diverse forms under the spotlight. As always, the work of Milanese and international galleries was crucial in the field of collectible design. Nilufar Gallery presented The Bright Side of Design, a series of reflections and observations by Nina Yashar – founder of the gallery – on the state of the art of contemporary design that have unfolded in the historic premises of Via della Spiga and in Nilufar Depot, a former silverware factory building. Among the protagonists of the exhibition was certainly Maximilian Marchesani with bì.li.co*, a series of lamps made of branches, feathers, leaves – and even his mother’s hair: an invitation to reflect on the fragile balance between nature and artifice. But the works of Lola Montes Schanbel – an American artist based in Sicily, where she learned the ancient techniques of working and painting ceramics -, and Lucia Massari’s Toppings – a playful collection of lamps crafted through a combination of tinted Venetian mirrored glass and decorative glass curls and pins – also deserve a special mention. Another Queen of the Milanese contemporary scene, Rossana Orlandi, has attracted the interest of enthusiasts and collectors with RoGuiltlessplastic and RoCollectible, a fascinating mix of young talents and well-known personalities who once again confirmed their presence in the Milanese gallery. Among the protagonists of RoCollectible, for the third consecutive year, Draga&Aurel have given life to a scenic setting entitled Color Waterfall: taking inspiration from the Lighting Boxes of the artist and composer Brian Eno, they have proposed an immersive experience where their renowned resin design objects and artworks have met and completed each other.
As for the international presences, Galerie Philia, an institution in the field of collectible design, gave new life to the deconsecrated church of San Vittore e 40 Martiri with Desacralized. At the center of the exhibition was a monumental chandelier by Italian design duo Morghen Studio titled Cascades of Light. Beneath this impressive installation, visitors were invited to discover the creations of prominent artists such as Pietro Franceschini, Rick Owens and Studio Pepe, in the evocative and sacred atmosphere of the former church. Carwan Gallery had flown all the way from Athens to participate in the Milan Design Week with a pop-up exhibition devoted to Robert Stadler’s latest creations. The project, entitled OMG-GMO, is a series of whimsical ceramic functional objects, handmade by the leading Italian, family-owned ceramics company BITOSSI Ceramiche. Inspired by the plant world, the research behind the collection investigates the relationship between humans and their environment through the genetic modification of fruit and vegetables. Research is precisely the driving force of Movimento Club, an international project designed to support young designers, which during the Fuorisalone presented a large collective of emerging talents entitled Merging and Emerging. Sophisticated materials, experimental processes and visionary shapes were the protagonists of pieces halfway between sculpture and furniture, art and design, such as Jordan Fleming’s Bright Things lamps made by hand with layers of colored gesso, Montserrat Piña Benetts’s bright-blue vase in volcanic rock, Lagoon, or Behaghelfoiny’s Lampaposulure lamp, belonging to the Tubulures collection, made of semi-industrial tubes covered with colored plaster by hand. For the more traditional design lovers, however, the place to be was definitely Palazzo Litta with the Doppia Firma exhibition, a dialogue between design and artisan excellence. In the splendid rooms of the historic building, visitors had the opportunity to admire several pieces of high artistic value: from the colorful table by Emanuela Crotti – famous for her objets d’art in which she combines the brightness of resin with other artistic techniques – to the Unconventional Goblets by Matteo Cibic, in collaboration with the craftsman Simone Crestani, and the Teste Composte mirrors by Lucia Massari, also in Murano glass and surprisingly rich in details.
Finally, among the many collaborations between artists and design companies, Apacheta by Loro Piana Interiors and Rosso Maraviglia by Buccellati certainly stood out for their originality and sophistication. The Argentinian artist Cristián Mohaded has designed a furniture collection for the Italian company inspired by the Andean tradition of the “apachetas”, piles of stones left by travelers in homage to Pachamama, mother earth. Inside the Cortile della Seta, in the Loro Piana headquarters, a white desert – inspired by the pumice stone deserts of northern Argentina – was set up to host the pieces of the new collection, alternated with large colored towers covered with disused fabrics. The famous jewelery maison, on the other hand, resorted to the nature-inspired artistic practice of Lily Kwong for the creation of a fairy setting on the large Portaluppi terrace of Buccellati’s Via Brisa’s headquarters: inside the botanical installation, like vermilion-colored flowers, vases produced in collaboration with the historic Venini glass company captivated the visitors’ gaze.
The Milan Design Week, finally back in all its splendor, reconfirms itself as a place of experimentation and audacious contamination capable of providing a clear, eclectic picture of contemporary creativity.
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