02 July 2020
Studio Azzurro online Studio Azzurro’s greatest films are now available online at www.studioazzurro.com. Set up in 1982 by Fabio Cirifino (photographer), Paolo Rosa (visual arts and cinema expert, who died in 2013) and Leonardo Sangiorgi (graphic designer), plus Stefano Roveda from 1995 to 2011, Studio Azzurro “founded” a previously non-existent discipline, spanning narrative film, video settings and interactivity – “a gradual customising of the camera … until there comes a point at which it … detaches from the narrative and seems to be curious about something else.” This led to theatre and museum projects as well as films, real performances of sounds, lights and images, in which the technology, no matter how brilliant, never overrides the poetry. All that remains is to settle down and enjoy masterpieces such as the 1980 precursor Facce di Festa or the more recent Renzo Piano Water Projects, released in 2018.
Pierre Charpin, with honours Metaphorically trained under the wing of Ettore Sottsass, the French designer has grown in maturity and independence over the years, and is now recognised as one of the leading design talents beyond the Alps. The Galerie Kreo in Paris, which has followed him since he started out, is devoting its reopening exhibition Similitude(s) to him. The title is deserving of thorough self-analysis, as the designer himself explains: “Everything I design has a strong or not so strong, direct or not so direct link with what I’ve already designed … I believe this fact is inherent in the dynamic of long term work: assuming one’s own work as a ‘tradition.’” This is an extremely compelling, crosscutting issue in art and design, and gives rise to such questions as “is continuity a limitation or an advantage?” “Is the artist in danger of self-plagiarism?” The exhibition itself proves that Charpin is equal to this risk – while the continuity is obvious, just as obvious is a new step forward, due in particular to the relationship between shapes and colours (see the fabulous series of low tables). As Charpin says: “Geometry lends shape to colour and colour ‘de-geometrises’ the shape, in the sense that it produces a ‘warm geometry.’”
The Talented Mr. Christo Yavachev There could have been no Christo without Jeanne-Claude and so, now that he too has gone, we can only hope that wherever he is, they are happy together. Needless to say we mean Christo Yavachev and Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon: both born on 13th June 1935, they met in Paris in 1958 and had been one of the most solid (and famous) partnerships in work and life in the world. They say that Christo did the planning and Jeanne-Claude did the organising, but it really makes no difference: together they breathed the sort of new fantastic and dimensional life into so-called Land Art that nobody had hitherto achieved. To remember Christo now, there’s no need to look up the words of the critics, all we need to do is to list some, just some of his (of their) mind-boggling works: from the Iron Curtain (1962), a wall of oil barrels blocking Rue Visconti in Paris, to Running Fence (1972-76), forty kilometres of white nylon running like a Great Wall through the California countryside; the wrapped monument to Vittorio Emanuele (in 1970, greeted with great outrage by the suddenly monarchist Milanese!), to Valley Curtain, a 400-metre theatre curtain right across a wild valley in Colorado (1970-72); the previously unimaginable Surrounded Islands (1980-83), the islands in the Miami bay surrounded with fuchsia-coloured polypropylene fabric, to the wrapped Pont-Neuf (1985), and the even more symbolic wrapping, ten years later, of the Reichstag in Berlin. Right up to The Floating Piers, on Lake Iseo, a 4.5 kilometre floating walkway – Christo walked on water.
The exhibition’s there, the artist isn’t 100 works by Banksy are on show at Ferrara’s Palazzo dei Diamanti until 27th September. Visitors with a taste for the morbid will have a chance to try and discover the true identity of the English artist, the Zorro of the art world, through an analysis of his work - he almost always strikes at night, makes his mark and then vanishes. Curated by Stefano Antonelli, Gianluca Marziani and Acoris Andipa, the exhibition An Artist Known as Banksy brings together works from private collections – obviously it’s impossible to contact the artist directly. Probably more akin to social communication than art, strictly speaking, some of this mysterious person’s most famous iconic works are on show – including the girl with a balloon and the demonstrator throwing a bunch of flowers. His language is totally comprehensible to all, and thus overridingly political. It is worth noting however that, removed from the urban context in which they were created and the controversy that fuelled them, some of his works, lose much of their semantic power.
Richard Sapper’s time to shine Sometimes even great masters need a bit of time. This is the case with Richard Sapper, who died in 2015 and is now the object of significant and widespread interest. With several exhibitions in the pipeline and renewed focus on his archive, many contemporary designers have claimed to be his ideal pupils. In this age of true “stylistic mishmash,” the dry but not Calvinist language of the German designer (he was born in Munich in 1932), the expressive power of his Tizio table lamp for Artemide (1970), his 9090 cafetière (1978) and his whistling kettle (1983), both produced by Alessi, for instance, would seem to be a possible alternative (careful, though, his language would be difficult to emulate!). Basically, it’s time for Sapper to shine. Testament to this is the return to production of his first project outside the studio of Marco Zanuso, the designer with whom he was associated for many years: the Static table clock, produced by Lorenz. It won him his first Compasso d’Oro, in 1960! Ten more were to follow, an absolutely unbeatable record, we believe.
What’s going on in the haystack? To find out, you need to go to England, to Cambridgeshire in fact, to look for a giant haystack and wander round it until you find a tall, narrow door and then go through it … It is nothing more than an empty space (redolent with the smell of herbs) in which to mull over the relationship between man and nature. It is not the work of local peasants but of the artists Heather Peak and Ivan Morison (Studio Morison), and it is not a haystack at all, despite the fact that its shape mimics that of those once common in this part of England, but a habitable sculpture. Furthermore, it is called Mother, in an obvious reference to the internal, shady, protected, uterine and indeed sweet-smelling space: when it comes down to it, Nature is our mother.
Fornasetti at the museum The Fornasetti Theatrum Mundi show, curated by Barbara Fornasetti, Valeria Manzi and Simone Verde runs until February 2021 at the Pilotta in Parma, one of Italy’s most fascinating museums. Hundreds of pieces will dialogue with works in the Parma collections, for instance a Fornasettiesque china dog “keeps watch” over Canova’s statue of Maria Luigia, but the exhibition of hundreds of plates designed by Piero Fornasetti (1913-1988) in the famous Farnese Theatre, part of the monumental complex, is unforgettable, particularly those bearing the enigmatic face of the opera singer Lina Cavalieri (D’Annunzio called her “the greatest manifestation of Venus on earth”). The exhibition continues with architecturally-themed works (including the famous trumeau designed with Gio Ponti), and others inspired by archaeological ruins and music. It is a show that will undoubtedly rankle with the purists, but it certainly serves to valorise the histrionic, hyper-decorative side of the Milanese master.
Visit Nuoro Anyone spending their summer holiday in Sardinia, whatever comes to pass, should not pass up the opportunity to visit the MAN (a small museum that has always been incredibly active) and see the exhibition The Secret Kingdom. Sardinia-Piedmont: a postcolonial vision. Curated by the writer Luca Scarlini, the exhibition runs until 15th November. It is neither an art show nor a historical exhibition, but a cleverly devised hybrid, geared to illustrating the complex relationships between the island and Piedmont from 1720 (when Sardinia was annexed by the House of Savoy) to around 1970. Needless to say, these were relationships “borne of differences,” and thus the curator has decided to proceed “through differences,” bringing together “artists’ profiles, microstories, cultural customs, official events, political situations, biographical anecdotes, stories of love and war …” Thus the very first eighteenth century maps of the “mysterious” island rub shoulders with magazine covers designed by Edina Altara for Bellezza (the magazine founded by Gio Ponti), advertising material produced by Costantino Nivola and Giovanni Pintori for Olivetti, and black and white photographs taken by Ettore Sottsass in 1950 at the cemetery in Iglesias, some of it unseen and just waiting to be discovered!
For the northward-bound Not far from Helsinki lies Espoo, the non-city city (rather a rather dislocated group of highly industrialised inhabited centres), where one might only stop to visit the EMMA (Espoo Museum of Modern Art). It is quite a dynamic institution (famous, amongst other things, for conserving the archive of Tapio Wirkkala) and is holding a major one-man Tacita Dean (1965) exhibition throughout July. One of the leading contemporary British artists, and known especially for her strictly analogue 16 and 35 mm films and her photography, the artist is also showing her chalk on blackboard work (Chalk Fall, 2018) and an original series of monoprints on found postcards (Pantone Pairs, 2019). The freshness and clarity of Dean’s vision is striking. Visitors will need tremendous powers of concentration – there are seven films! Making its world premiere is A Cloud Makes Itself, the slow “story” of a cloud.
Rodrigo Rodriquez, 8th June 2020 Rodrigo Rodriquez left us on 8th June 2020. Nomen omen: we have lost a real gentleman-cavalier. Passionate and gifted, but also extremely generous, both in our world (the many research exhibitions he secretly sponsored!), and especially outside it (he was president of one of the most efficient hospitals in Tanzania through the Ravuma Onlus charity). Let’s start from the beginning, though:* he was born in Rome in 1937, and worked at 3M before becoming Deputy Director of C&B (the agency co-founded by Cesare and Umberto Cassina and Pierino Busnelli) in 1969. In actual fact, he had married Adele Cassina, Cesare’s beloved daughter, a few years earlier. Rodrigo himself joked about this (in his autobiography, he says: “I am an entrepreneur who got in the back door, I married the boss’s daughter”), but it wasn’t very long at all before the new bridegroom revealed his extraordinary business abilities: he was Director General of Cassina from 1980 to 1991 and Vice President and CEO from 1980 to 1991. A man of broad vision, he broke the typical isolation of family businesses in Brianza, working with institutions (from the ADI Federlegno Arredo, of which he became President between 1998 and 2002), bravely and obstinately fighting battles of common interest in spheres such as fake designer furniture. The designers (and I mean people like Mario Bellini, Gianfranco Frattini, Vico Magistretti, Tobia Scarpa, Gaetano Pesce, Toshiyuri Kita and Paolo Deganello) were far more than just appointed professionals, rather they were travel companions. In 1973, Rodriquez set up the Marcatré office furniture brand, which closed in 1996 leaving an indelible imprint for upcoming firms in the field. He left a great many more marks, however, and we can only hope that other entrepreneur-cavaliers will follow in his footsteps. *(Those wishing to find out more should read the book by Anna Spadoni, L’Indiscreto Fascino del Design, published by Skira in 2012)