12 June 2019

Milan's Design Museum

The deep-rooted alchemy between the forces at play is characteristic of Italian and, particularly, Milanese design: it is never a unique or unidirectional process, but always an ongoing dialogue between the productive dimension of the companies, the visionary dimension of the architects, designers and planners and the dimension of the desire and needs of ordinary people that define the requirements that design is intended to satisfy (if not anticipate).

This ongoing dialogue has found its own space in the new Italian Design Museum at the Triennale, where, for the first time, around two hundred of the most iconic and representative pieces of Italian design – a selection from the museum’s holdings of 1,600 items – are on permanent display. The exhibition is made up not just of objects, but also of ephemera such as narratives, stories, and relationships with the worlds of business, of creativity and of the professions.

Initially, the Museum is occupying the curved space on the ground floor of the Palazzo dell’Arte, taking up an area of approximately 1,300 m2. The pieces on exhibit narrate the story of thirty years of radical experimentation during which new materials, new techniques and new aesthetic codes turned the pre-established order of the domestic environment and of society on its head. Arranged chronologically from 1946 to 1981, the selection illustrates one of the most influential periods of Italian design and designers around the world, between the immediate post-war years and the economic miracle in its immediate aftermath, right up to the early Eighties, when the arrival of exuberant groups such as Memphis triggered a new era in the production of design, both in Italy and all around the world.

The display is intended to give great prominence to the works and provide information on the history and background against which each item was designed, by showcasing largely unseen material from the Triennale Archives, including photographs, advertising campaigns and original packaging.

Even more than a place where the historical memory of Italian design is preserved and protected,” said Joseph Grima, “the Museo del Design Italiano aspires to be a place of inspiration, in the most ancient sense of the word ‘museum’. The most intense and influential forms of inspiration often do not come from inanimate objects but rather from the voices of those who created them, and from the stories behind apparently mundane details that led to decisions of fundamental importance for the history of design. With this in mid, we have decided to include the voices of some of those who created the works on show. They have been asked to explain, in an simple direct manner, the cultural conditions to which each creation responded, and what it was that gave rise to their objects.”

Joseph Grima is in the director’s chair. Architect, curator, writer, founder of the Space Caviar studio, Director of the Design Academy Eindhoven, Artistic Director of Matera European Capital of Culture 2019, we interviewed him to try and find out the features, the substance and the future of this important Milanese cultural space.

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