17 October 2019
In a nutshell - Total Mendini. That’s to say Mendini inside and out. The inside is the exhibition dedicated – as the title suggests – to the architect who died last February, which will run from 12th October to early May at the Groningen Museum in Holland. Curated by Mendini himself. The outside is the museum itself, which the architect and his brother Francesco designed twenty five years ago. Conceived as a series of separate pavilions, each was assigned to a guest architect - Michele De Lucchi, Philippe Starck, Coop-Himmelb(l)au and Team 4 Studio. It makes for an unusual kaleidoscope of shapes and colours that is duplicated in the reflection on the water of the canal below and has led to no few heated discussions over time, but is now one of the most-loved museums at international level. Mendini was invited back to restore and restyle the museum in 2010: “we, the original designers of the Museum, found ourselves restudying, reinterpreting and restoring our very own work, changing its skin like the structures of Japanese wooden temples … We were much cheered by the attention the heads of the Museum paid to our original design, which was respected in all its aesthetic aspects, as if it were a historic monument.”
Basically, this is an unusual exhibition, celebrating the museum’s first quarter century and commissioned by the museum from the person who originally conceived it and then restored it and who, in turn, wanted to use the exhibition not to celebrate his own work (that wasn’t how he operated) but to acknowledge the cultural bodies and the artists that had been part of its creative process and its coming into being, who have been a source of education and inspiration, such as, for example, Alberto Savinio’s Annunciation, which hung over his armchair/incubator when he was an infant.
More than 200 objects feature in the exhibition, not all by Mendini (from the Poltrona di Proust, the pointillist chair now in the Cartier Foundation collection to the Anna G ballerina corkscrew, one of Alessi’s best-sellers) – there are also pieces chosen by him because of their elective and creative affinity – from art to architecture – from the masters of the Renaissance to the present day by way of Signac, Kandinsky, Matisse, Schlemmer, van Doesburg and Rietveld. It is a spiritual testament to kinship and friendships, particularly those with other Italian designers, such as Gio Ponti, Michele De Lucchi and Gaetano Pesce.
The layout of the exhibition is testament to Mendini as a star of a true design revolution and to his truly eclectic personality: “a coloured dragon with the head of a designer, the body of an architect, the tail of a poet, the legs of a draughtsman, the feet of an artist, the stomach of a priest and the hands of a craftsman,” was how he liked to put it.
Intelligence and irony were his main characteristics and this exhibition/testament sets the seal on them for ever.
Mondo Mendini. The World of Alessandro Mendini