Artists and their signature pieces

Vintage design rhymes with interdisciplinarity: a dip into the past to discover furniture, designers and companies that have built important partnerships and successful productions through the relationship between visual arts and design.

Is design an art form? The debate has been going on for decades without ever tiring critics and experts, demonstrating that in fact, there are neither univocal answers, nor clear boundaries between design and art. There is no doubt that a positive and productive tension is often established between the two: fairs and design events show how designers are increasingly inclined to overcome their "limits" through the creation of unique and more "arty" objects. Artists, on the other hand, are taking advantage of the potential of industrial production by signing furniture limited editions, objects and products for the home.

The history of Italian 20th century design presents a group of multifaceted personalities who have been able to move with ease between the various fields, encouraging links between disciplines, like Gio Ponti did with  Piero Fornasetti, flanked by friends such as Bruno Munari, known for the pleasant ambiguity that springs from his imaginative works, which, however functional, are never lacking in poetry, and therefore remain suspended and not easy to label.

It was characters such as Ponti and Munari who intercepted the energies coming from different disciplines and conveying them in unique and eclectic collaborations and projects. For example, we discovered that in 1956 it was Munari who approached Joe Colombo, whose work was rooted in the artistic experiences of the nuclear art movement, and introduced him to MAC / Espace, an association that aimed to the enhancement of art within the industrial design process. In fact, it was from this point onwards that Colombo embarked on the designer career that led him to the creation of his unmistakably futuristic furniture.
Observing objects on intOndo, we realize every day how much the combination of art and design is a totally fluid universe, which became consolidated after World War II, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s. The dialogues, connections and reciprocities established between artists, designers and companies during these decades were in many cases true friendships, lasting relationships from which iconic objects, projects and exhibitions have come to life. We refer for example to Nanda Vigo, who passed away last May at the age of 83, who described the conception of her works and lighting installations as rooted in the work experiences she matured with her masters,  Lucio Fontana and Gio Ponti, and in her personal life as the companion of conceptual artist Piero Manzoni.

Then there is Enzo Mari who recently passed away at the age of 88: coming from a totally artistic background, Mari aimed to put beauty at the center of each of his creations: exploiting the use of technological procedures in order to create engaging experiences, he always placed the consumers at the center of the work, making them an active protagonist and manipulator of the object.

Even when the shape of a piece of furniture is purely subservient to functionality, this does not mean that this piece cannot reveal an artistic impulse through a particular finish, through carefully balanced proportions or more explicitly, through the printing of a work of art on its surface. This is the case of the sideboards by artist Sandro Chia, one of the most important members of the Transavanguardia movement, created in 2009 for Cleto Munari Design Associati.
This aims to be just a brief overview of names and objects that reflect how artists and designers have been united first of all by the intent to interpret the feelings, problems and needs of an era that was subject to profound social changes. In the wake of the late '60s protest movements, groups such as Superstudio or Memphis were born, promoters of a design aesthetic that went beyond the "simple" function of the object, opening up to new forms of expression. Gaetano Pesce offered his contribution exploring with new media and interpreting forms in new ways. 

Beyond all the debates and theories remain the anecdotes and stories handed down by designers and brand directors we came across when analyzing furniture versus art. Thus we discover that Dino Gavina, founder of the prestigious brands Gavina SpA and Flos, used to attribute the merit of his entrepreneurial successes to the meeting with artist Lucio Fontana in the '50s, an occasion that introduced Gavina to the world of the 20th century artistic avant-gardes. From Gavina's acquaintance with artist Roberto Sebastian Matta among others, the modular system of armchairs Malitte was born in 1965: its elements, evocative of the sinuous shapes of Surrealism, can be combined vertically to form a dynamic and playful sculpture.