Gaetano Pesce's vases: how to choose and cheirish them

Check out our guide to Gaetano Pesce's cult pieces where each vase, though mass-produced, is original and unprecedented.

Half Venetian and half Florentine, Gaetano Pesce—an architect, designer, and more broadly, a visionary artist—left an unmistakable mark on the history of Italian design over the past century. Having passed away a few months ago at the age of 84, Pesce was considered a sort of iconoclast, building his career on radical experimentation with processes and materials. This practice, now popular among a generation of designers, was highly unusual during his debut years when Modernism was at its peak.

However, towards the end of his career, Pesce's experimentation was not just practical and functional, but increasingly conceptual. As a keen observer of his time, Pesce always sought to combine form and function with meaning, expressing broader values: "There is always a dual function in design, the practical and the cultural. I always try to keep both in mind to make the user reflect on our times, much like in art."

Recently, Gaetano Pesce described our era as very fluid, inconsistent, and changeable. His passion for resins, colored silicones, and plastic works stemmed from this notion of liquidity and freedom of expression. During one of his last interviews at Art Basel Miami, he said, "The function of decor is dead today. Design must focus on expression and the search for a better world, taking advantage of diversity and rejecting any form of standardization."

The importance of diversity applied to art, architecture, and recently even fashion projects (see the project in Milan for the Bottega Veneta installation) resonates even in the "small" field of applied arts, a medium for more widespread diffusion. His iconic vases made of soft, colorful plastics are the most striking example.

Enchanted by Venetian colors, which he continuously referenced throughout his career, Pesce highlighted how his vases, unlike Murano glass, are an expression of progress: "If they fall, they don't break; they bounce back upright." Flexible, fluid, transparent, and elastic, these vases suggest how contemporary people should behave.

They are not elegant, nor practical, so why should we buy and keep them in our homes? Simply because they make us think, Pesce might say today. By nature, each of these vases is different, branded and produced in limited editions. Some carry an even more evident message, such as the "Goto" Vase, a resin sculpture created by the master for Caffè Florian in Venice for the 1995 Venice Biennale. The text in Italian imprinted on the resin is a toast to Venice: "Let's toast to Venice becoming once again a place of modern life, modern behavior, progress, services, joy, optimism, discovery, trust in the future, courage. Open to the culture of the present world.... and not a place of prejudice, protection, conservation, stagnation, a soporific place, a museum-cult of the past, an example of reaction, a despairing place for young generations, of lethargy, provincialism, mute nostalgic undertakings.... no longer masks-substitutes for the present time that asks Venice for the space to exist."

You might wonder, aren't these vases rather common, collectible, or truly unique? What's relly important about them is that they belong to a movement that aims at the diffusion of mass originality, where small and large differences—such as composition of the resin, to the color, shape, and workmanship—are rewarded for their ability to communicate and spark curiosity.