Considered one of the most influential architects and designers of the twentieth century with an almost limitless creativity, Gio Ponti is being honored at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in his first retrospective in France. A prolific creator who was equally interested in both industrial and craft production, Ponti revolutionized postwar architecture, opening up the way for a new art of living. The exhibition covers the entirety of his long career from 1921 to 1978, highlighting numerous aspects of his work from architecture to industrial design, from furniture to lighting, and from the creation of journals to his incursion into the fields of glassware, ceramics and metalwork. Over 400 pieces, coming from Milan to Teheran, Caracas to Denver, trace this multidisciplinary display that combines architecture, furniture and interior fittings for private homes and public buildings (universities and cathedrals).
A world of creation which made Ponti “the legitimate heir of the greatest artists of the Italian Renaissance – by redesigning the contours of another possible world, poetic and practical, light and bright, vibrant, he embodied the continuity of a heritage that still fascinates us today, the Leonardo or Michelangelo in his field, from the overall whole down to the very last detail” had to say Olivier Gabet, Director of Musée des Arts Décoratifs.
While Gio Ponti’s work is admired today by enlightened design enthusiasts and highly coveted by collectors, it nevertheless remains little known in France. This exhibition is an opportunity to introduce the wider public to the creative world of this character from the Italian design scene, whose generosity and passion stimulated his contemporaries and continues to inspire new generations of designers and architects.
The exhibition design was conceived by the agency Wilmotte & Associes in collaboration with the graphic designer Italo Lupi. Taking full advantage of the building’s height with the podiums in the main hall the partial reconstruction of the Taranto cathedral, the Wilmotte plays with transparency, light, resonances between works and breathing spaces to bring the artist and his designs to life for the audience. He does not seek to “direct” the experience, but rather to “augment” it, by widening its scope and emphasizing gestures, forms, colors, and materials. In this intervention, Jean-Michel Wilmotte has succeeded in pursuing a posteriori the creative work of Gio Ponti by offering a thousand and one ways to perceive his genius.
Wilmotte invites the visitor to discover the artist’s career and his works through an exhibition design articulated around three powerful sequences and a retrospective, which together offer a comprehensive immersion. The exhibition presents a chronological view of Ponti’s six-decade career in the fields of architecture, design, interior design and publishing. An evocation of the Taranto Cathedral, one of his late masterpieces, introduces the circuit that then unfolds in three parts, focusing on objects, furniture and architecture. Finally, six “period rooms” conclude the visit with spectacular reconstructions emphasizing the global aspect of his work. The garden-side gallery explores the collaborations that he undertook with major art-object manufacturers such as Richard Ginori, Christofle and Fontana Arte, as well as with artisans and smaller companies. Ceramics, glass and metalwork intermingle with works in papier mâché and enameled copper. The main hall – the backbone of the exhibition – is punctuated by five sections featuring major commissions, furniture, lighting and textiles, as well as architectural projects detailed chronologically through drawings, models, photographs and films from the period. Finally, on the Rivoli side, six unique spaces have been conceived, each representing a decade, in order to highlight Ponti’s creations: l’Ange volant in the Parisian area, the Pirelli Tower and the Montecatini building in Milan, the palazzo Bo – Padua University, Gio Ponti’s home on the via Dezza in Milan, the interior of the Parco dei Principi hotel in Sorrento and finally the Villa Planchart in Caracas.
Until the very end, Gio Ponti defended his notion of an “Italian house”, considered to be the ultimate expression of an authentic modern and international civilization. The expression “from the spoon to the city”, attributed to the Italian architect Ernesto Nathan Rogers in reference to Gio Ponti, perfectly embodies the personality of the Milanese architect, whose projects could range from the infinitely small to the infinitely large. This catchphrase sums up the breadth of Ponti’s field of exploration, through which richness and originality remained constant in his joyful, colorful and very personal work.
Tutto Ponti, Gio Ponti Archi-designer
Musee des Arts Decoratifs
rue de Rivoli
From October 19th, 2018 to February 10th, 2019