Wednesday, April 06, 2022

Venice - Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore - Le Stanze Del Vetro - FontanaArte. House of Glass

"Throughout, the company set a standard for Italian design: the seamless continuity between the classical ancient past and the technological present; the perfect marriage of art with industry; the superior quality of materials 
and hand craftsmanship; and the elevation of  the 
everyday object into a luxurious art of living"
Christian Larsen
exhibition curator 
Le Stanze Del Vetro
FontanaArte. House of Glass 
FontanaArte. House of Glass, curated by Christian Larsen, is the spring exhibition at Le Stanze Del Vetro - until July 31 - on the magical island of San Giorgio Maggiore. The exhibition offers a critical retrospective on the glass furnishings of the legendary Milanese company, through an overview of the creative catalogue and production periods of its four great artistic directors: Gio Ponti - 1932–1933 - Pietro Chiesa - 1933–1948 - Max Ingrand - 1954–1967 and Gae Aulenti - 1979–1996. The exhibition focuses on the poetic possibilities of plate glass, an industrial material worked by many of the designers and artists associated with the company over the course of its history, through 85 of the most exceptional pieces produced by FontanaArte. 
 Origins - 1930s Industrial Glass Production
Newsreels of the period show innovative new technologies, they focus on the process of making plate glass, the fundamental basis of FontanaArte’s products. The Milanese architect Massimiliano Locatelli, and curator of the exhibition layout, designed the stools in this gallery from up-cycled cast-offs of industrial glass manufacturing, they are a poetic play on the aesthetic and structural possibilities of plate glass as a raw material in design.
"As objects, FontanaArte products embody in their making and use values as transparent as the plate glass from which they are made.  Their structure is honest with visual integrity.  In these objects, materials are skilfully crafted to elevate their phenomeno-logical properties - they transcend their own limits."
Christian Larsen

Gio Ponti - Chandelier 0024 - 1933 

 Artistic Directors 
Gio Ponti - 1932-1933 and Pietro Chiesa - 1933-1948
Luigi Fontana & Co. had been producing industrial plate glass for the Milanese construction industry since 1881. Over time, the company diversified into glass products for the home. It wasn’t until the 1930 Monza Biennale that Luigi Fontana first collaborated with the celebrated Milanese architect-designer Gio Ponti - 1891-1979.   With this encounter, Fontana’s production facilities and Ponti’s artistic vision, for glass as a versatile and innovative design material - industry and art - merged to produce a stunning array of luxurious modern glass furnishings. A year after the official founding of FontanaArte in 1932, Ponti invited the master glassmaker Pietro Chiesa - 1892-1948 - to join as artistic director. With this arrival, Chiesa added an astonishing number of objects of great stylistic diversity to the FontanaArte catalogue.  
Pietro Chiesa - Chest of Drawers - design 1938c. 

Gio Ponti - Piero Fornasetti - 1913-1988 - Curved Cabinet - design 1940

Gio Ponti - Mirror  - design 1940s
Gio Ponti - Coupe - design 1930

Massimiliano Locatelli
designer of the exhibition installation
Pietro Chiesa  - Globe table lamp - design 1935c.
Photo - Enrico Fiorese - FontanaArte. House of Glass -  installation views - courtesy Le Stanze Del Vetro
"A secret material, difficult to work with, but so noble and precious, glass seems to be the ideal complement to light, in which it plays by transmitting, by reflecting. It’s a perfect combination."
Max Ingrand 
Artistic Director 
Max Ingrand - Master of Form - Master of Light - 1954-1967
The French master of stained glass Max Ingrand - 1908-1969 - joined FontanaArte in 1954. His early work had already impressed Gio Ponti in the 1930s when the Italian architect saw Ingrand’s large engraved panel The Milky Way in Brussels. By the early 1950s, Ingrand was already an artistic consultant to Saint-Gobain. Ingrand’s great challenge and ultimate success was meeting the market demands of a booming economy in the 1950s and 1960s. He was able to produce designs that maintained the company’s reputation for high quality craftsmanship while also producing in much greater quantity than ever before. Some works like the grand chandelier in this gallery - above - are singular virtuoso pieces of great technical and artistic skill that were destined for public display. 
Max Ingrand - Grand Chandelier - design 1958 
Max Ingrand - Mirror  - design 1957
 Max Ingrand - Table Lamp mod. 1815 - design 1957

Max Ingrand - Chandelier Dahlia mod. 1563A - design 1955c.
Max Ingrand - Table Lamp Disco Volante - design 1955c.

Max Ingrand - Pendant Lamp - design 1955c.
Max Ingrand - Illuminated Mirror mod. 2044 - design 1955

Max Ingrand - Pair of Scones mod. 1844 - design 1963c.

"The space in which you live in is important because it creates conditioning. All the objects in it settle down and with them so does time, which transforms the space into a place for the mind."
Gae Aulenti
Artistic Director
Gae Aulenti - 1979-1996
The celebrated architect-designer Gae Aulenti - 1927-2012 - had already contributed her first design for FontanaArte in 1964 with her Giova table lamp, see below.  Aulenti returned the company to its former glory, which had somewhat faded since 1972 when Saint-Gobain took over its administration.  She chose to focus on the brand legacy and tradition, continuing to produce classic designs from the past and formed a team of designers including Piero Castiglioni for lighting, Pierluigi Cerri for communications, Daniela Puppa and Franco Raggi for exhibitions and displays. The company invited the most esteemed designers to contribute their visions, including Renzo Piano, Ettore Sottsass and Umberto Riva. Together these designers would respect the FontanaArte ethos while moving the company into a new era of technological innovation with a restrained post-modern aesthetic.
Gae Aulenti - Table Tour - design 1993
Gio Ponti - Floor Lamp Pirellone - design 1967

"Aulenti was a well-established architect and designer when she took over the artistic directorship in 1979, being preceded by Pietro Chiesa and, earlier still, by Gio Ponti.  Both of these extraordinary protagonists in production activities seem to have stimulated her insatiable pursuit of  'cross-pollination' between architecture, art, production, design, functionality and the aesthetics of artefacts.  A pursuit of innovation and experimentation which - for those who knew her - coincided with a determined temperament, a consistently vivid, independent and original activity."
Renata Codello

Secretary General - Fondazione Giorgio Cini 


 Installation Designer,  Massimiliano Locatelli, Curator Christian Larsen
Le Stanze Del Vetro's, David Landau and Renata Codello

Renzo Piano - Bookcase Teso
- design 1987 

Umberto Riva - Table Lamp mod. 2656 - design 1980
Ettore Sottsass - Vase mod 2665 - design 1979c.
Gae Aulenti - Piero Castiglioni - Table Lamp Pietra
- design 1988

 Gae Aulenti - Table Lamp Giova - design 1964 
House of Glass
The exhibition culminates in a house of glass, a suite of galleries meant to evoke a domestic space furnished only with objects by FontanaArte. As designed by Massimiliano Locatelli, the house of glass strips the dwelling down to an enfilade of abstract spaces delineated by glass walls, allowing us to see through and across space, overlapping and juxtaposing objects. This minimalistic approach focuses our attention on the diversity of FontanaArte objects and the way they coexist and operate spatially.   It was the avant-garde vision of Luigi Fontana and Gio Ponti to reinvent industrial glass from an exterior construction material to a new luxurious standard for furnishing the interior of the home. To live not just encased in glass, but to live with glass. 
Max Ingrand - attrib. - Coffee Table - design 1954c.
Max Ingrand - Chandelier Dahlia - mod. 1563A - design 1955c.
Max Ingrand - Side Table - design 1955
FontaArte Workshop - Attrib. - Pair Illuminated Side Tables - design 1975c.

Gio Ponti - Drawing for a Floor Lamp - design 1967


Gio Ponti - Table - design 1935

FontaArte Workshop - Attrib. - Umbrella Stand - design 1950c.
Photo - Enrico Fiorese - FontanaArte. House of Glass -  installation views - courtesy Le Stanze Del Vetro
Max Ingrand - Accessories for the Bathroom - design 1965 

Max Ingrand - Vase mod. 2122 - design 1960c.
Ettore Sottsass - Vases - design 1979
Pietro Chiesa - Vase - design 1939 

Gio Ponti - FontanaArte Holiday Ornaments - design 1967c.
Special Guest
The exhibition is produced by Fondazione Giorgio Cini and Pentagram Stiftung and the illustrated catalogue, FontanaArte. Vivere nel Vetro - House of Glass is published by Skira in -  English and Italian -  containing essays by leading scholars and a collection of all the pieces shown in the exhibition.   
Please Note
All blog quotes are taken from the catalogue.










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