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Spot on the Milan Furniture Fair_ LK design 06 Mai 2015 10:45 #83137

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At the Milan Furniture Fair, a Mash-Up of Historical References


The graffiti in Milan’s historic center cursed capitalism and urged the smashing of store windows. But it may as well have said “No Parking,” for all the impact such antimaterialist sentiments had on this well-dressed city, luxuriating in design during the 54th annual Milan Furniture Fair.

The aura was giddy, and for good reason. The mid-April weather was unseasonably warm; Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy had just declared the furniture fair a symbol of his country’s much needed economic recovery; and Milan was preparing to host a world’s fair devoted to food and nutrition in less than three weeks.

And yet this free-for-all had an edge of desperate energy that was reflected in the aesthetic waywardness of the designs. The 1980s were back, for sure, in cheeky chairs and vases with awkward proportions and strange color combinations. But so were the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, not to mention guest appearances from the age of Art Deco.

Many objects, including hallucinatory carpets and 3-D-printed lamps, called attention to their lavish materials and seductive forms, manipulated through state-of-the-art technology. But what was often lacking from these statement pieces was coherent thought.

“It resembles what happens in wartime: Technology and materials are moving forward and the designers are following them,” said Galit Gaon, chief curator of the Design Museum Holon in Israel, who was in Milan scouting for material for exhibitions.

“I feel like everything is stalling,” she said. “We are waiting for something to happen.”

Even so, there were many pleasures to be found in the riotous medleys of decorative surfaces and historical references. A particular high point was Euroluce, a biennial lighting show that revealed progress in the art of turning lamps into lyrical sculpture.

And with Expo Milano 2015 around the corner, food was a certifiable design inspiration — even more than usual. Even in Italy.

Every year at the Milan Furniture Fair, there is a stylistic tug of war between modernist simplicity and decorative exuberance. The increasing precision of computer-controlled tools allows for greater refinements on both sides. But this year, the maximalists seemed to pull with particular vigor, and highly ornamented surfaces and shapes were everywhere. Textile patterns were adapted to furniture, wallpaper featured super-realistic objects, and colors popped in happy (or hyperactive?) explosions.

Daniel Rozensztroch, artistic director of Merci, a Paris design shop, created eight wallpaper patterns based on his own collections of humble artifacts. The high-resolution images are so lifelike that you feel you can rip them from the wall; $299 a roll from NLXL.
Cristian Zuzunaga applies hot-hued low-res patterns to textiles and furniture. Prices for his Dreams cabinets start at $8,820 (the version shown is 13,420 euros, about $14,650); available in July from B.D. Barcelona Design.

The star shapes that make up the Estrela furniture collection by Fernando and Humberto Campana are laser-cut steel welded into lacy configurations in a variety of bright colors. The 68.5-inch-wide sofa is $2,427 from the Brazilian company A Lot of Brasil.


Even before its May 1 opening, Expo Milano 2015 was bringing its subject of food into conversations about design. A vivid point of intersection was the Triennale Design Museum, where the exhibition “Arts and Foods: Rituals Since 1851” took up almost every square foot. The Wallpaper Handmade show was devoted to culinary objects and activities (grilling, ham slicing, sipping spirits from flasks). And even Ikea weighed in with concepts for the kitchen of the future.

Two small tables, a tray and four centerpieces make up the Réaction Poétique collection by Jaime Hayon for Cassina. The group was inspired by the architecture of Le Corbusier, whose furniture Cassina continues to produce. Prices start at $490 at Cassina.

Rodolfo Dordoni’s glass ice bucket for De Gustibus: The Design Memorabilia Italy collection has a sculptured interior that allows ice cubes to rest near the surface; $89. Available June 14 from the Museum of Modern Art Store.

Inspired by the culinary theme of Expo 2015, these chopsticks by Mario Bellini for De Gustibus: The Design Memorabilia Italy collection are $20 a pair. Available May 25 from the Museum of Modern Art Store.


Euroluce, a biennial lighting show that runs alongside the furniture fair, made a strong appearance this year. Filling three exhibition halls, it was the most visionary of platforms, offering technologydriven concepts that often won’t see the commercial market for a couple of years. (Particularly fetching was Les Danseuses, a whirling skirted ceiling lamp by Atelier Oi for Artemide, whose action is based on the physics of hurricanes.) The excitement spilled over into other sectors of Milan, with arresting lights shown by veterans including Tom Dixon and Lindsey Adelman.

At Euroluce, Michael Anastassiades, a London based designer, showed his Happy Together family of lamps, spare brass rods combined with clusters of glass globes. The Berry 10 member of the group is available in black-patinated, nickel-plated and raw brass. It is about $5,060 from

The New York lighting designer Lindsey Adelman presented her latest Catch chandelier in brushed brass and mouth-blown milky glass with LED bulbs; $33,000 from Lindsey Adelman.

A collaboration between the British designer Tom Dixon and the Swedish design collective Front resulted in Melt: blobby blown-glass-like pendant lamps whose mirrored surfaces turn translucent when the lights are switched on. Melt is available in two sizes in gold, copper or chrome; $600 to $1,100 from Tom Dixon.


Designers looking back willy-nilly for inspiration sometimes flatten design history, going so far as to braid historical references together in single objects. (India Mahdavi’s cement tiles for Bisazza, for instance, combined 1970s motifs with 1950s colors.) The temporal smorgasbord may explain the several homages this year, in products issued by Kartell, Cappellini and others, to Memphis, a shortlived Italian design movement that was all about random historical recycling, lively surfaces and comical exaggerations. It may have been less a trend at the fair than a mascot.

Designed by Gianni Ruffi for Poltranova in 1972, La Cova, a human-size nest, emerged from the cartoonish enthusiasms of Italian radicalism. Gufram, an Italian company, has brought it back in a limited edition; $25,000 from Gufram.

At past Milan fairs, Philippe Starck’s 2004 Mademoiselle chair for Kartell was exhibited in fabrics designed by Missoni, Moschino and Lenny Kravitz
. This year the chair appeared in textiles reproduced from the 1980s Memphis Group’s archives. Available in the fall from Kartell.

Art Deco styling made an appearance in the streamlined Minah sofa by the Italian architect couple Doriana and Massimiliano Fuksas. The 94-inch-wide sofa starts at about $8,655 from Meritalia.
2008:Nimes (Love Revolution)
2009: Paris, Lyon, Arras (Love Revolution)
2011: lyon, Rouen, Hambourg (BAWA)
2012: Middelfart (BAWA)
2014: Paris, Dijon (Strut)
2015: Olympia, Arras, Festival Beauregard, Skanderborg (Strut)
2018: Bercy, Les Déferlantes, Nîmes, Bordeaux, Tours, Vienne (Raise Vibration)
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