Triennale Design Museum – 7th Edition

Place: Milan, Italy
Triennale Design Museum
Italian Design Beyond the Crisis
Autarky, Austerity, Autonomy

Direction: Silvana Annicchiarico
Scientific Curator: Beppe Finessi
Exhibition design: Philippe Nigro
Graphic design: Italo Lupi
Photos by Riccardo Bianchini, Inexhibit

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Triennale Design Museum – 7th Edition
Italian Design Beyond the Crisis  – Autarky, austerity, autonomy.
April 4th 2014 – 22nd February 2015

The seventh edition of the Milan Triennale Design Museum opened on Friday 4 April 2014. Since 2007, when the museum was inaugurated, six semi-permanent exhibitions came in succession, every one depicting the Italian design from the 1930s onwards by following different interpretations.

The new edition of the Museum, named Italian Design Beyond the Crisis Autarky, Austerity, Autonomy, is focused on production and self-sufficiency, starting from the idea that times of economic crises can particularly stimulate creativity.
Starting from that assumption, the exhibition is divided into three sections: the 1930s, with a production characterized by autarky; the 1970s, with the austerity that followed the Oil crisis, and the first two decades of the new millennium with the self-production phenomenon as a key-point.
Such periods are presented through over 600 works by designers such as Fortunato Depero, Carlo Mollino, Gio Ponti, Piero Fornasetti, Bruno Munari, Alessandro Mendini, Enzo Mari, Ettore Sottsass, Nanni Strada, Martino Gamper, Lorenzo Damiani, and Paolo Ulian, among many others.

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The exhibition itinerary, arranged in a chronological sequence, begins with a darkened hall where a selection of objects belonging to all three periods is housed in large black steel frame boxes; by proceeding, a room is dedicated to Fortunato Depero, the first designer-producer, with objects coming from the Depero’s House Museum of Rovereto.

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Anticorodal, Duralluminio, Eraclit, Securit… The first section “From Autarky to Autonomy” begins with a white wall reporting the names of several materials invented in the 1930s by the Italian industries as a reaction to the economic sanctions imposed by the League of Nations. The exhibition comprises pieces of furniture and objects from the 1930s to the 1950s and includes works by Gio Ponti, such as a table with crystal supports manufactured by Fontana Arte, garden furniture by Vittoriano Viganò, accessories by Piero Fornasetti, various chairs and tables made in steel tubular sections and an interesting set of objects produced in Sardinia, carpets, tapestries and wicker baskets, designed in the 1950s by Eugenio Tavolara.

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The exhibition proceeds with the “From Austerity to Participation” part. That section begins with a video from the RAI National broadcasting company on the austerity period and is focused on designers and design teams that from 1973, the first year of the so-called Oil crisis, onward followed a provocative and alternative approach.

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Along with many others, the exhibition presents works by Ettore Sottsass, self-produced objects by Enzo Mari, projects by the Global Tools team, and objects in papier-mâché and plywood designed by Riccardo Dalisi in 1973.

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The third section, called “From Self-Production to Self-sufficiency”, depicts some of the many research and production approaches that came one after another from the 1980s to the present day. From the projects by Alchimia to Nanni Strada’s dresses, from the Alessi Ecolo box by Enzo Mari, housing flower containers made from recovered detergent packaging, to the handcrafted mosaics by Ugo Marano, Anna Gilli, and Ugo La Pietra.

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The last period, from the noughties to the present day, is characterized by dozens of different types of design and production approaches. It is a story made of unique and small-series products conceived by designers trying to find new forms of expression, sometimes recovering forgotten handicraft techniques, new production processes, and new markets.
The displayed works include the foam furniture of Massimiliano Adami, the benches realized by Martino Gamper recovering dismissed chairs, the coffee table made with wood scraps by Carmine Deganello, and the marble furniture designed, among others, by Paolo Ulian, Patricia Urquiola, and Lorenzo Palmieri.

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The first exhibition spaces, namely the entrance hall with an overall selection and the room dedicated to Fortunato Depero are intentionally darkened, while the remainder of the exhibition, designed by Philippe Nigro, is conceived like a continuum defined by white surfaces and partition walls made in varnished OSB wood that let visitors perceive the underlying wood frame structure: a not-finished appearance which recalls the theme of the self-construction.  Across the exhibition itinerary, people will find rooms and spaces enclosing thematic groups of objects while smaller and fragile items are housed inside wall-recessed showcases.

Near the end of the exhibition, one can find the “Download Design” room, where Denis Santachiara gives his own vision of design and design’s authorship, a vision projected toward the future but already possible through technology, a hybrid design independent from materials but created indeed by a recognizable author who directly deals with all stages, from inception up to online selling.

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