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A Metaphor of Light

Lamps "Made in Italy" - Development in the field of Italian lighting design from 1933 to 2015

November 08, 2016 – November 19, 2016


Lighting… is an art

This indisputable statement is clearly given expression in the lighting typical of Caravaggio and Vermeer’s paintings. Even today, artists often act as catalysts for innovative lighting processes, in close collaboration with similarly daring architects who give rise to unconventional ideas and new design-related knowledge.

For many star designers, Italy is the only place where they can find those capable of turning their dream projects into objects. These creations, in turn, are highly appreciated by the international market for their ability to transform the atmosphere of homes, workplaces, museums, and even archaeological sites – enhancing the experience of living in spaces where lighting transcends its role as a necessary function to become an essential condition of well-being and pleasure.

Studio Italia Design, Pio e Tito Toso, Blow Table TA, 2005

This exhibition showcases 50 lamps designed between 1933 and 2015 by internationally renowned architects, designers, and artists for Italy’s leading design companies.

Ferruccio Laviani, Bourgie, 2004

As early as the 1930s, Pietro Chiesa and Gio Ponti, together with Max Ingrand, began bending glass and aluminum with the help of skilled artisans (Fontana Arte). They created aesthetically and technically innovative lighting fixtures that elegantly illuminated art-deco living spaces, while also playfully engaging with the ancient tradition of Venetian glass. During this same period, the painter Eugenio Carmi caused traffic disruptions in his hometown, Genoa, when he replaced the traffic signals at street corners with his own “light signals,” creating a happening that fortunately lasted for only one night. Several decades later, in the legendary 1960s, Marcello Pirro, anticipated Maurizio Cattelan’s marble sculpture “The Finger” by slipping a light bulb onto the middle finger of a wooden hand: an ironic and irreverent provocation designed for the desk of an unprejudiced collector.  These examples belong to a time that was ripe for the use of laboratory-made materials – such as the variously tinted methacrylates used profusely by Ferruccio Laviani for his objects, which have become icons of lighting design.

In more recent years, the painter Marco Lodola has created magical boxes, which are stuffed like sandwiches with iridescent neon lighting, chains of polychromatic LED, or white light sources that emphasize the colored surfaces. Yet even earlier, prominent artists such as Mario Merz, Maurizio Nannucci, and Dan Flavin had created museum-quality works in the form of neon signs: Fibonacci number sequences encircling igloos or spiral crystal tables filled with fruit or vegetables, Statements written in neon lights on museum walls or out in nature. Such works were unfortunately impossible to include in this exhibition. 

In a similar manner, the great modern architects (as well as many young new designers) incorporated natural or artificial materials into novel forms by using the idiom of scientific culture, which has more recently been updated by elements of contemporary visual culture. Optic fibers and LED have provided designers with an almost endless range of possibilities and applicable solutions, which are exploited to create cult objects that are nevertheless within reach on any budget.

Giorgio Forni, Curator of the Exhibition and Director of the Sartirana Arte Foundation, Italy

Gabriele De Vecchi, Corinna Morandi, New Form, 1971, Photo: Rafi Delouya

This exhibition was initiated by the Italian Cultural Institute in Tel Aviv and Fondazione Sartirana Arte and organized in collaboration with Design Museum Holon, under the sponsorship of the Embassy of Italy in Israel

Andrea Anastasio | Eugenio Carmi | Achille Castiglioni | Enzo Catellani | Piergiacomo Castiglioni | Pietro Chiesa | Paolo Deganello | Michele De Lucchi | Gabriele De Vecchi | Marco Ferreri | Gianfranco Frattini | Ilaria Gibertini | Ferruccio Laviani | Marco Lodola | Ross Lovegrove | Vico Magistretti | Ezio Martinelli | Corinna Morandi | Jasper Morrison | Piero Polato | Gio Ponti | Denis Santachiara | Richard Sapper | Philippe Starck | Giotto Stoppino | Oscar Tusquets | Pio Toso, Tito Toso