Salone del Mobile 2019: Made in Italy
Now in its 58th year, the world’s biggest design fair may be renowned for its international flavour, but this year's edition retained a distinctly Italian tilt
When Milan’s annual Salone del Mobile was launched as a trade fair in 1961, its only remit was to promote the export of Italian furnishing and accessories. Since then Salone has become synonymous with international design, but the good news is that at heart, the exhibition remains a very Italian affair.
In their manifesto to mark this year’s edition, the organisers vowed to recognise the role that Milan has played in Salone’s success, with a series of events and installations honouring the city. These included the announcement of an innovative three-year collaboration with the famed Teatro alla Scala, and a public installation paying homage to Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci on the 500th anniversary of his death. At the fair itself, an exhibition titled DE-SIGNO: The art of Italian design before and after Leonardo was devoted to the artist’s approach to design and craftmanship.
Elsewhere in the city, some of the best examples of Milanese work could be seen in the Museum of Italian Design’s first permanent exhibition, housed in the Milan Triennale, a historic museum and cultural centre in the Palazzo dell’Arte in Parco Sempione.
Across Milan, local creatives snapped up the best palazzos, galleries, and boutiques in which to display their designs. Architect Piero Lissoni unveiled Lost Stone, a collection of decorative home accessories including quintessentially Italian bistro tables made from various types and hues of marble, and using the Japanese kintsugi method of repairing broken ceramics with delicate strands of resin mixed with precious metal. Created in collaboration with leading Italian stone brand Salvatori, the collection features marble slabs that Gabriele Salvatori and Lissoni found in disused Tuscan quarries. Lissoni’s work was also celebrated in a special exhibition held by family-owned upholstery company Living Divani at the Palazzo Crivelli to mark its 50th anniversary and the 30th year of collaborating with the designer, who has been the brand’s art director since 1998.
Milanese doyenne Rossana Orlandi’s focus this year was on sustainable design as she launched the Ro Plastic Prize for the best design, home textiles, packaging solutions, and conscious innovation projects, with prototypes for the first two created from plastic waste. Her eponymous gallery-cafe, housed in a former factory in the Magenta district, is the go-to place to discover exciting emerging talent, and at this year’s fair the gallery presented a series of 24-hour video works framed on windows, by Milan-based ANOTHERVIEW.
Etro is another Milanese family brand that has stayed true to its Italian roots, bringing to Salone its second collection of home furnishings, with flamboyant throw cushions and chairs featuring the fashion house’s signature rich paisley patterns.
Other highlights this year included Barnaba Fornasetti’s whimsical hand-tufted rugs depicting the surreal, idiosyncratic world of Piero Fornasetti, and wildly creative methacrylate furnishings by Jacopo Foggini, whose extraordinary new work was presented in collaboration with Italian fabric specialists Vitale Barberis Canonico.
Leading furniture brand Zanotta launched several new collaborations — including Tusa armchairs by Rodolfo Dordoni, and the Echino collection of small tables by German designer Sebastian Herkner —and celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Sacco beanbag chair, originally designed by Piero Gatti, Cesare Paolini and Franco Teodoro. Milan-based Nemo Lighting presented pieces from its Masters collection — including never-before-produced pieces by luminaries from Corbusier to Perriand — and an ethereal installation of cloud-shaped Nuvola pendant lamps by Milanese architect Mario Bellini.
Text / Catherine Shaw