80! molteni  – an exclamation mark – indicating surprise and amazement with the generous, rounded forms of a number that holds the infinite within itself. since 1934, angelo and giuseppina molteni drew up the business plan that was to become the passion of a lifetime.

 

four trademarks for a single brand: molteni&C , dada, unifor and citterio. conducted as a documentary project, the exhibition of the history of the italian company includes drawings, photographs, advertisement posters and furniture and is installed in the ignazio gardello designed rooms of the beautiful and newly renovated GAM galleria d’arte moderna in milan. 

 

on show until june 30th, 2015.

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a view into the exhibition

image © adriano mauri / designboom

 

 

the company has always been a community of brothers, cousins and friends and it attracted international talents like a magnet. like many products, furniture has become one of those things that are subject to ‘changes in taste’ and the ‘whims of fashion’, but molteni believes that furniture should be made to last, living alongside people. the driving force, as always, was still the human capital. reliability, service and flexibility were the winning cards. research and experimentation were only possible with factory-trained experts. 

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‘parigi chair’ by aldo rossi
image © adriano mauri / designboom

 

 

in an interview with jasper morrison about possible interventions in exhibitions with an autobiographical story telling, he explains the concept behind the ‘80!molteni’ and how he conceived the display.

 

 jasper morrison‘the pieces are displayed on floating islands within the exhibition rooms, which are rather intimate spaces with vaulted ceilings. there are dividing walls on the islands to isolate certain objects from others, in order not to mix too much the different design approaches or technologies involved in producing them. the shape of these dividing walls has been inspired by the gio ponti shelves, which molteni&c now produces, so the islands might also be described as capsized boats!’

 

 

DB: the exhibition is thematic, chronological or what else?

 

JM‘the sequence of the exhibition is somewhat chronologic, there are some beautiful prototypes and spectacular pieces, which were never produced for practical or economical reasons. there are well known icons and some less well known, but equally interesting pieces.’

 

 

DB: anything surprised you, in the history of production?

 

JM‘it’s always a surprise to get to look back at the history of an important design company through their archive.’

80 molteni anniversary jasper morrison
‘graduate’ shelfing system by jean nouvel and ‘ alfa (prototype) by hannes wettstein
photo by mario carrieri / courtesy molteni

 

 

DB: what is your relationship with the molteni group and why did you choose to work with them?

 

JM: ‘there have been connections with unifor in the past but this is the first project I have made for molteni. I think they wanted to have someone impartial with a fresh eye on the history in order to make an exhibition with an independent editor.’

 

 

DB: the exhibition venue is very peculiar, the gam gallery, designed by ignazio gardella. was it easier or more difficult, compared to your past experiences, to design an exhibition for that space?

 

JM: ‘the biggest challenge has been the scale of the rooms, which obliged us to plan the exhibition very carefully not to have the pieces too close to each other and allow a good view of everything. there isn’t too much dialogue between the exhibition and the rooms,  but I think that there will be no disagreements between the furniture and the paintings, and visitors will be able to admire both without any confusion.’ 

80 molteni anniversary jasper morrison
from left to right: a prototype by yasuhiko itoh, ‘monk’ chair and ‘mop’ shelves by afra and tobia scarpa
photo by mario carrieri / courtesy molteni

 

 

DB: what is the most important goal of the exhibition?

JM: ‘like any exhibition the goal is to interest the visitor and provide an accurate picture of the subject in amusing and interesting way.’

 

 

DB: three good reasons not to miss the exhibition…

JM:you will see some beautiful original models, some of which were never produced. you’ll get to see the museum, which is also beautiful, and you’ll learn a bit more about the particular skill and culture of brianza, through the output of one of its most successful companies.’ 

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prototype seat for the teatro felice by aldo rossi and luca meda
image © mauri / designboom 

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‘milano chair’ by aldo rossi
image © adriano mauri / designboom

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‘poggio’ tables and ‘risiedo’ chair by luca meda
image © adriano mauri /designboom  

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‘skin’ by jean nouvel
photo by mario carrieri / courtesy molteni 

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‘skin’ by jean nouvel
image © adriano mauri / designboom 

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‘teso’ table by foster + partners
image © adriano mauri / designboom 

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GAM staircase design by ignazio gardella with gio ponti chair ‘montecatini’ of 1938
image © designboom 

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graphic design of exhibition invitation and catalogue by studio cerri & associates

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entrance to the exhibition – ’80 years of experience in our hands’
image © adriano mauri / designboom 

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GAM museum entrance
photo by mario carrieri / courtesy molteni  

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jasper morrison
image courtesy molteni 

dinner
preparations for the gala dinner inside the GAM
image © designboom