ettore sottsass' never-seen-before glass pieces exhibit at fondazione cini in venice

ettore sottsass' never-seen-before glass pieces exhibit at fondazione cini in venice


on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of italian architect ettore sottsass (1917 – 2007), ‘the glass’ exhibition at le stanze del vetro in venice celebrates the creative’s glass and crystal production. featuring over 220 pieces — many of which are presented for the first time — the show is curated by luca massimo barbero, director of the institute of art history of fondazione giorgio cini. held at the island of san giorgio maggiore, anyone in venice will have the chance to visit ‘the glass’ until the 30th of july 2017. a catalog, edited by skira, complements the exhibition, with texts and a richly illustrated section. see our previous article here.

ettore sottsass glass exhibition le stanze del vetro venice designboom
‘sottsass’s glass pieces are complex organisms, designed as if they were characters.’ says curator luca massimo barbero
installation view “ettore sottsass: il vetro” / image by enrico fiorese © ettore sottsass by SIAE 2017



I’ve tried to get away from the everyday object and sought to make Glass works with a capital G. of course, that’s a dangerous approach, because I don’t want to be an artist, or a sculptor, but in the end the objects I produce look like glass sculptures, and yet they aren’t: they’re a mix that’s hard to fathom.’ ettore sottsass


sottsass established working relationships with the famous glass makers on the venetian island of murano during the 1940s, showed a few glass works at the 1948 biennale, and continued working with the city’s craftsmen over the following decades, producing murano glass pieces under the aegis of his memphis group during the 1980s. his glass oeuvre, spans from the series he designed in the 1970s for vistosi to symbolic forms of the 1990s, the stunning constructions for the millennium house in qatar, and the famous kachinas.

image © designboom



‘sottsass began creating glass sculptures in the early 1980’s where he introduced the use of glue, challenging the traditions of murano glassmaking. he breaks through the technical boundaries of the objects using materials such as glass, plastic and polycarbonates.’ says luca massimo barbero, the curator of the exhibition. ‘his glass pieces are complex organisms, designed as if they were characters’ the artist-architect breaks through the technical boundaries of the objects using materials such as glass, plastic and polycarbonates and brings them to life. they are beings made of many elements that create a lively yet imaginary world’. 

image © designboom



the more than 200 glass and crystal works on display are mostly drawn from the collection of the dutch gallerist and one-time partner in sottsass associati, ernest mourmans. some pieces, such as his lighting fixtures and vases, serve practical purposes, while others are entirely ornamental. the show demonstrates how varied his creative abilities were, and how wide a research on a theme can be created within this apparently traditional medium.


the project marked the opening of a new permanent exhibition space designed to host a series of solo and group shows featuring international artists, both contemporary and historical, who have used glass during their careers as an original means of expression and medium for researching their own personal aesthetics. the aim is to illustrate the numerous potential uses of the medium and put glass back at the centre of attention and discussion on the international art scene.


le stanze del vetro is located in the west wing of the ex-convitto (a former boarding school) on the island of san giorgio maggiore. with 650 square metres of exhibition space, the exhibition centre does not only host exhibitions but also conferences, workshops and other events dedicated to glass. 


moreover, the fondazione cini has set up a special study centre in its institute of art history to promote the gradual establishment of a general archive of venetian glass; the creation of a specialised library; the organisation of seminars, conferences and workshops; and the institution of scholarships specifically addressed to researchers interested in the topic.



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