GIO PONTI, crazy psychedelic
text and photos of the exhibition By Françoise Spiekermeier and DR photos
In Paris, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs presents TUTTO PONTI, a tribute exhibition dedicated to the work of the Milanese architect and designer GIO PONTI, one of the most influential of the 20th century. A prolific Italian designer, he revolutionized post-war architecture and opened up the prospects for a new way of life. In terms of interior architecture, spatial geometry highlighted by the use of colour and stripes plunges the inhabitant into an almost psychedelic experience. Hundreds of pieces of art have been taken out of their place of origin and are shown to the public in this first-time Parisian retrospective.
With Gio Ponti, “the house becomes a creation, a unique composition of spaces, of lights that, when put in contact with each other, give us more beautiful, fresher emotions, closer to architecture and our vision of life”.
This is how Gio Ponti sees architecture, as a place where an inner feeling, a form of liberation from being, is deployed.
Space is redefined to redeploy the field of human experience and architecture is not separated from interior design: Gio Ponti refuses to separate the design of content from that of the container. For him, architecture is design, and vice versa. Therefore, living inside a space is an experience devoid of breaking emotions.
Born in 1891 in Milan, Italy, he studied architecture at the Milan Polytechnic School from which he graduated in 1921, after having served as a captain in the engineering corps during the First World War.
In the same year, he got married and founded his architectural firm with two partners.
Two years later, one of Italy’s leading porcelain manufacturers, Richard Ginori, appointed him artistic director. His work for this house founded in 1735, a contemporary icon of the “made in Italy”, was awarded the Grand Prix de Céramique at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1925. He brings a fresh perspective through his focus on high quality mass production. This first experience will leave a mark on his style because his taste for ceramics will lead him to integrate this material into architecture, both in interior decoration and facade cladding.
The Richard Ginori House
The Richard Ginori house has loaned more than thirty pieces of art, exhibited at the Museum of Decorative Arts, including the Vaso Delle Donne e delle architetture, the Vaso Prospettica, one of the master’s best-known pieces, the Mano della Fattucchierra, a timeless design object and the centrepiece Il Trionfo da tavola per le ambasciate d’Italia, an exceptional piece that has now been reissued with the drawings found in the Manufacture’s archives.
For Gio Ponti, ceramics is an unparalleled field of experimentation.
The most beautiful example is undoubtedly the construction of the Hotel Parco dei Principi in 1960, in Sorrento, and that of Rome from 1961 to 1964. Gio Ponti implements his conception of the hotel as a total work of art.
He opted for an immersive blue and white chromatic solution so that he could invite the outside into the interior. With the help of Ceramica D’Agostino de Salerno, he creates thirty 20-centimetre squares decorated with blue and white motifs which, assembled and oriented in different ways, make it possible to obtain a hundred different floors, a sufficient number to make each room unique. Ceramic pebbles evoking the walls of caves and baroque gardens decorate the lobby walls. Ceramic cladding is used repeatedly for religious and private buildings: the Villa Arreaza in Caracas, the Montedoria building (1964-1970) for example.
Created between 1953 and 1957 in Caracas, Venezuela, the Villa Planchart is a total work of art, the transposition of an Italian dream into Venezuelan tropical vegetation.
All materials, from marbles to aluminium, carpentry, furniture and handicrafts, are shipped from Italy by boat.
He conceives this house as a large-scale abstract sculpture that can be seen from the inside, and offers an uninterrupted sequence of changing shows. Throughout the rooms, a kaleidoscope of colours animates the surfaces. The yellow striped ceilings of the living room, library and small dining room match the marble mosaic of the entrance floor, and match the multicoloured carvings of the ceiling of the large dining room. Even the doors and windows are unique in their geometric patterns painted in pink, yellow and sky blue on a white background.
On the furniture side, the scenography of the exhibition created by the architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte’s firm reproduces interior spaces, or aligns the pieces of art, sometimes presenting them in a totally isolated way under the lighting that magnifies them and brings out the ingenuity of their design.
One of the highlights of the exhibition is the presentation of original drawings.
Whether it is the ceramic projects for the Richard Ginori house or the cutlery and coffee maker projects for the Christofle house, the sketches explore the master’s creative process and his profound freedom of tone.
Throughout his life, he never stopped communicating with his friends, institutions or private sponsors, writing richly illustrated letters, the texts nestled in the drawings, composing real works that echoed his activity as a publisher. Through the publication of the Domus magazine, Gio Ponti has carried out a unique popularization and transmission work to create a link between architecture, design and the general public. He published texts in the original language, making this multilingual magazine the rallying point for the diversity of a universal culture. The 500th issue published in July 1971 was dedicated to him: “the director whom we love as a man and as a teacher, and who has been running the magazine for thirty-five years”. Gio Ponti, creator of universal “bridges”.
Exhibition at the Musée des arts Décoratifs until February 10th, 2019