Enzo Mari curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist with Francesca Giacomelli
October 17, 2020 – April 18, 2021
Triennale Milano, Milan
Triennale Milano with its Museo del Design Italiano presents Enzo Mari curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist (co-curated by Francesca Giacomelli), an exhibition devoted to the work and ideas of Enzo Mari, one of the most important designers, artists, critics and theorists. The show includes projects, models, drawings, and materials, many of which have never been shown before, from the Enzo Mari Archive, recently donated to CASVA, the centre for advanced studies in the visual arts of the City of Milan.
In an interview in 2016, Mari mentioned that he had stipulated that no one was to have access to his archive until forty years after the donation. This was because, in his most optimistic opinion, it would only be after such a period of time that a new generation would be able to make an informed use of it and thus return to the more profound significance of its content.
The sweeping retrospective at Triennale is thus a unique opportunity to examine Mari’s long career, bringing new insights and interpretations.”
The exhibition has emerged from the incessant dialogue and exchange of ideas over the years between Mari and the curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, looking at more than 60 years of art and design, architecture and philosophy, teaching and graphics.
The exhibition consists of a historical section and a series of contributions from international artists and designers -Adelita Husni-Bey, Tacita Dean, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Mimmo Jodice, Dozie Kanu, Adrian Paci, Barbara Stauffacher Solomon, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Danh Vō, Nanda Vigo, and Virgil Abloh for the merchandising project – who have been invited to pay tribute to Mari with site-specific installations and new, specially commissioned works. One contribution in particular is that of Nanda Vigo, whose work, made specially for the exhibition shortly before her death and never shown previously, uses light to reinterpret 16 animali and 16 pesci, two of Mari’s most famous works.
The historical section starts with a new display of the artist’s last exhibition project, Enzo Mari. L’arte del design, held at GAM, Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, in Turin in 2008-9, a global project that Mari himself prepared and curated, and for which he edited the catalogue. The exhibition features a selection of about 250 of Mari’s projects – from the Pitture of the 1950s to the Strutture of the 1950s and ’60s (programmed art), to the series of Putrella containers (1958) and his art multiples entitled La Serie della Natura (1961-76), to the vases of his Nuove proposte per la lavorazione a mano del marmo. Serie Paros (1964) and the Allestimenti modulari di cartone (1964-70), and from the design for the Cover of the Collana Universale Scientifica Boringhieri (1965) to the Box chair (1971), Autoprogettazione (1973), and the bowls of the Proposte per la lavorazione a mano della porcellana. Serie Samos (1973), through to the 44 valutazioni (1976-2008), and the Tonietta chair (1980). There are also designs for Tre piazze del Duomo (1982), the Allegoria della dignità (1988), and Lezioni di disegno (2007-8), all the way to the design Per un Nuovo Museo del design for Abitare magazine (2009-10) – which is considered as one of the most representative works of the nearly 2,000 he has created during his career. The works are shown in chronological order, without distinguishing between disciplines, media, or types of research.
At the same time, nineteen Research Platforms, specially created for the Triennale exhibition, give insights into the individual projects that have given rise to the key themes of Mari’s artistic vision and practice: his initial investigations of perceptual ambiguities, his research into experimental production, his studies of mass-production, the theme of standards, and so on. The focus displays contain a selection of the Allegorie – including the first 856 (1967), the critical design exercise Proposta per un’autoprogettazione (1974), Perché una mostra di falci? (1986), and Sessanta fermacarte (2010), the last one he made – as well as his last projects, which he worked on in the years following the anthological exhibition in Turin. These include the spectacular design for the exhibition Vodun, African Voodoo (2011) designed for the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in Paris in 2010, of which one setting is shown here with powerful formal references to the structures of the models that form the Proposta per un’autoprogettazione of 1974.
The exhibition also includes a series of video interviews by Hans Ulrich Obrist that illustrate Mari’s constant ethical tensions, the depth of his theoretical understanding, and his extraordinary design skills with which he has given shape to the essential.
In this way, with the Enzo Mari retrospective and the Museo del Design Italiano the whole ground floor of Triennale will be dedicated to Italian design.
The exhibition is also part of a series of major exhibitions put on by Triennale and its Museo del Design Italiano to examine the great masters of Italian design (Mario Bellini, Osvaldo Borsani, Achille Castiglioni, and Ettore Sottsass). The journey will continue in April 2021 with an exhibition devoted to Vico Magistretti.
The Institutional Partners Eni and Lavazza, the Technical Partner ATM, and the Institutional Media Partner Clear Channel are also supporting Triennale Milano for the Enzo Mari curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist exhibition.