Triennale Museum – “What is Italian design” #3

Triennale Museum – “What is Italian design” #3

After answering the question: “What is Italian design?” with the Le Sette Ossessioni del Design Italiano (Seven Obsessions of Italian Design) and Serie Fuori Serie (Off-Series Series) exhibitions,since March 27, 2010 Triennale Design Museum, presents a third interpretation with the title of Quali cose siamo (Which things we are).


The curatorial hypothesis at the basis of the third interpretation at Triennale Design Museum is that a big and infinite world exists in Italy, parallel to institutional design. An invisible and non-orthodox design. The vantage point on history and the stories springing from single objects, which – if put next to each other – create a network of relations and cross-references, a manifold landscape able to wrong-foot and unbalance, but rich in emotion and spectacle.

A selection of masterpieces by artists and young designers enters a dialogue with unexpected objects which seem to “make system” at first sight, but are not really what they seem. If looked through new points of view they show a complex design matrix, provide a further and unprecedented testimony of Italian creativity, and contribute to define our identity and the essence of Italian design in a different way.

Alessandro mendini at the opening image courtesy of designboom


Review by Anniina Koivu

A giant David by Michelangelo, an equally tall wooden skeleton, a super-sized campari bottle and a mechanized piano – these are only a few of the blown-up gladiators, who welcome the visitors to “Quali cose siamo”.

Curated by Alessandro Mendini and Silvana Annicchiarico, the third edition of the Triennale Design Museum is about to open its doors to the public.

The first impression is overwhelming. Standing in front of these large figures placed inside a huge yellow arena, you don’t only feel tiny, like a lost little child in the world of giants, but you forget everything you have ever learnt about good and bad in design. Rules and stereotypes are subdued.

You will search in vain for the usual industrial design pieces that you expected to see in a Design Museum, yet what you find along the journey around the horseshoe-like space of the Triennale is magical, ironic and fun.

Like Alice in Wonderland or sister Wendy, who is taken into the adventurous Neverland, you are sucked into a world of associations, mind-play, tales and stories, where any kind of rational analysis of the things in front of you ends in useless attempts. There is no logic if not the logic of the mastermind Alessandro Mendini, who in the disguise of Peter Pan plays tricks with the spectator. He encourages you to think for yourself, yet when you ask for assurance, his response is a cheeky “Are you sure?”

Pierre Charpin, the exhibition designer, succeeded in framing this world of associations with little gestures. Placing the more than 700 objects, which range from architecture, design, crafts, art, fashion, photography, to knick knacks, souvenirs and just “things”, on top of eight large platforms, he allowed for a general randomness. Selected objects on scattered patches of colour create isolated groups of things. Signs, which hover above the platforms, give little introductions to the pieces on show. In this way, Charpin did not only create the framework to the mind of Mendini, he left space for imagination, which can expand beyond the walls of the museum. And by opening up the windows – which were curtained by the previous introverted exhibition, which presented design in a more sterile laboratory environment –, “Quali cose siamo” connects to everyday life in the city, people and the objects on show actually become the “things in us”.

So what comes into your mind when you move from a “Panettone” concrete traffic post painted as a water melon to Mario Bellini’s seven Compasso d’oro prizes, which are lined up like little soldiers. Do you also think of super-sized sneakers when you look at the colourful models of expressionist cruise ship models? Is the Morandi painting really real, or is it already the specially commissioned forgery, which is eventually going to replace the original tableau? Is the parade of dolls next to Michele de Lucchi’s “Memphis” iron really coincidental? Everyone knows Belotti’s Spaghetti chair, but did you ever think of its “ingredients”? Here the nude chair structure is served with a fork and its strings in a pasta bowl. And the stories go on and on and on.

With “Quali cose siamo” Alessandro Mendini is the first in the line of curators of the annually changing design exhibitions to bring people actually closer to design. They might not learn about in an accademical way, but they will see the fun side in it. And at the same time Mendini reduces critical voices form the self-righteous design critics and opinion makers to silence. As every interpretation is valid, there is no absolute truth.

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