Salone Milan 2010 – Unexpected guests

Salone Milan 2010 – Unexpected guests

Unexpected guests.

Yesterday’s houses, today’s design

Scenarios in 4 Museums during Design week

The Vico Magistretti Foundation is now open to the public: via Conservatorio’s rooms will keep on preserving Magistretti precious drawings, but everyone will be able to come and visit his office, now an archive, whenever they want.

The same is already possible at the Achille Castiglioni Museum Office and at the Portaluppi Foundation. Milan is historically a city of courtyards rather then big squares. Analogously, the sum of single cultural places or workplaces, as well as the interiors set by art collectors or the domestic places, those of the past and those of the present, if organized in a network may have the strength of a big cultural institution.

This is the idea, old but always strong, of the “spread museum”.

Dorota Koziara, “Angelo”, 2000 + Rodolfo Dordoni, “Still”, Minotti, 2007

Another important and efficient Milanese network is the one composed by its four houses-museums (soon they will be five, enclosing the Alessandro Manzoni House). In their rooms, in their interiors incredibly full of furniture and art, contemprary design has unexpectedly take its place: after long meditations and the efforts of a precise calibration, it has been possible to decide a right selection of objects which have then become the Unexpected guests, a system of exhibitions conceived by Beppe Finessi, Italo Lupi and Annalisa Zanni.

helen kontouris lamp

Helen Kontouris, “La La Lamp”,


The main theme is confrontation, analogy, dialogue, even contrast and mutual influence between places of the past and objects of the present, between something that has slowly left its sediment (together with intelligences and souls) and something else that may suddenly and lively break in.


By Beppi Finessi  –  ” The day before yesterday, today, tomorrow. A lamp shaped like a horse in an ancient armoury. A table built of Lego bricks in a small boiserie-panelled study with splendid paintings by De Pisis. A throne made out of branches sits in a large drawing room like an uncombed bush. Clearly these are the last things one would expect to come across in the consolidated harmonies of spaces such as these. Then there is a computerised interpretation of a wooden chair rubbing shoulders with carved furniture of the sort that nobody makes any more, and a sophisticated and dynamic black leather chaise longue standing on tiptoe in the most elegant of libraries. These are felicitous presences dovetailed into the vocabulary of the rooms of yesteryear. They are the Unexpected guests, design objects of the last decade, immersed in the beauty of the Milanese Historic House Museums, bygone places brought back to new life. […] Thus the design world, its eye constantly to the future, is ready to take on new challenges, and today, here, it is measuring itself against history, the history of a few centuries ago, the day before yesterday. It has faced up to the unfailingly surprising challenge of mingling with the spaces and ghosts of lives lived long ago with discretion and courtesy, as well as courage and daring to confront the wonders contained in the rooms of the “Milanese Historic House Museums”, four unique places, redolent of history, pulsating hubs in the heart of the city, places where nobody has ever yet been brave enough or had the opportunity to raise the subject of speaking a different language, the language of modernity. Objects that challenge “other” contexts, proud of their own diversity: things that spark off a series of cross-references (between colours, finishes, materials, workmanship and shapes), in places they could never have imagined they would find themselves, and others that chime (surprisingly) with the furnishings that have been in situ for many years.”

Naoto Fukasawa, “Zaza”, Driade, 2009 + Corrado Levi, “Edipo”, Italianesting-Fabbrica Eos, 2004


Alessandro Mendin ” House Museum, MankindMuseum. It seems clear to me that any HOUSE at all can also be considered a MUSEUM. […] There also exist houses whose exact function and identity is that of the HOUSE MUSEUM. Apart from the homes of celebrities (be it Petrarch or Michael Jackson), which appeal to either historical interest or anecdotal gluttony, the truest HOUSE MUSEUMS are the work of an elect category of special individuals, of ingenious maniacs – that is, those rare and peculiar people who are at once intuitive, wealthy, passionate and reckless whom we label with the term COLLECTORS. In the obsessive mentality of the collector, the spaces of the home are not seen as something to be furnished, but are instead transformed from functional to vital, places for inspired and anxious accumulation of objects and paintings that become ever more carefully selected, specialized and beloved. For the true collector, a bed is just wasted space – better to sleep in a hidden corner unsuited to display. Each room, each hallway, each wall is transformed into a setting for objects of satisfied desire, but also for imagining the unrequited yearning for a complete collection. This is how the WUNDERHAUS is created, composed of many WUNDERKAMMERN, the literal and conceptual treasure chest where all the collector’s dreams of beauty are materialized. Splendid dwellings, to be visited as if they were reliquaries of privileged domestic dramas, celibate machine for the representation of intimacy and privacy, but also public testaments to the esthetic values of certain epochs and societies. Regardless, they are always charged with extraordinary utopian tensions that place them somewhere in the classification of the magical. Aristocrats, industrialists, merchants, financiers, grandes bourgeoises – a bizarre system of PEOPLE-MUSEUMS spread throughout the world like a punctiform patrimony of lifestyles, each as enlightened as it is strange.”

Giovanni Levanti, “Gobbalunga”, Campeggi, 2007 + Jasper Morrison, “Cork Family”, Vitra, 2004


Among its rich artistic and cultural heritage, Milan vaunts a unique array of four house-museums, all of them located in the city centre, that represent its more recent history. From the second half of the 19th century are the homes of the noble families of Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli and of the brothers Fausto and Giuseppe Bagatti Valsecchi, while those of the Boschi Di Stefano and the Necchi Campiglio family of industrialists date from the 1930s to the ‘70s, both built by architect Piero Portaluppi. The history of the city can thus be recounted by its own people – those who created these extraordinary homes and then generously made them available, along with the art treasures accumulated over the course of their lives, to the general public. Visiting these homes also reveals the family roles, the social position, the tastes and the lifestyles of their owners, represented by the spaces and the objects they contain. Created in 2004 and inaugurated in October 2008 with the sponsorship and collaboration of the Region of Lombardy, the Province of Milan, the Municipality of Milan and the Fondazione Cariplo, the network of Milanese House Museums is intended to highlight these fascinating landmarks and the diversity of their histories (from collecting to lifestyle to the choice of architects and décor); histories that represent the city’s different identities with quality and intensity, and that reflect the evolution and transformation of urban society.


Until 2 May 2010 in the 4 Milan’s house-museums (see below)

Project curated by Beppe Finessi with Cristina Miglio

Art director Italo Lupi

Set designer Cristina Miglio

Story from Arbiatre

Share your thoughts