Italian design marked a highly distinctive mark on the way that the form of objects is perceived in contemporary society.
Italian design has spanned the whole of the twentieth century, leaving a highly distinctive mark on the way that the form of objects of everyday use is perceived in industrial and contemporary society. This “Italian way” has succeeded, through a complex and hesitant process of industrial innovation and technological updating, in developing an independent and multifaceted culture of design capable of marrying the country’s rich craft tradition with an often fiercely resisted aspiration to modernity made up of flashes of improvisation and irony, and associated with an arduous bent for experimentation. In this sense, the history of Italian design has not yet been subjected to an exhaustive interpretation of the cultural and artistic dimensions of the phenomenon, and in particular little has been said so far about the synergy between artistic experimentation and innovative design that has characterized it throughout the twentieth century. The exhibition and this catalogue set out to offer a first overview of these links through an exploration of the different ways of seeing, interpreting, and representing industrial society in Italy on the part of the architects, artists, and designers who lived though its emergence, and who to some extent “invented” it.
The exhibition, with around 400 works chosen from among the most representative of artistic research and the culture of design in Italy in the twentieth century, is arranged chronologically, with four sections that define the different periods in the philosophical, economic, and aesthetic discourse that has accompanied the recent history of art and design in Italy. The survey brings to light the “philosophies” of design and the “aesthetics” that found a strong and dialectical expression right through the last century in Italy, and that are at the root of the country’s characteristic and lively cultural debate between art and design.
This catalogue is published in conjunction with Il modo italiano. Italian Design and Avant-garde in the 20th Century, an exhibition produced by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in collaboration with the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, and the Mart – Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto