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Italian Lights: Rare 1950s – 1980s lighting around Gino Sarfatti

Gino Sarfatti “Moon”

Gae Aulenti “Rimorchiadore”

Gino Sarfatti “N°1063″

Ettore Sottsass “Asteroid”

Michel Buffet floor lamp

If there is a domain in which Italian design shines — likewise for Scandinavians — it is light. Only the birthplace of Renaissance could renew and enhance this accessory, indispensable to man for the pursuit of activities whatever the time, with such creative freedom in the post-war years. From this creative profusion, Galerie BSL unveils its pantheon of 1950s to 1980s lighting, a vintage selection rigorously guided by quality and rarity. This new gallery — which opened only a year ago but which has already exhibited at the prestigious Pavillon des Arts et du Design and will do so at Design Miami/Basel — has chosen to only show twenty handpicked pieces. A welcome commitment to help collectors, at a time when everything is ‘design,’ in a market where the best and worst are displayed side by side.

Can be found: duly referenced, often award-winning, always admired lighting icons. Pieces which are above all a metamorphosis of an everyday object into a contemporary sculpture, amazing in their strength and unique character. For many specialists, Gino Sarfatti, creator of hundreds of models, is the 20th century’s greatest lighting designer. “I have never been interested in form,” he confesses, defining himself as an artisan. Everything starts with the bulb for this great chrome stand enthusiast who invented a lamp kit to change as you wish into nine different types of lighting, wall light, reflector, etc.

Credit where credit is due, Gino Sarfatti occupies a core place in this exhibition. The most spectacular piece and the most important: the large N°2068 ceiling light designed in 1952. With its thirty lights, it conjures up a modern castle, a church candelabra or the crown of candles worn by young girls in the procession during the Festival of Light in Nordic countries. Everything is sober, meticulous, but also ethereal with Sarfatti, who chooses to leave the wire apparent “because you have to be able to look at the reason for the lamp.”* Amongst others is the extremely rare wall light N°194 (1950) in brass and lacquered metal, the audacious lamp N°1063 which totally changed the idea of domestic lighting (Compasso d’Oro in 1954, prestigious Italian design award), the table lamp N°604 called Moon (1969), with a scattering of micro-bulbs like lunar craters.

For at the era of the conquest of space, tomorrow’s light comes from outer space, following the example of the Asteroide (1968) table lamp, a very ‘pop’ creation by Ettore Sottsass, leader of the Memphis neo- baroque movement. Made of perspex, it reflects peninsula designers’ taste for new materials adaptable to the craziest shapes. The Golden Gate by Nanda Vigo features amongst the exhibition’s centrepieces, extensive refined architecture spanning two metres which won its designer, influenced by the silhouette of the eponymous bridge, the New York Prize for Industrial Design in 1971, or Rimorchiatore by Gae Aulenti (1969), an example of which appears in the Centre Pompidou collection. Also featuring are creations by the Italians Angelo Lelli – the Calder of lighting -, Studio A.R.D.I.T.I., Matteo Thun and Joe Colombo (honoured by a retrospective at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris in 2007).

Without forgetting, for comparison, works by Français Michel Buffet in the vein of Serge Mouille and the German master Ingo Maurer. Finally to complete this vintage selection the Escargot (snail) lamp, created by Le Corbusier in 1954 for the Cité Radieuse in Marseille, produced for the first time in 2011 by Cassina with a limited edition of 150 numbered pieces. In short, a historical and didactic journey displaying all that today’s creators owe these exemplary light designs.

Alexandre Crochet, journalist, art historian.

Italian Lights, May 20 – July 23, at Galerie BSL


Thursday, May 26th, 2011


UP’s by Studio Aisslinger for RS Barcelona
Books: Photographers A-Z by Hans-Michael Koetzle

 

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