Two exhibits in Milan celebrate the work of homegrown architect and hero of 20th-century Italian architecture and design, Gio’ Ponti (1891-1979). The shows open on May 6 in the Ponti-designed Pirelli Tower and the Triennale Museum in Parco Sempione.
The Pirelli Tower’s “Gio’ Ponti” exhibit, which marks the 50th anniversary of the lithe, wafer-shaped landmark, offers a rare survey of his early creative work and – as he was inspired by the Novecento Italiano art movement – his efforts to create neoclassical decorative art in the 1920s.
The Novecento Italiano art movement was founded in Milan and spearheaded by Benito Mussolini’s mistress Margherita Sarfatti – a Jewish intellectual, journalist and critic – and art gallery owner Lino Pesaro. The movement challenged the European artistic vanguard by seeking inspiration from classical art. It also supported Fascism.
The “Gio’ Ponti” exhibit focuses on the architect’s ceramic designs made for Richard-Ginori from 1923 to 1930, which revolutionized products offered by the fine-china maker founded in 1735.
The Triennale exhibit, called “Gio’ Ponti’s Expressions”, spans the nearly 70-year arc of Ponti’s creative career, from the 1920’s to the 1970’s, through 250 representative works.
Beginning with his artistic direction of Richard-Ginori ceramics, the exhibit continues through Ponti’s prolific output of artistic, artisanal and industrial designs and the post-war, international rise of his reputation in architecture.
One section of the exhibit is devoted to Ponti’s presence in Milan, with models and designs of the first offices of Montecatini (1936-1938), the Pirelli Tower (1956-1961), and the Church planned for the San Carlo hospital (1961-1965).
The Milanese designs are then flanked by Ponti’s work beyond his home base, particularly in other parts of Italy and the United States, such as his interiors for transatlantic cruise ships, the auditorium of the Time & Life Building in New York (1959), the Denver Art Museum (1971), and the Los Angeles Cathedral.
Top right – the Pirelli Tower in Milan ; beneath two vases designed for Richard Ginori in the ’20s