Design

Curator’s Eye

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WE ASKED CURATORS OF LEADING TWENTIETH-CENTURY AND CONTEMPORARY DESIGN COLLECTIONS TO DISCUSS ONE OBJECT THAT THEY FEEL IS PARTICULARLY NOTEWORTHY. HERE IS A GALLERY OF THEIR CHOICES.

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Piero Fornasetti and Gio Ponti, ARCHITETTURA CABINET. Hand-painted and with prints, on wood, metal, glass. 1951 | BEQUEST OF MURIEL KATZ HASPEL/ROMAN ALOKHIN PHOTO

Piero Fornasetti and Gio Ponti, ARCHITETTURA CABINET. Hand-painted and with prints, on wood, metal, glass. 1951 | BEQUEST OF MURIEL KATZ HASPEL/ROMAN ALOKHIN PHOTO

PIERO FORNASETTI’S 1951 ARCHITETTURA cabinet, made in limited production during the late 1950s and early 1960s, is an expression of the Italian designer’s visually engaging graphic style on a large article of furniture. Fornasetti turns no-nonsense modernism on its head, wrapping his collaborator Gio Ponti’s upright trumeau cabinet with a riotous architectural illusion. These handsketched architectural scenes are inspired by seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Italian prints, but become unmistakably Fornasetti’s through witty inclusions, such as the faces that appear in the ocular windows. The drawings are varnished to the simple cabinet, giving it both false perspective and trompe-l’oeil humor. As with most of Fornasetti’s repetitive, personal decorative vocabulary (such as his endless variations on opera singer Lina Cavalieri’s beautiful face), in the Architettura series he flirted with surrealism to create something that is uniquely his own. Working in Milan from the mid- 1930s until his death in 1988, Fornasetti oversaw the application of his whimsical, if sometimes unsettling, black-and-white visual language to an astounding array of articles, from candles and ashtrays to window blinds and the lounges of ocean liners. This luxuriously crafted Architettura cabinet simultaneously embraces classicism and modernism and captures the pulse of Italian twentieth-century design.

Mel Buchanan
RosaMary Curator of Decorative
Arts & Design
New Orleans Museum of Art

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