The best thing I saw at Milan Design Week this year was organized, in part, by an Italian soccer club. That the football team—Juventus—would support an exhibition during the Salone del Mobile fair was surprising enough. That fact that it was impeccably good—and museum-quality, even—made it all the more so.
How Juventus Put On This Year’s Best Milan Design Week Exhibition
PlusDesign Gallery organized a deep dive into joints, from prototypes to mass-produced products, with support from the soccer club.By Spencer Bailey April 27, 2018
Called “U-JOINTS” and presented in a 14,000-square-foot space on Via Archimede, the show was organized by Milan’s PlusDesign Gallery and curated by Andrea Caputo and Anniina Koivu. As far a metaphors go, well-made joints are a strong one, and perhaps that’s why Juventus proved an apt and willing partner. (While I was in the gallery, I heard the British designer Tom Dixon ask a docent why the team was sponsoring the show, to which he got an entirely unclear answer.) Either way, the analogy works. The exhibition presented new products and various prototypes by more than 50 contemporary designers, including Max Lamb, Cecilie Manz, Jonathan Nesci, and Leon Ransmeier, and showed various examples of impeccably engineered joints, from Japanese wood joinery to knots and mass-produced fasteners and pipes, some of them from personal collections.
Imaginatively displayed and obsessively organized—I especially enjoyed the 130-foot-long, easy-to-digest “Taxonomy of Joints” wall text—“U-JOINTS” is the kind of unpretentious yet intellectual presentation the fair needed (it would work anywhere, anytime, for that matter). It reminded me a bit of Rem Koolhaas’s “Elements of Architecture” presentation at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale, which looked in-depth at floors, doors, windows, facades, balconies, fireplaces, toilets, ramps, and more. The designer Jonathan Olivares’s encyclopedic 2011 book A Taxonomy of Office Chairs (Phaidon) also came to mind (side note: What a great exhibition that book would make!). I wasn’t surprised to see MoMA senior curator Paola Antonelli describe “U-JOINTS” on Instagram as “unadulterated curatorial delight!” The exhibition was, indeed, quite the joint.
The runner-up show was certainly “Typecasting,” curated and staged by the Paris-based designer Robert Stadler inside the La Pelota venue in Milan’s Brera neighborhood. A panorama of roughly 200 Vitra objects, it also included new experimental concepts by Konstantin Grcic, Barber and Osgerby, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, and Commonplace Studio.
Another highlight in the city was the presentation of American manufacturer Matter Made, which debuted standout lights from Luca Nichetto, Philippe Malouin, and Jamie Gray. Brand-wise, there isn’t much American presence in Milan (without the usual suspects like Knoll and Herman Miller), so it’s refreshing to see Matter Made—and companies like Apparatus, BDDW, Calico Wallpaper, and Lindsey Adelman—showing there in recent years. (This was Matter Made’s second year presenting during the fair.) I particularly liked Malouin’s elegant Arca chandelier.
Over at Rossana Orlandi gallery, I was really impressed by Basel-based designer Ini Archibong’s intricately made “Beneath the Heavens” collection of furniture and lighting for Sé. Some of the techniques used to create the pieces were couture-level, and not unlike the sort you’d expect Chanel to employ on a runway look.
And at the Rho fairgrounds (while I was admittedly largely underwhelmed), there were several things I found compelling: the DeKauri cabinet by Daniel Germani for Riva 1920 with Dekton by Cosentino surfaces and lighting from Juniper, the Tape sofa by Benjamin Hubert for Moroso, the Meteo parasol by Konstantin Grcic for Kettal, Jasper Morrison’s Fugu armchair for Maruni, and Marcio Kogan’s Quadrado outdoor furniture collection for Minotti.
Nothing truly wowed me the way “U-JOINTS” did, though. If Salone del Mobile were like a soccer match, Juventus definitely came away this year’s winner.