Luca Nichetto’s Love Letter to Murano Glass

The prolific designer harks back to his Venetian roots with a group show that puts the material’s ability to conjure memories and emotions on full display.

“Empathic: Discovering a Glass Legacy’ at InGalleria/Punta Conterie Art Gallery in Venice, Italy. Photography by Roberta Orio

“It’s part of my DNA,” Luca Nichetto says about Murano glass. He means that literally: Born in Venice to a family employed by the world-renowned Murano glassmaking industry, Nichetto began selling his childhood creations to local factories before fine-tuning his industrial design chops at Università Iuav di Venezia, joining local glassmaker Salviati as an early-career gig, and consulting for heritage lighting company Foscarini. Launching his own design practice soon followed, and now he creates furniture, lighting, and accessories inflected with his homegrown Italian panache and the pared-down sensibilities of Stockholm, where he’s currently based. 

He hasn’t lost sight of his roots, which shine through a group exhibition he curated for the Ingalleria/Punta Conterie Art Gallery in Venice that puts his glassmaking sensibilities on full display. “Empathic. Discovering a Glass Legacy” invited eight world-renowned designers—Ini Archibong, Elena Salmistraro, and GamFratesi among them—to create artful pieces under the close supervision of master Murano glassmakers. The brief? Carte blanche, and the more experimental, the better. “I wanted to see what would happen if we all got involved by experimenting,” says Alessandro Vecchiato, who produced the exhibition alongside Nichetto and aimed to “disrupt the grammar of the forms, techniques, and ingenuity of each to reach unprecedented results.”

Granule by Benjamin Hubert
Layered by Richard Hutten

To no surprise, the results stun. Each piece pays subtle homage to Murano glassmaking’s illustrious history while incorporating design flourishes that speak to the distinct sensibilities of each maker. GamFratesi, for example, looked to the Venetian lagoon for a small landscape composed of different forms in large blown glass lying on wooden sections obtained from bricole, the traditional poles that mark the waterways. Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance also reared his eye to the seaside, infusing a side table with dusty shades reminiscent of Lucie Jean’s photographic series “Down by the Water,” which she created on a small nearby island called Madonna del Monte. Its rounded glass surface gently ripples like waves—a tricky technique to pull off, yet one achieved with razor-sharp precision. 

Other designs skewed figurative, speaking to the material’s nonpareil ability to evoke emotion and recall memories. Elena Salmistraro conceived a monumental mirror inspired by and named after Medusa and her Gorgon serpents. A statement piece with sinuous, serpentine glass edges that appear to be slithering away, it stands as an emblem of femininity that both enhances the beauty it reflects and petrifies those peering inside. Ini Archibong, meanwhile, returned to his Nigerian roots with a highly detailed sculptural piece that seamlessly translates the expressive nature of African wooden masks into chromatic glass.

Mecha by Luca Nichetto

“Empathic” took on a deeply personal note for Nichetto. Though he curated the show, he’s presenting three never-before-seen pieces that poignantly recall childhood memories. He pays homage to the ‘70s-era anime series UFO Robot Grendizer—known as Goldrake in Italy—through three colorful glass robot-like creatures sheathed in glittering, rustproof armor. “They perfectly represent the union of two elements of my childhood on the island: glass and Japanese cartoons,” Nichetto wrote on Instagram. “I couldn’t be happier to combine these two great memories.”

For Nichetto, no single piece encapsulates the beauty of “Empathic” and his memories with Murano glass. Rather, he points to how “the creation process had the sole intention of supporting Murano glass. I like to think that we too are part of the rich tradition of designers who have worked with Murano glass over the years–such names as Carlo Scarpa, Ettore Sottsass, without forgetting more contemporary artists such as Jeff Koons.” He also intends for the exhibition to entice young designers into discovering the joy of Murano while, of course, spreading some positivity. “I hope that all the energy dedicated to the exhibition will bring a positive message of growth and broadening of horizons for the island.”  

Palafit by GamFratesi
Medusa by Elena Salmistraro
Madonna del Monte by Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance
The Family by Marc Thorpe
Africa by Ini Archibong

“Empathic: Discovering a Glass Legacy” will display at InGalleria/Punta Conterie Art Gallery in Venice, Italy, until April 10. 

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