Why Italian Radical Design Continues to Inspire

A new exhibition explores the cultural context of one of design’s most irreverent movements.

Clockwise from left: Paramount table lamp (1969), MHM lamp (1969), and Dollaro table lamp (1981), all by Lapo Binazzi.

Met Breuer’s exhibition of Memphis master Ettore Sottsass may be over, but a wave of Italian Radicalism continues to swell in its wake. Beginning Nov. 7, Tribeca gallery R & Company’s “Super Designtakes a museum-level dive into the country’s cultural landscape from 1965 to 1975, “a time of political and social turmoil, hopes and dreams,” says Milan-based curator Maria Cristina Didero. As rising tensions between an increasingly polarized extreme right and left roiled the nation, and the functional rationalism of International Style had globally taken hold, the radical designers responded through the seductive irreverence of pop art. The show recounts many of the era’s icons—Guido Drocco and Franco Mello’s cactuslike coat rack; Archizoom’s clover-shaped Safari sofa; and Ceretti Derossi Rosso’s fanciful Pratone chaise lounge (polyurethane foam molded to resemble a patch of grass)—while rare ephemera and archival footage, including a new documentary directed by furniture scion Francesca Molteni, give greater context to a group whose groundbreaking visions, according to Didero, “can still move our souls.”

(Photos: Courtesy R & Company)

All Stories