In a New York auction of Phillips in 2014 this chair designed in 1959 for Carlo Mollino’s office at the Facoltà di Architettura, Politecnico di Torino and Produced by Apelli & Varesio, was sold for a whopping $758,500.
What makes this object so special?
It is necessary to clarify that Mollino was not an industrial designer; he was not interested in designing objects for industrial production, which would require compromising the object in order to keep down production costs, to allow for mass production, for packaging, and so forth. Mollino’s furniture is unique and was expensively handmade by extraordinarily talented cabinetmakers with a very specific method, described by one of his students:
“Mollino used to shape an idea and make a technical drawing, specifying the construction method and adding notes on various aspects. I used to pick up these drawings from his studio and with Apelli convert it on a 1:1 scale on spolvero paper. Mollino used to come (running like a fawn), to check, review, amend, and then approve or redesign with a graphite pencil. Production was next. Hard times for the craftsman…”1
As illustrated in the Polaroids which appear here, Mollino makes visible, with an immediate photographic representation, how he intends the chair to be a synthesis of the female body’s perfection of beauty and sensuality, represented by the chair’s physiognomy, which alludes to the female form. On the other hand this chair is formally perfect: it is well-planted to the ground; the back is segmented to account for the human backbone; and the seat, modeled to be as comfortable as possible, is functional and ergonomic.
This chair embodies and testifies to the history of human tradition. Mollino had a strong knowledge of ancient history and culture and was able to penetrate to the essence of objects. It is from the Alps tradition that Mollino deduced the structure of his chair: comparing this example with a traditional 19th-century Alpine chair, from which Mollino took his inspiration, it is clear that the two share the same height, the same inclination to back and legs, the same simple and perfect technique used to mount the back, the same seat and legs that give this chair an incredible structure. It is a refined and functional elegance, the work of an engineer.
“Original and inventive, the work of Carlo Mollino (1905-73) is a unique chapter in the history of twentieth-century Italian design and architecture. For the first time, this book presents his complete works in furniture and interior design. Most of Mollino’s furniture was site specific with one-off pieces created for specially commissioned interiors. Rarely available, these works are highly sought after by collectors and design enthusiasts alike.” “From the start, both Mollino’s interests and personality set him apart from his contemporaries. Influenced by the Second Futurism and Surrealist avant-gardes, Mollino was a modern-day Renaissance man active in an impressive number of fields, including aeronautics, automobile design, art, photography, set design, town planning, furniture, interior decoration and architecture. Through his extensive artistic research, he was able to combine various contrasting forms of expression, which gave his work a remarkable and unusual dynamic. His furniture was based on organic shapes, such as tree branches, animal horns and the human body – with the female profile figuring prominently in his designs. Beyond this highly personal aesthetic, his work involved research into materials and technology, and the development of complex construction techniques, as with the celebrated bent plywood ‘Arabesque’ table of 1950.” “Illustrated with original drawings, sketches and archival photographs, The Furniture of Carlo Mollino represents the most comprehensive record of Mollino’s design production. Realized in collaboration with the Museo Casa Mollino and written by the Museum’s curators, Napoleone and Fulvio Ferrari, this monograph offers an insight into Mollino’s groundbreaking oeuvre.”–BOOK JACKET
Carlo Mollino: interiors at sebastian and barquet, london
from: may 7 – june 27, 2009
currently the sebastian and barquet gallery in london is holding the most comprehensive exhibition of carlo mollino’s work in the UK to date. ‘carlo mollino: interiors’ features polaroids taken by mollino between 1962 and his passing in 1973 alongside earlier photographs, pieces of his furniture and a film installation.