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The new Molteni&C|Dada|UniFor flagship in New York opened with a special installation last May. Entitled “The Collector’s House,” the exhibition puts art and design directly in dialogue, as it would be at an art collector’s home. Interspersed between iconic designs by Jean Nouvel and Gio Ponti and new collections (with pieces by designers like Francesco Meda) are works from artists including Santo Tolone and Stephen Felton. The curator and writer Caroline Corbetta is behind the site-specific selection, having previously collaborated with Molteni&C at the 2018 Salone del Mobile.
WHITEWALL: What was the starting point for “The Collector’s House,” which you first curated for Molteni&C at Salone del Mobile in Milan last April?
CAROLINE CORBETTA: It all started when Giulia Molteni, head of communication and marketing of the company, asked me for a curatorial proposal to integrate some artworks into their booth at Salone del Mobile. Since I’m interested in the relationship between design and art, I enthusiastically accepted and started thinking about a curatorial framework.
I was told Vincent Van Duysen was conceiving the booth at Salone as a sophisticated Italian villa, so I decided I would put together an ideal collection for this ideal house. I started envisaging a fictional owner of this villa: someone utterly sophisticated and knowledgeable, with a fully developed personal taste, who’s eager to take part in the production of today’s culture and therefore collects, and fosters, emerging artists. I had in mind someone who desires to live surrounded by the artworks he or she buys because, together with the pieces of furniture, they speak of a personal aesthetic vision where art and design dialogue, creating a coherent environment. And this is something Italian masters like Gio Ponti did very well, but it’s somehow been lost, and now I think it’s coming back.
WW: How did you choose the young artists whose work you wanted to highlight for the project?
CC: I wanted them to be young, as I believe in the important role of arts patron that Molteni&C can play. We decided they had to be Italian as it made a lot of sense for a symbol of Made in Italy like Molteni&C to support young Italian talents on an international platform.
I looked for works that would bring some aesthetic analogies with the rather minimalistic look of the furniture pieces but that could also disrupt the somehow restrained flawlessness of the design with the liberated function-free rationale of art. I found five of the most talented and “fit for the job” artists were working with the same gallery, Frutta, based in Rome and Glasgow: Gabriele De Santis, Marco Giordano, Jacopo Miliani, Alek O., and Santo Tolone.
WW: What kind of dialogue did you want to create between the contemporary works and the design classics by Gio Ponti and Jean Nouvel?
CC: I’d say it’s about disrupting harmony. There is a positive, even sensual friction between the sleekness of industrial design and the rawness of the DIY aesthetic of the works of art. I’d call it a soft friction that adds new layers both to the perception of the art and the design. It’s like they emphasize each other, both appearing more “alive.”
WW: How does the New York staging compare?
CC: It is like a second chapter of a story that began in Milan. We worked again with Frutta gallery and some of the artists are the same (Jacopo Miliani, Alek O., and Santo Tolone), but with different works, with the addition of contributions by Welsh artist Bedwyr Williams and Brooklyn-based painter Stephen Felton.
WW: What are some of the dos and don’ts when creating a harmonious collection of art and design?
CC: I don’t think harmony should be a goal when creating a collection. On the contrary, one should never be afraid of making mistakes. To be faithful to your own taste, while following the advice of qualified professionals, is the only advice I could give—because a collection should be a self-portrait. A collection is special when it’s personal.
WW: Do you have a personal favorite design piece currently on view in “The Collector’s House” in New York?
CC: I would say Gio Ponti’s D.156.3 armchair. It’s one of the most comfortable ever made, and it’s beautiful like a sculpture. It’s evidently a result of the cross-pollinated mind of Ponti.