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The designer and sculptor Gianluca Pacchioni usually ends Milan Design Week—an incredibly hectic and visually stimulating time—by hosting a dinner at his home and studio compound filled with tropical plants. In years past, he’s been the one in the kitchen, creating a dinner of risotto for around forty people, served by candlelight in his Milanese oasis. But he’s since wised up and outsources the cooking so that he, too, can relax. “It’s a great way to end the week,” he told us last fall during a visit to New York.
He was in town for a couple weeks for meetings, for installations at clients like ddc, and to unveil a commissioned sculpture at the Italian Consulate. The piece, which looks like a tower blossoming from the ashes, framed by a sweeping stairwell, commemorates the firefighters who served and sacrificed their lives on September 11, 2001. Pacchioni described it as an incredible honor.
This week in Milan during Salone del Mobile, he’ll be hosting private studio visits to present new work that explores tropicality, in addition to his continuing use of materials like bronze, onyx, quartz, and metal.
Pacchioni has been described as an alchemist, which seems fitting, given his exploration of the properties and potential of liquid metal. Using natural motifs of flora, fauna, and even fossils, he often highlights the scars, pores, or rough edges of his pieces, which are both objects and functional furniture. His work ranges in scale between monumental, as in his Tropical Fossil screen, and tabletop, as in a new series of coconuts and palm leaves cast in bronze.
His “Cremino” series of pedestals, side tables, and coffee tables seems to defy gravity, with super-slim bronze legs holding up thick slabs of onyx and quartz, suspended from a mirrored brass surface that reflects the rough texture of the semiprecious stones.
Pacchioni’s first studio was in Paris. After moving to the city, he found himself in an apartment with no furniture, so he went to a junkyard and scavenged pieces he could weld together to make a lamp or chair. His studio was filled with other artists who challenged him and were honest if something wasn’t successful. Eventually, he was invited to show work at a fair, in a small section for new designers. He submitted a poem and only a small detail of the work, but to his surprise, it was accepted.
He later moved to Milan, where he found a more open creative community. Self-taught, Pacchioni told us, “I get from point A to B in a strange way. But that’s where my style comes in. That’s where the magic happens.” He enjoys the noise and mess of working with metal, and the ability to turn all that into a beautiful, grand sculpture or object.
Just before his time in New York, he was on an island in Thailand, “barefoot for a month” with his family. His connection to nature and the inspiration he finds in it is obvious in his work. “We can learn a lesson from nature there. Everything is living and thriving and blooming,” he said.
Pacchioni’s energy is palpable— he finds it easy to keep up with his children, aged 10 and 11. When we spoke with him, he said he thinks he’s reached only less than half of his potential. He knows he has so much more to give. As we were leaving him, it felt as though he was on the cusp of something great, a new grand project. After so many weeks outside his studio, he seemed itching to get back and tackle the hard, harsh material he continues to work with (he had hinted at a massive onyx stone that awaited him).
“When I’m happy, I’m good. That’s when I create my best work,” he said. This May, Pacchioni will show new work at Les Ateliers Courbet in New York.