Jasper Morrison curates exhibition chronicling 80 years of Molteni design collaborations

Milan 2015: designer Jasper Morrison has brought together prototypes and iconic designs from the 80-year history of Italian furniture brand Molteni – including early pieces by Gio Ponti and contemporary work by Norman Foster and Alvaro Siza (+ slideshow).

British designer Morrison partnered with the Molteni family, owners of the Italian furniture company, to stage 80!Molteni – an exhibition of 45 key pieces from the brand's 80 year history to coincide with Milan's furniture fair and the Milan Expo.

80!Molteni Exhibition at Milan 2015
Shelves and wall-mounted desk by Ron Gilad, Who chair by Rodolfo Dordoni

On show at the city's Galleria di Arte Moderna in a 1950s pavilion designed by Italian architect Ignazio Gardella, the exhibition includes prototypes and completed designs produced for Molteni's four brands: Molteni&C dedicated to home furniture, Unifor for office furniture, Dada for kitchen furniture and fittings, and Citterio for office furniture and partition walls.

"This is a significant anniversary dedicated to my grandfather and grandmother, founders of the company in 1934, but also an occasion to present our archive of work and an idea for a museum to be established in the future," Francesca Molteni told Dezeen.

80!Molteni Exhibition at Milan 2015
From left to right: Risiedo chair by Luca Media, Graduate bookshelf by Jean Nouvel, Alfa chair by Hannes Wettstein, Glove chair by Patricia Urquiola

"The intention was to choose the best pieces produced by the group from the 1930s until now, the ones that could tell the story of a family company and the design evolution in Italy," she said.

Although Morrison has not designed a product for the company yet, Molteni approached him to curate the exhibition as he could offer a "fresh eye".

80!Molteni Exhibition at Milan 2015
From front to back: Satelliti S/10 pedestal and desk by F&L, Secretaire by Richard Sapper

"His vision and approach were perfect," she said. "After visiting the venue he designed a beautiful display for our pieces, in connection to the space renovated in the late 1950s by Ignazio Gardella and to the works of art [in the gallery] from the Grassi and Vismara Collection."

The furniture is exhibited on stands created by Morrison, with white bases and walls featuring curved corners and slanting sides.

80!Molteni Exhibition at Milan 2015
From front to back: Diamond table by Patricia Urquiola, Arc table by Foster + Partners, Night&Day daybed by Patricia Urquiola

The design references a set of bookshelves originally created by Italian architect and industrial designer Gio Ponti for his home in Milan in 1956, reissued by Molteni&C in 2012 and on show as part of the exhibition.

This piece is part of a wider collection of updated Gio Ponti pieces released by Molteni&C in collaboration with the Ponti estate. Four other Ponti items in the show include a chair from 1935 and a folding seat from 1970.

80!Molteni Exhibition at Milan 2015
From front to back: Alfa chair by Hannes Wettstein (just seen), Risiedo chair by Luca Media, Poggio tables by Luca Meda

"With Gio Ponti, Molteni&C focuses its attention once again on the masters of architecture and design with a project involving re-makes of furniture and furnishings by the renowned 20th century maestro, thus re-affirming a value," said Francesca Molteni. "Our legacy is the heritage of ideas and designs that the great masters have handed down to future generations, so we should keep it alive."

Molteni founder Angelo Molteni started his industrial furniture business in 1934, launching Molteni&C in 1953. In 1961 he was one of the founders of Milan's Salone del Mobile furniture fair.

80!Molteni Exhibition at Milan 2015
D.153.1 armchair by Gio Ponti, D.357.2 bookshelves by Gio Ponti

Pieces in the exhibition from this period include a chest of drawers designed by Swiss architect Werner Blaser for Molteni&C in 1955.

In 1968, the company appointed Luca Meda as its art director. Meda designed a wide range of the brand's piece in-house, and moved Molteni's aesthetic away from traditional crafts towards contemporary design.

80!Molteni Exhibition at Milan 2015
From front to back: chest of drawers by Werner Blaser, 4D system by Angelo Mangiarotti, Miss armchairs by Afra and Tobia Scarpa, Carteggio secretaire by Aldo Rossi

Citterio, Unifor and Dada were all pre-exiting brands that became part of the Molteni company during its expansion between 1969 and 1979. Although the four brands remain distinctly different in their product offerings, Meda oversaw a crossover in design approach that is represented in the exhibition by a theatre armchair designed by Meda in collaboration with Italian architect Aldo Rossi for Unifor in 1990.

Other Unifor designs in the exhibition include a chair by Alavro Siza and a secretaire by Richard Sapper.

80!Molteni Exhibition at Milan 2015
From front to back: Mop bookshelf by Afra and Tobia Scarpa, Monk chair by Afra and Tobia Scarpa, stackable bookshelf by Yasuhiko Itoh

Rossi also created a variety of pieces for Molteni&C, and a secretaire and chair from 1987 are both on show.

"I love the first two prototypes on show, the chest of drawers by Werner Blaser (1955) and the bookcase by Yasuhiko Itoh (1959)," said Francesca Molteni. "They emerged from the past with a very contemporary soul."

80!Molteni Exhibition at Milan 2015
From front to back: SKiN armchair by Jean nouvel, Night&Day daybed by Patricia Urquiola (just seen), Arc table by Foster + Partners, Diamond table by Patricia Urquiola

"The Aldo Rossi pieces are also in my heart, because I met this extraordinary architect and his personality was really charming," she added. "We're thinking about new editions of these pieces."

More contemporary Molteni&C items on display include bookshelves by Jean Nouvel and a daybed, table and chair by Patricia Urquiola dating from the 2000s, as well as a table by Foster + Partners from 2010.

80!Molteni Exhibition at Milan 2015
From front to back: Naos shelving by Studio Cerri & Associati, Parigi chair by Aldo Rossi, MDL System desk by Michele De Lucchi

Other recent designs include the Grado collection by Ron Gilad from 2012 and a system of wall units by Dante Bonuccelli from 2014.

The 80!Molteni exhibition will run until 30 June at the Galleria di Arte Moderna on Via Palestro.