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.
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.
"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".
"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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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."
"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.
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.