Dezeen Magazine

Fish-shaped plates collected by Paola Navone

Paola Navone to give away hundreds of objects at Take It or Leave It exhibition

Italian architect and Dezeen Awards judge Paola Navone has created an exhibition at Milan design week that will see her give away hundreds of eclectic pieces she has collected to the general public.

Called Take It or Leave It, the exhibition features items accumulated by the architect, including rare prototypes designed by her for Italian brand Alessi as well as antique metal spoons.

Portrait of Paola Navone
Paola Navone is giving away her belongings for the Take It or Leave It exhibition

"I decided to give away a mix of objects accumulated over the years, all those things that were catching my eyes and I decided to bring home," Navone told Dezeen. "Souvenirs, objet trouvés, prototypes, second hand objects, collectibles… all things that in some way belongs to my aesthetic vocabulary."

"Now I would like to have more space to bring in new things, new references, to renew myself, so I decided to give away all those objects from which I have already 'learned' something."

Fish statue with smaller fish
All these objects have a "special meaning" to Navone

Navone worked with New York media company The Slowdown and curator Daniel Rozensztroch, whom she calls "a real collector", on the show.

Members of the public were able to book timed reservations for a lottery that will take place as part of the exhibition on three of the days that it is on.

Masks of faces with red cheeks
Take It or Leave It will feature hundreds of items

They will then enter the space and find the item that matches the number on their lottery ticket, before choosing whether to take it or leave it.

Everyone will be photographed with "their" item, whether they keep it or not, and interviewed by The Slowdown about why they made that choice.

Navone hopes that people will take from the experience "the pleasure of giving things a second or third chance of life. And the idea that passing objects from hand to hand can be funny and tickle the imagination".

Once she had decided she wanted to get rid of the objects, it wasn't hard for Navone, who said she doesn't have a favourite among them, to let go.

"All these objects have a special meaning to me," she said. "They tell of a journey, a craft tradition, a meeting, a project or just a discovery somewhere around the world... impossible to choose one."

"None of them have really been difficult to give away once I decided that this was what I wanted to do."

Sculpture collected by Paola Navone for Take It or Leave It
Pieces will be given to the public based on a lottery draw

The exhibition, which can be visited without a lottery ticket for those who just want to view the objects, also wants to draw attention to the joy of reusing and regifting existing objects, rather than constantly buying new things.

"It is a way to really think about production of new things and how existing things can still have a life through a new owner or a new place," Navone said.

"Our world is overwhelmed by products and everybody talks about recycling and upcycling, there are many ways to interpret them."

Alessi prototype by Paola Navone for Take It or Leave It
Prototypes of designs by Navone for Alessi will be given away

"With Take It or Leave It, things are given a new life by physically putting objects into the hands of someone who will take it home and cherish it," she added.

The randomness of a lottery also appealed to the designer.

"What I like most, is the serendipity of it all – you have no way of knowing what object you have selected until you are standing in front of it at the exhibition – like many things that have happened in my life," she concluded.

Navone is one of this year's Dezeen Awards judges and we recently showcased five projects by the architect and designer. Among her previous work is an outdoor collection for Italian brand Ethimo.

The photography is by Antonio Campanella.

Take It or Leave It is at OTTO Studio from 18 April to 21 July 2023 as part of Milan design week. See our Milan design week 2023 guide on Dezeen Events Guide for information about the many other exhibitions, installations and talks taking place throughout the week.