Tutto Ponti, a design giant rediscovered at MAD

Ribaltina table, 1926, from Gio Ponti’s apartment on via Randaccio, Milano and mirror,

Visiting “Tutto Ponti” the retrospective dedicated to Italian designer and architect Gio Ponti (1891-1979), was a true discovery and a wonderful immersion in 20 th century design. Musée des Arts Décoratifs, now called MAD, has gone a long way to give to the ” Italian Le Corbusier” enough space and luxury. Maybe too much? But you can visit the show as you would go to a design fair. And just pick what you like best in  this multitude of ceramics, glass, silver, wood, houses, furniture, churches, mosaics…

Bar furniture (1938-43) and study on cardboard for an enameled painting of Bishop Giordano, 1941, Padova University

The first pieces you see are ceramics which Ponti designed as artistic director of Richard Ginori porcelain manufacturer in 1923. His numerous creations won him prizes at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1925. There he met the Bouilhet, owners of Christofle, the plated silver company, and built them a house in the suburbs of Paris. He started a beautiful collaboration with Venini in Murano, designing carafes and vases. 1928 is a determinant date in the history of design: this is when he founds DOMUS, the architecture and design magazine, which he will run until his death.

Door handle Anello, 1956, made by Olivari

He develops more architecture projects like the 32 stories high Pirelli tower in the fifties in Milan and designs lights for Fontana Arte, cutlery for Krupp, fabrics, furniture etc… What is interesting in the show is the number of photographs and films depicting the interior of his houses, boats, offices at the other end of the world like the Villa Plachart built in Venezuela or in  Hong Kong, the United States and the Middle East.

The cathedral of Taranto built when he was already 80

Towards the end of his life his projects become more fluid, transparent and light like the cathedral of Taranto in Puglia and the Denver Art Museum (1974). During six decades, Gio Ponti has embraced architecture, decoration, furniture, objects design and publishing. Large photographs of his decors bring us back to fastuous times when private clients asked their architect to conceive their lives’ decors. And Gio Ponti belonged to those times. (Until February 2019, MAD)

Gio Ponti and Piero Fornasetti, Farfalle chari, prototype 1950

In the upper floors of the museum, permanent collections are redeployed on five floors of Pavillon de Marsan. It is a real visual adventure to run around the stairs and discover the wealth of MAD’s collections. While climbing up and down, I was thinking nostalgically of my first visit there with Daniel Marchesseau in the late 70’s when he toured my parents and myself around the then attic of the Louvre.

Michael Graves, Coiffeuse and stool Plaza, 1981, Memphis edition is part of the new installation

Some of the mysteries of this beautiful architecture has remained with the unequaled views of the Tuilerie gardens through the Oeil de boeuf of the roof. MAD, 107 rue de Rivoli.

And on November 15, opens “Japon-Japonismes, 1867-2018” which  is devoted to the Japanese collections of MAD which will be set in a decor by Sou Fujimoto. Chairs, Vases, Kimonos,  all the designs which inspired Gallé, Lalique, Charlotte Perriand, etc.

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