• Angharad Rixon

W is for WOMEN in Italian Design!


The 9th edition of the Milan Design Museum exhibition at the Triennale in Milan is devoted to the important and frequently hidden role which women play in Italian design. Curated by the museum’s director Silvana Annicchiarico, the exhibition is a rich, stimulating and often poetic tribute to the work of a long list of Italian women designers and other female designers who have worked within Italy’s design industry.

Divided into two parts, the exhibition begins with a contemporary celebration of traditional women’s crafts. Margherita Palli’s beautiful exhibition design creates a game of transparency and shadow which immediately draw the viewer into an intricate world of laciness (we visited the exhibition recently as part of our Lace in Italy tour). The theme of interweaving/interlacing is perfectly captured and transmits the both the relationship between tradition and innovation as well as the complex balancing act which so many women designers must maintain between the domestic and industrial spheres.

There are a number of notable works included in the exhibition including Paola Lenti’s “Ladybird” and “Orto” (vegetable garden) rugs. The Ladybird series used a giant version of the soutache embroidery technique to create amazing floor rugs which are both elegant and playful, in her Orto collection she uses more traditional canvas work embroidery techniques, bringing an old fashioned technique into the modern, designer home.

The floating clouds by Benedetta Mori Ubaldini are another example of classic design brought into the modern world – clouds have always been used in decoration since the times of the earliest frescos – the lightness of their metal mesh construction combined with the sophisticated shadows they create all around them make these clouds a delicate and effective addition to the dialogue of shadows created by Margherita Palli’s installation.

Marina Gasparini’s “Spaesaggi” are a fascinating lace-like installation which the viewer spies upon from a series of holes in the wall. Gasparini uses wire to draw a series of pieces of Baroque and Rococo furniture, drawings which, resting just on the surface of the wall, cast their own delicate shadows adding to the sensation of delicacy and complexity. They recall the work of French artist Armel Barraud; making a series of drawings into objects which lift off the page, thus taking on another dimension and meaning.

It was also lovely to see some exceptional examples of contemporary bobbin lace included in the exhibition. The delicate “Dodici Capelli” (“Twelve Hairs”) collar by young Milan-based designer Geny Iorio is an astonishing example of technical skill, being made entirely with strands of the designer’s own hair.

The exhibition also included some examples from Swiss artist, Thessy Schoenholzer Nichols’ series of bobbin lace parasites which were worked directly over microscopic photographs of intestinal parasites. These fascinating lace sketches clearly show how a traditional feminine craft can become so deeply ingrained in an artist’s hands that it transcends all stereotypes to become a pure form of artistic expression.

The rest of this very big exhibition is devoted to a myriad of design objects, from furniture to fashion to packaging…arranged in chronological order to tell the story of women’s involvement in Italian design over the last century. A wonderful, eye opening exhibition which finally shines a light on the work of some of the many women who have contributed to Italian design industry.

The exhibition is on until 19 February 2017, and is a MUST see for anyone passing through Milan! If you cannot make it to the exhibition I can highly recommend the beautiful catalogue.

For more information, see: http://www.triennale.org/en/design_museum/w-women-in-italian-designdesign-museum-nona-edizione/

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