An exhibition of the works of Italian designer, architect, and cultural theorist Alessandro Mendini at the Neues Museum in Nuremberg leads the visitor into a visual, playful, and wondrous world.
A collaboration with the International Design Museum Munich, the Wunderkammer (Cabinet of Curiosity) Design retrospective presents a host of examples from Mendini’s oeuvre of the last 40 years – brightly coloured objects, furniture and paintings – in homage to the artist on his 80th birthday. Mendini himself designed the exhibition landscape. In the large central gallery space, nine light blue islands, their shapes derived from elements in his design idiom, serve as platforms and pedestals for over 80 polished pieces. Through their curious play of scale, decorated opulence and exotic nature, each instils a sense of fantasy.
Noted art on display includes: giant Guanto (Glove) and Scarpa (Shoe) sculptures covered in hand-cut, 24-carat gold mosaic tiles; Mobile infinito table; San Francisco partition wall inspired by the utopian ideals of California, a state that Mendini describes as “a magical destination, a mirage, a warm fertile and colourful place;” and, a series of miniature hand-painted ceramic ‘Proust’ armchairs. In the museum’s central atrium stands Il Cavaliere di Dürer (The Knight of Dürer), a recent sculpture of blue and white gold mosaics depicting a knight on horseback, a nod to Nuremberg artist and theorist Albrecht Dürer.
Alessandro Mendini played a significant part in the development of Italian design in the second half of the 20th century, challenging existing notions and questioning the conventional. Widely regarded as an agent provocateur of industrial design, he stimulated many new trends. A protagonist of the Radical Design movement, Mendini founded Studio Alchimia in 1978 along with Ettore Sottsass and outlined its theoretical foundations in Alchimia’s Manifeto in 1985, stating: “There is no originality anymore and every new design object only combines varying décors, patterns and surfaces. Design is ‘re-design’. Designing is decorating.” By combining and mixing various styles and forms of expression from different epochs, Mendini transforms banal, everyday objects into radiantly colourful ‘re-designs’. The communicative power of ornamentation is central to his work and he applies it to his art in order to create a deeper relationship between human beings and the objects around them.
Mendini is an image consultant and designer for Alessi, Cartier, Swatch, Swarovski, and Bisazza. He held the post of editor-in-chief of internationally influential Domus and Casabella magazines and, as architect, has several buildings to his name: the Groninger Museum in The Netherlands, the Casino in Arosa and the Forum in Omegna. He currently runs Atelier Mendini, a multi-disciplinary practice in Milan, with his brother Francesco.
Alessandro Mendini’s Wunderkammer Design exhibit is on view at The Neues Museum at Klarissenplatz in Nuremberg, Germany until October 23.