PAOLO VENINI (1895 – 1959)

Beginning in the 1930s and throughout the post-war years, Venini & Co. played a leading role in the revival of Italy’s high-end glass industry, pairing innovative modernist designers with the centuries-old glass workshops on the Venetian island of Murano.  While the company’s founder, Paolo Venini was a highly talented glassware designer, his true genius was to invite forward-thinking Italian and international designers to Murano’s workshops to create Venini pieces, among them Giò Ponti, Massimo Vignelli, Tapio Wirkkala, Thomas Stearns and Fulvio Bianconi.

Paolo Venini was a lawyer, while his family had been involved with glassmaking for generations.  After initially buying a share in a Venetian glass firm, he took over the company in 1925, and under his direction produced mainly classical Baroque designs.  In 1932, he hired Carlo Scarpa, who later distinguished himself as an architect and his lead designer.  Scarpa completely modernized Venini, introducing simple, pared-down forms, bright colours and bold patters, banding and abstract compositions that utilized cross sections of murine (glass rods).

Venini’s best designs include his two-color Clessidre hourglasses and the Fazzoletto (handkerchief) case designed with Bianconi in 1949.  Other noteworthy and highly collectible works include Ponti’s dual-tone stoppered bottles, glass sculptures from the Doge series by Stearns, Vignelli’s striped lanterns of the 1960s, the Occhi vases with eyelet-shaped patters by Tobia Scarpa (son of Carlo), and the Bolle (bubbles) bottles designed by Wirkkala in 1968.  With these works, and many others by some of the creative titans of the 20th and 21st century, Venini has produced one of the truly great bodies of work in modern design.

CINI BOERI (1924 – 2020)

At the end of the 1960s, architect Cini Boeri revolutionized the furniture market with her sofa model that is now an ‘evergreen’ – the seat system Strips.  It won the Compasso d’Oro Milan in 1979.

Boeri graduated from the Milan Polytechnic in 1951.  After a short internship with Gio Ponti and a period of collaboration with Marco Zanuso, she started her independent professional activity in 1963.  An architect and industrial designer, she paid particular attention to the study of functionality of the space and the psychological relationship between man and environment.  Her achievements have been presented at numerous museums and exhibitions worldwide.

MARK BRAZIER-JONES (1956 - )

Artist, sculptor, furniture maker, lighting designer and engineer, Mark Brazier-Jones was born in New Zealand and moved to the UK at the age of 12.  After earning a BA in ceramic sculpture, he found work in the emerging music video business.  In the late 1970s he designed and built sets for the likes of David Bowie, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Freddy Mercury and Elton John.

As he became enmeshed in the London warehouse party scene, he developed a close friendship with both Tom Dixon and Nick Jones, members of local band Funkapolitan.  Brazier-Jones would wow the band’s audiences with ‘performance art welding,’ in which he would cut up cars with angle grinders and create phoenix-shaped mascots out of supermarket trolleys.  The three friends started the Creative Salvage Group in 1983, later to be joined by Andre Dubreuil.  Their first show of welded sculpture furniture sold out and opened a new chapter in design history.

After a few years, Brazier-Jones moved to the countryside and returned to his ceramic roots.  Soon he was sculpting furniture to be cast in bronze. He conceived his first limited-edition chair, the Wingback, in 1987 which was sold out before the start of 1988.  Other standouts from Brazier-Jones’ career include the Bond Armchair (ca. 1990), San Demas Lounge (1996), and Duchess Chandelier (2010).

Brazier-Jones’s work can be found in museums around the world, like the Victoria & Albert in London, Museum of Art & Design in New York, and Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, as well as many important private collections.  Today, Brazier-Jones’s studio can be found in a 16th-century barn in Hertfordshire where he continues to work on private commissions, crafting most of his limited-edition and one-off designs by hand.

PIERRE CHAPO (1927 – 1987)

Originally interested in painting, Pierre Chapo’s encounter with a navy shipbuilder in 1947 ignited his interest in woodworking, which led to his architectural studies at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris.  After traveling through Scandinavia, Central America and working for a year in the United States, he returned to Paris and pursued his interest in wood, crafting furniture mainly out of oak, elm, ash or teak.  His pieces combined traditional know-how with contemporary design.  Opening a gallery on Boulevard de l’Hôpital in the 13th arrondissement of Paris, he presented his creations along with works by other craftsmen, such as Isamu Noguchi with whom he shared a sculptural and organic approach to design.

PAOLA LENTI (1958 - )

Paola Lenti was born in Alessandria, Italy where she completed classical studies.  She later moved to Milan and graduated from Milan’s Polytecnico.  In the early eighties she started working as an image coordinator and graphic designer for several events and fashion companies.  In 1994 she founded the company Paola Lenti in Meda, in the Lombard district dedicated to design.  Paola Lenti is a company whose precise objective is to create not just simple furnishing objects, but real domestic landscapes, essential, balanced, between experimentation and research, tradition and technology.  Over the years the brand has established itself on the international scene thanks to its timeless solutions, destined to last over the years with ergonomic and comfortable indoor furnishing elements and a wide range of outdoor furniture.

Past and present, exterior and interior, tradition and technology: Paola Lenti’s products are based on a constant balance between these opposites, projects where the quality of the material and the simplicity of the shape are important, but where the study of chromatic and aesthetic choices that make them unique products is not neglected.  Refined carpets with hi-tech yarns, resistant and durable wood and metal structures, comfortable solutions for interiors and new solutions for exteriors.

ALDO MORBELLI (1903 – 1963)

Aldo Morbelli was a leading architect in Turin collaborating with Carlo Mollini.  Peers, but different in education, temperament and design poetics, the two appear as original figures with respect to the national scene.  Largely influenced by the 1920s, a period inspired by pictorial arts and reflection following the horrors of World War I when Marxist philosophy was widespread among the artist communities.  Surrealism was growing with emphasis on the human unconscious and Freudian theory became the integral way of thinking and expression.  He was involved with the construction of several Italian monuments including the construction of the Apostolic Palaces of the Vatican.  In 1937 Morbelli won a competition with Robaldo Morozzo to reconstruct the Teatro Regio in Turin.  After numerous redesigns the project was abandoned in 1963 due to his early death and entrusted to Carlo Mollini.

OSCAR NIEMEYER (1907 – 2012)

Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares Filho’s, known as Oscar Neimeyer, was a Brazilian architect and one of the key figures in modern architecture.  His exceptional architectural work and influence on how the world looks like today has been unanimously hailed.

Most famous for his use of abstract forms and curves, he wrote in his memoirs:  “I am not attracted to straight angles or to the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man.  I am attracted to free-flowing, sensual curves.  The curves that I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean, and on the body of the beloved woman.  Curves make up the entire Universe, the curved Universe of Einstein.’

In the 1960’s Niemeyer started developing furniture projects, in collaboration with his daughter Ana Maria.  The first piece designed by the team was “the Alta easy chair” and its footrest, but the most famous piece designed by Oscar and Ana is the “Rio Chaise Longue” probably one of the most important design pieces of the 20th century.  Niemeyer passed away a week before his 105th birthday and Ana Maria died in 2012, a few months before his father.

PIERRE PAULIN (1927 – 2009)

Pierre Paulin was a French furniture and interior designer.  After failing his Baccalauréat, Paulin trained to become a ceramist in Vallaurius on the French Rivera and then as a stone-carver in Burgundy.  Soon after, he injured his right arm in a fight, ending his dreams as a sculptor.  Paulin then went on to attend the Ecole Camondo in Paris working with Marcel Gascoin, where he became passionate about Scandinavian and Japanese design which was well adapted to mass production.  Artifort hired him in the 1960s to design a range of seats, ‘Mushroom’, ‘Ribbon’ and ‘Tongue’.  Molded in a wooden shell and padded with a foam developed by the Pirelli brand, these chairs were very unique at the time and have became some his most famous models.

SERGIO RODRIGUES (1927 – 2014)

Sergio Rodrigues was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1927. After graduating in 1952 from the Faculdade Nacional de Arquitetura, he assisted in opening Moveis Artesanal Paranaense, the first modern art and furniture store in Curitiba in Brazil.  In 1955, Rodrigues founded Oca, one of the most influential modern furniture companies in Brazil.  Amongst his well-known works are pieces of furniture designed for the Brazilian Embassy in Rome, for UNB (Brasília University) and the Teatro Nacional (National Theater in Brasília).  He worked closely with Oscar Niemeyer, as the latter’s interior designer of choice for his buildings in Brasilia.

INGRID SOL LECCIA (1968 - )

A native of Corsica and Switzerland, Ingid Sol Leccia started her career with the creation of large-format canvases inspired by the urban world, the architecture of mega-cities and African crowds.  In 2006 she organized her first exhibition where she met sculptor René Broissand.  He was seduced by the strength of her work: “we feel that you are going towards the material, you have to get out of the wall”.  His words hugely impacted her, changed her artistic trajectory when she started to experiment with metal.  After 5 years of working alongside Broissand, she opened her own studio in 2011.

Metal sculpture has allowed her to expand her creative space.  Alberto Giacometti said: “a sculpture must be able to fit in a matchbox.”  Hers fit in the palm of your hand before being produced on a large scale.  The balance of her sculptures are driven by the power of her femininity.  She bends 6 meter long metal bars into ribbons with the strength of her hands, arms and legs – body to body – her sculpture is born like a dance, a rhythm.

For several years now, she has been exploring different materials and creations.  Her work is often inspired by her childhood and the nature that surrounds her.  With the CONVERSATION and TOOOTEM Sculptures, colour has recently returned to her work.  Having received several awards, her work is regularly exhibited in galleries in Europe and in private collections worldwide.  She works in her workshop and home in the French Alps on the border of Annecy.

JOAQUIM TENREIRO (1906 – 1922)

Joaquim Tenreiro was among leading furniture designers and visual artists in modernist Brazilian furniture making in the mid-20th century.  Born in Portugal to a family with a great tradition in furniture making, he moved to Brazil at 22 and began working at various furniture manufacturers including Leandro Martins, Francisco Gomes and Laubisch & Hirth.

A forerunner in rediscovering raw materials Tenreiro proposed a contemporary language in 20th Century Brazilian design advocating the idea that Brazilian furniture should be “formally light” – a lightness which has nothing to do with weight itself, but with graciousness, and the functionality of spaces.  His pieces evoke a refined coexistence of traditional values and modern aesthetics, strongly bound to the Brazilian cultural milieu.

PAOLO VENINI (1895 – 1959)

Beginning in the 1930s and throughout the post-war years, Venini & Co. played a leading role in the revival of Italy’s high-end glass industry, pairing innovative modernist designers with the centuries-old glass workshops on the Venetian island of Murano.  While the company’s founder, Paolo Venini was a highly talented glassware designer, his true genius was to invite forward-thinking Italian and international designers to Murano’s workshops to create Venini pieces, among them Giò Ponti, Massimo Vignelli, Tapio Wirkkala, Thomas Stearns and Fulvio Bianconi.

Paolo Venini was a lawyer, while his family had been involved with glassmaking for generations.  After initially buying a share in a Venetian glass firm, he took over the company in 1925, and under his direction produced mainly classical Baroque designs.  In 1932, he hired Carlo Scarpa, who later distinguished himself as an architect and his lead designer.  Scarpa completely modernized Venini, introducing simple, pared-down forms, bright colours and bold patters, banding and abstract compositions that utilized cross sections of murine (glass rods).

Venini’s best designs include his two-color Clessidre hourglasses and the Fazzoletto (handkerchief) case designed with Bianconi in 1949.  Other noteworthy and highly collectible works include Ponti’s dual-tone stoppered bottles, glass sculptures from the Doge series by Stearns, Vignelli’s striped lanterns of the 1960s, the Occhi vases with eyelet-shaped patters by Tobia Scarpa (son of Carlo), and the Bolle (bubbles) bottles designed by Wirkkala in 1968.  With these works, and many others by some of the creative titans of the 20th and 21st century, Venini has produced one of the truly great bodies of work in modern design.

JORGE ZALSZUPIN (1922 – 2020)

Jorge Zalszupin a native of Warsaw, Poland, studied architecture at Bucharest’s Ecole des Beaux Arts.  While working as an architect in Paris, he found inspiration in articles about Brazilians Oscar Niemeyer and Roberto Burle Marx and immigrated to Brazil in 1949.  In 1959 he founded L’Atelier, which would become one of the most important furniture companies in Brazil.  Starting as a small workshop where Jorge had brought together a team of highly skilled craftsmen, L’Atelier soon turned into a powerhouse pioneering the use of plywood and chromed metal.  With a sensual and minimalist aesthetic he created elegant pieces that stand as timeless signatures of the Brazilian modernist movement.