Monday, April 30, 2012

da Vinci-Mollino (30 April - 6 May)

Leonardo da Vinci, Italian Artist & Inventor, death 2 May 1519
Carlo Mollino, Italian Architect & Designer, birthday 6 May 1905
Speaking of the Louvre, which houses what most consider da Vinci’s masterpiece, the Mona Lisa...  We’ve all seen enough images of the enigmatic smile that I don’t believe it necessary to try to push past the hordes of tourist lined up in front of it to see it in person.  The building is stuffed full of work including many other examples of Leo’s.  Let’s not forget that in addition to painting, he was also a sculptor, architect, engineer, musician, scientist, mathematician, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, writer and literal “Renaissance Man”. Sure, there are some serious design flaws in his helicopter and parachute, but who wouldn’t have a few duds in a lifetime of work spanning over 13,000 pages of journals. Why focus on the negative when we can marvel at what this bastard son of a peasant girl was able to accomplish (and, please, no comments about any fictitious “code”).

Viva Italia!  Not all things Italian are great (i.e. the mafia, the Ponzi scheme, the kids from the Jersey Shore) but a lot of great designers are.  As an architect Carlo Mollino had few buildings realized but he worked up until his death in 1973, a goal I hope to achieve.  One great architectural success was the rebuilding of the Teatro Regio in Turin after a 1939 fire.  While maintaining the original fa├žade, the interior is a striking contemporary wonder.  The inaugural concert on 10 April 1973 was a production of Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani directed by Maria Callas (the Greek opera singer Aristotle Onassis left for Jackie Kennedy) and Giuseppe Di Stefano.  A table he designed in 1949 set a record price for 20th century furniture when it sold at auction in 2005 for nearly $4 million.  He also had a propensity for photographing naked women for which the thought of sitting in one of Mollino’s chairs makes me slightly uncomfortable.  Even looking at his coat hook makes me blush.  If that was the intended effect: bravo, Carlo, bravo.



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