Gio Ponti

Gio Ponti (1891-1979) -- born in Milan where he worked for his entire life -- had an immense impact on architecture, design and art publishing both in Italy and throughout the world. One of the earliest of the Italian modern designers, Ponti helped to create a welcome, open environment for progressive art and design with hiselegant and passionate work.

Ponti started out working at the Richard-Ginori Company as the art director of their ceramics. His ceramics were shown first at the 1923 International Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Monza. His pieces were inspired by Etruscan frescoes and Greek myth. In 1925, Ponti decorated a room in the Grand Palais with his ceramics for the Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, winning the Grand Prix. Ponti began to embrace the modern ideals of quality mass-production, stating in the Expo catalogue that, "Industry is the style of the 20th century; its mode of creation." He worked with the Richard-Ginori Company from 1923 to 1940 and has 400 pieces in their museum. Also during this period he was producing low-cost furniture, like his "Domus Nova"series (1927) for the department store La Rinascente.

Ponti was instrumental in the organization of the first Milan Triennials, and he became known for his architecture throughout the city. He believed that, "architecture is a fantasy of precisions," and his obelisk inspired Pirelli Tower built in 1956 was one of the tallest buildings in the Milan skyline. He also, over the years, designed four houses for his family, and ten "Domuses," or apartment buildings, in Milan. His only public architecture project in the UnitedStates is the Denver Art Museum.

In 1928 Ponti started the magazine Domus which became, to Ponti, a "living diary" in which he could advertise his own work, outline the "aims" of his projects and raise people's awareness about other design issues and ideas of the time. Called the "Mediterranean Megaphone, " Domus lauded mass-production and tried to link architecture and artisans in a way that they had never before been. He left Domus in 1940 to start his other journal, Stile in which he could focus on art and the impact of the war on Italian architects and architecture. Ponti proclaimed that he was "mad about Italy," and continued to publish the labor-of-love journal despite the bombings. Ponti designedmany of the covers for Stile and wrote articles under 23 different pseudonyms. In 1948 Ponti returned to Domus.

Ponti's most famous piece of furniture was the "Superleggera," or "Superlight" chair, which could be picked up with one finger. This ladder-back chair, with a rush seat, was manufactured by Cassina, starting in 1957. Ponti designed crystal tables and lamps for Fontana and flatware for Krupp in the thirties. He also designed the interiors for several electric trains. Between 1946-49 Ponti worked with Paolo Venini to produced a series of blown glass bottles, and a multi-colored glass chandelier. In the 1950's Ponti designed a series of sinks, toilets and bathroom fixtures for Ideal Standard. These designs are some of the most utilitarian and purely functional works he produced, and their innovative features were their wide, flat surfaces for laying down objects. The company M. Singer & Sons introduced his furniture in the US.

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