Kartell: 70 years on exhibit at the Palazzo Reale

The company celebrates its 70th anniversary with an exhibit that coincides with the Salone del Mobile, “The Art Side of Kartell”, a journey between art and design

The art side of Kartell - Photo © Luca Privitera
kartell - Photo © Luca Privitera

Not just an exhibit, but rather a narrative journey that calls into question the fine line between art and design and that emphasises the intense relationship between Kartell and culture, between design and art in its many forms.
This is the concept behind “The Art Side of Kartell”, the exhibit that celebrates 70 years of Kartell and which will open on the first evening of the Salone del Mobile on 9 April (by invitation only), remaining open to the public until 12 May.

Kartell, The art side of Kartell
Kartell, The art side of Kartell

The exhibit will be hosted in the exceptional Appartamento dei Principi in Palazzo Reale in Milan, an example of 19th century royal living quarters, the restoration of which was overseen by Ranieri, Viceroy of Lombard-Veneto, in order to turn it into ‘reserve’ quarters. 

7 Electric Chairs... As you like it!, Bob Wilson, 2011
7 Electric Chairs… As you like it!, Bob Wilson, 2011

“The Art Side of Kartell” winds its way through the 15 rooms, not only showcasing the material history of the objects, but also taking visitors on “a journey that does not follow a standard timeline, but rather is based on resonance, parallelism, and déja-vu, overlapping languages that represent not only the 70 years of Kartell’s history, but also 70 years of design and culture,” to use the words of Rita Selvaggio, curator of the exhibit together with Ferruccio Laviani.

Untitled, Isa Genzken, 2012 Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne/New York © Isa Genzken VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn / SIAE, 2019
Untitled, Isa Genzken, 2012 Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne/New York © Isa Genzken VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn / SIAE, 2019

The theme of the exhibit is therefore defined by the number seven, so much so that it begins with the 7 Electric Chairs designed by Robert Wilson.On display in this marvellous setting are objects, archival materials, images, paintings, performances, documents, prototypes, and new commissions with artists like Enrico David and Heimo Zobernig, called upon to grapple with Kartell’s design and its iconic elements.

Duchess Maria Beatrice D’Este. Te Aomarama, George Nuku, 2016 Work for the exhibition Maori in Milano. The Ducal Salon by George Nuku, MUDEC, Milan, 2016
Duchess Maria Beatrice D’Este. Te Aomarama, George Nuku, 2016 Work for the exhibition Maori in Milano.
The Ducal Salon by George Nuku, MUDEC, Milan, 2016

“The idea was to show another side of Kartell, the artistic side, offering a different interpretation of this company which, from the very beginning, has been inspired by art, itself ultimately becoming a work of art and a social and cultural reference point for other artists,” states Ferruccio Laviani.

Kartell Mickey Mouse, Ferruccio Laviani, 2016
Kartell Mickey Mouse, Ferruccio Laviani, 2016

“I am honoured to be able to celebrate our anniversary with an exhibit at the Palazzo Reale,” concluded Claudio Luti, president of Kartell, at the presentational press conference which was held in the exhibition space. “The relationship between Kartell and art has existed for 70 years and so we would like to showcase the brand in this light. Milan will be the stage, at a moment in which business and culture come together.”

Untitled, Heimo Zobernig, 2004 Chairs (various models), gold gravestone paint, plywood, steel Variable dimensions Essl Museum, Klosterneuburg / Wien, 2011 Photo archive HZ © The artist
Untitled, Heimo Zobernig, 2004 Chairs (various models), gold gravestone paint, plywood, steel Variable dimensions
Essl Museum, Klosterneuburg / Wien, 2011 Photo archive HZ © The artist

Founded in 1949 by Giulio Castelli, Kartell has always focused on research, innovation, and highly evolved technological processes. It is no coincidence that in 1999 it became the first company in the world to use polycarbonate in the production of furniture (the first example is the La Maria chair, followed by Louis Ghost). The company’s strong connection to culture and experimentation was first represented in the museum which the company inaugurated for its 50th anniversary.

ED07DF, Enrico David, 2019 Watercolour on paper © The artist. Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, New York and London / Kartell
ED07DF, Enrico David, 2019 Watercolour on paper © The artist. Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, New York and London / Kartell

Winner of nine Compassi d’Oro awards, its projects are on display in various museums around the world, like the MoMA in New York City, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.