The IFDM interviews: Nina Yashar

Close encounter with one of the world's best known tastemakers when it comes to design. To understand how to discover a talent to follow

Nina Yashar - Photo © Mattia Iotti
Nina Yashar - Photo © Mattia Iotti

Gallerist, talent scout, tireless collector. Nina Yashar left her native Tehran in the early 1960s and settled in Italy. In Milan, she founded the Nilufar gallery in ’79, which was joined in 2015 by the Depot in Viale Lancetti. His work is a kaleidoscopic game of decomposition and recomposition, hunting for those juxtapositions that have made his signature recognisable worldwide.

What will you be showing this year?
We will exhibit projects by over 25 designers; it is a very intense program, because we want to show the world everything we have been doing of the last two years, which were only apparently a time of stasis.

Anestis Michalis
Anestis Michalis

A preview?
Starting with the Depot, I’d like to begin at the outdoor space, where we will present an art installation by Patrick Tuttofuoco, Out of Body. This new work translates an experience into physical matter, though it actually transcends the physical, focusing on the moment in which we feel we have temporarily left our bodies behind. Heading into my office, we find the installation Too Much, Too Soon! by the digital artist Andrés Reisinger. For the period of Milano Design Week, Andrés has literally occupied this space, making it come alive with four illuminated sculptures and a musical composition inspired by free jazz. Andrés is a curious artist, because in his guise as a metaphysical artist he actually proposes a very realistic image of the interpenetration between the digital and physical worlds; he has a reassuring vision, like an anti-hacker. The new chapter presented this year of the series FAR, curated by Valentina Ciuffi, is titled Craftmania. These are cases of experimental design by incredibly contemporary artists like Etienne Marc, Carlo Lorenzetti and Odd Matter. It is a lovely story of dialogue and pro-active interaction between the present and the past, the crafts tradition, leading to an approach that can be collaborative at times, but also challenging. A theme I have always cherished.

And at Via della Spiga?
One of the most intriguing elements of the exhibition during Milano Design Week will definitely be the collaboration with Ginori 1735. A few months ago they called me, asking to work together on a new collection of ceramics of their project Reborn, done by four designers of my choice, namely Martino Gamper, Flavie Audi, Federica Perazzoli and Andrea Zucchi. It is a beautiful story of Milanese identity, two historic realities joining forces. Also, and of no less importance, here we will present new work by the talented Khaled El Mays, an iteration of the Flora Seating Series. This year Khaled has liberated his creativity, offering a totally psychedelic, dreamy work – an installation that involves visitors in an experience that undoubtedly belongs to the world of imagination.

The Candy Box by Khaled El Mays
The Candy Box by Khaled El Mays

Where is design headed today?
Into an interesting fusion; the digital is rapidly permeating the physical, but at the same time we can see an almost desperate pursuit of authenticity and history, with signature vintage pieces.

What is the audience for signature design seeking, in your view?
They want to be the owners of a safe investment. At the same time, there are works that materialize a passion, shared by many, for design history. Elements that are such protagonists that they can define the space in which they are inserted, becoming a center around which to development the rest of the décor.

Where is the borderline between art and design?
In the functionality.

What is the stylistic signature of Nilufar?
A balance between aesthetic taste, research and the need to get beyond boundaries.

Venice Airport Nicelli - Photo © Giovanni Emilio Galanello
Venice Airport Nicelli – Photo © Giovanni Emilio Galanello

How do you discover new designers with whom to work?
In the past I was always traveling, but now I must admit that we have only recently begun to move again, so my rhythms are still temporarily slower. I am lucky because we receive many spontaneous requests from designers, and I am surrounded by a team of collaborators I can really trust.

What impresses you in a project by a young designer?
The interpretation of function with unusual forms and original design thinking. That was also the case with Martino Gamper: he is an artist who begins with an existing project and reinterprets it in a personal, contemporary way, triggering something completely new. In 2022 we’re celebrating 15 years of work together, a long story of friendship and wonderful projects. In the hall at the Depot,  Martino will present Innesto: from three carpets, three different stories, settings, worlds come into being.

Your latest designer discovery?
Robinson Ferreux, a remarkable young French talent.

Is there any object that has particular meaning for you?
There are really too many to be able to mention just a few. I can say that they are so important that I do not consider them only objects, but almost phases of life.