However much you see of Italian design, and however many books you read on the subject, its ingenuity and optimism still take you by surprise. The post-war industrial and design ecology that enabled the sector to flourish is also a marvel of collaboration, but it is the designs – the typewriters, clocks, cars, lighting and, most of all, seating – that merit repeat viewing. The Museum of Modern Art in New York has an enviable collection of late 19th-century and 20th-century Italian design, and its curators have produced a new book devoted to the subject. The 160-page soft-cover volume is primarily a vintage picture flip for the general reader, but its detailed captions and scholarly essay by Giampiero Bosoni, an associate Professor of Interior Design in the Faculty of Design at the Politechnico di Milano, provide meat for design insiders. Paola Antonelli, MoMA’s senior curator at the department of architecture and design, also provides insights into the glamour and industrial grit of the post-war era when Italian design ruled. She describes how unemployed architects met enlightened manufacturers who talked to the mechanical and chemical industries needing new outlets for their innovations. The book, and MoMA’s design collection, are dominated by the 30 years after World War II, with the earlier and later decades looking thin. However, as Antonelli writes, design-wise, ‘Italy owned most of the 1960s and 1970s’.
Italian Design (MoMA Design Series) is published by 5 Continents Editions in November, priced £19.95