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Milan Furniture Fair

Milan’s 43rd Annual Salone del Mobile:
A weeklong celebration of design

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By Josephine Minutillo

  Click photos for a closer look.

Dutch Pieces, by Jurgen Bey

Architettura Romantica, by Ettore Sottsass

Robert Stadler’s three-dimensional Pools

Sky, by Matali Crasset for Swarovski’s Crystal Palace

The following pages highlight introductions from this year’s Milan Furniture Fair, which took place from April 14 to 19 in venues throughout the city. In sharp contrast to many of the conceptual or extravagant designs on display in off-site exhibits, manufacturers this year offered products that represented a “back-to-basics” approach focusing on fundamental themes of structure, scale, transparency, and ornament. Seating furniture featured structures that were either completely exposed or nonexistent and were offered in a greater variety of sizes to accommodate a “larger” audience. In addition, forgotten classics were reintroduced alongside products from a talented new crop of designers.

Milan’s Salone del Mobile is unlike any other furniture fair you’re likely to attend. For an entire week every April, this energized city is transformed into a haven for design afficionados from across the globe—and it’s not just furniture lovers who come to take part in the spectacle. From retailers and architects to fashion designers and car makers, attendees come in growing numbers (190,000 this year) to view the countless product offerings and exhibits. On this occasion, the event was redubbed Milan Design Week to reflect its far-reaching appeal.

According to Paola Antonelli, curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and veteran visitor of the Salone, “the fairgrounds are where it all started, but the city has taken over and turned this fair into a very different kind of event.” Antonelli notes the Italians’ “flair for scenography” as a main draw, but also acknowledges that the event is an ideal opportunity to meet up with colleagues and other professionals passionate about design.

Fairground displays and off-site exhibits ranged from minimal to stunning. Swarovski’s Crystal Palace show was once again a highlight as it presented chandeliers from a new roster of designers, while Moroso’s Happy Ever After exhibit by Dutch designer Tord Boontje (see this month’s Profile on page 240) drew lots of attention, as well. Smaller displays dotted the city, so walking the streets of Milan during Design Week meant stumbling upon an unexpected array of objects and installations, including works by veritable masters of design like Ettore Sottsass and Andrea Branzi to contemporary luminaries, as in the Vanishing Point show featuring work by Robert Stadler, Konstantin Grcic, and Jurgen Bey.

A host of student exhibitions were on display, as well.

Galleries, stores, fashion houses, and even eateries throughout the city took part in the festivities this year. In addition to the major furniture showrooms like B&B Italia and DePadova, such prestigious brands as Dolce & Gabbana, Missoni, and Acqua di Parma staged presentations of their own, making Design Week in Milan an event for the entire city to enjoy.

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