Text by Francesca Fontanesi

The exhibition Nice to See You, set up within the spaces of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, is one of the greatest tributes to the life and career of Gaetano Pesce. On display are objects with dual meaning, that of utility and that of provoking thought.

Within the Accademie Hall and the atrium of the Ambrosiana Library in Milan, around thirty works by the architect, artist, and designer Gaetano Pesce, recently deceased, will be exhibited. Mostly created between 2023 and 2024, they have been personally selected by the artist not only for their functional role, intrinsic to the word design, but also as messengers. Born in La Spezia in 1939, Pesce studied Architecture at the University of Venice between 1958 and 1963 and participated in the N Group, an early collective focused on programmed art in the Bauhaus model. Throughout his work, he expresses the same guiding principle: modernism is not so much a style as it is a method for interpreting the present and hinting at a future where individuality is preserved and celebrated.

“What we want to convey is rich in meaning, not only does form follow function, but there is a third very important element, namely meaning, which can prompt reflection on political, socio-economic, religious, philosophical, behavioral, and personal levels”.

– Gaetano Pesce

During his final years of study, Pesce also began attending courses at the College of Industrial Design in Venice, where he was influenced by his professors, including Ernesto Nathan Rogers and Mario Bellini. Thanks to these various sources of inspiration, Pesce emerged from his studies ready to embrace the new materials of the time and the forms that could be created with them. Ranging from small decorative objects to imposing architectural spaces, Pesce created projects that demonstrated a profound contemplation of the modern era: from the iconic chair La Mamma (1969), which emulated the form of a prehistoric votive figure of fertility, to the Organic Building in Osaka, Japan (1993), which included one of the most impressive hanging gardens of the time and incorporated a computer-monitored hydration system, Gaetano Pesce consistently strengthened the depth of his design abilities by contemplating the role of art and design in our modern moment. Among his most well-known furniture projects are Up-7 Foot, a large lounge chair in plastic in the shape of a human foot (1969); the Up5 armchair alias La Donna or La Mamma and the Up6 pouf for B&B Italia (1969); the Up1 armchair for C&B Italia (1971); the 357 Felti chair (1987) for Cassina; and the 543 Broadway chair, produced by Pesce in Bernini, Italy (1990). In addition to his prolific career as a designer, Pesce taught at prestigious institutions around the world, including the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York, the city where he permanently moved in 1983, founding Fish Design. The monograph Nice to See You collects around thirty works, mostly unpublished, by the renowned Italian architect, artist, and designer. Objects with a dual meaning: the useful one and that of provoking thought.

“In the last thirty years, I have tried to restore architecture’s ability to be useful, through the citation of figurative and recognizable images, taken from the street and popular culture, and through the creation of new typologies. […] I have sought to communicate surprise, discovery, optimism, stimulus, and originality”.

– Gaetano Pesce

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