Art+Auction, April 2013: Ecco! Take a Look at Italian Design!

Art + Auction, April 2013: Ecco! Take a Look at Italian Design! with Brian Kish Gallery

Art+Auction, April 2013: Ecco! Take a Look at Italian Design! with Brian Kish Gallery


Long fixated on France, America, and Scandinavia,
20th-century design collectors today are now giving
well-deserved attention to Italy By William L. Hamilton


The most useful development in the secondary market
for Italian design has been the emergence of a template
for collecting. During the past 10 years, the field has come
to be divided into three periods: the 1930s through the
1950s, with material usually created as custom commissions
for private clients; the 1960s and 1970s, the heyday
of international recognition and designer–manufacturer
collaborations; and the late 1970s through the 1980s,
commonly called the postmodern period.

According to specialists Ugo Alfano Casati, owner of
Casati Gallery, in Chicago, and Brian Kish, a New York
dealer, the relative rarity of values from the early period and
the perception that prices will hold have attracted serious
collectors to the 20th-century Italian arena. The aesthetic
during these years ranges from the rationalist designs of
Ponti, Terragni, and Franco Albini to the anthropomorphic
work of Mollino and Ico and Luisa Parisi.

James Zemaitis, senior vice president for 20th-century
design at Sotheby’s New York, says “the sweet spots are early
prewar and early postwar.” The Italian government seems to
be in agreement. Last October, Christie’s London was forced
to cancel the sale of an important group of furniture created
by Mollino in 1953 for an Alpine villa he had designed. Italian
authorities—perhaps impressed by Christie’s marketing of
the material as “unique”—withdrew the export license on the
eve of the auction. Since much of the prime material remains
in the country, recognition of Italian design at the high end of
the market could, paradoxically, be a potential problem for it.

Simon Andrews, international specialist for 20th-century
decorative arts and design at Christie’s, believes the savvy
collector will start to look at material from the middle period.
“I’m certain interest will shift to the 1960s and the first half
of the 1970s,” Andrews says, citing designers like Sottsass,
who began working in the late 1940s…

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