Coffee table, 'Artifici', wood / glass, designed by Paolo Deganello, Cassina, Italy, made by Cassina Furniture, Milan, Italy, 1985
Paolo Deganello's name is most associated with his being a founder member of the Italian subversive design collective, Archizoom Associati along with fellow architects Andrea Branzi, Gilberto Corretti, and Massimo Morozzi, and industrial designers Dario and Lucia Bartolini in Florence and then Milan 1966-74. The famous anti-design' 'Mies' chair of 1969 designed by that group is in the Powerhouse collection (see 2008/54/1 for more information on Archizoom).
Given Deganello's radical background it is perhaps not surprising then that the 'Artifici' coffee table is unconventional, challenging and playful. The table's combination of asymmetry, conflicting materials and flippant 'seascape' fabric motifs (able to be changed at will) are distinctly mid 1980s that bear similarities in form and colour with the prevailing anti-design style of that time known as Memphis: a collective of Italian designers and architects formed in 1981 under the leadership of Ettore Sottsass. The manifesto of Memphis objected to the existing standards of 'good taste' and what they saw as a dearth of creative thinking in contemporary design. While echoing Memphis (although not part of the group) the 'Artifici' table is instantly recognized for its own aesthetic - anarchic, daring and colourful shapes, patterns and materials contrasted with the accepted structure of the time. In this way the 'boulder' base of the 'Artifici' table is composed from reconstituted granite that is almost disparaging of its natural origins and contrasts with the more traditional form of crafted wooden diagonals 'exploding' under the sandwiched panes of glass in-between which the motifs are composed and giving the impression of looking into a rock pool. The overall effect is an especially subversive yet emblematic combination for the decade in which it was produced.
Paul Donnelly, Curator Design & Society February 2010
Jonathon M. Woodham, 'Twentieth-century design', Oxford, 1997
Penny Sparke, 'A century of design, London', 1998 (reprinted 2002)
'Italian Style: Forms of creativity', Skira Milan, 1999
Designed by Paolo Deganello and produced by Cassina Furniture, Milan, Italy, 1985.
This 'Artifici' coffee table is an exemplar of high-end 1980s design that was made to confront traditional aesthetics and expectations. The designer of 'Artifici' was a leading subversive designer and founding member of the Archizoom Associati (Milan 1966-74). While seemingly Memphis in style, Deganello's design is not a hollow imitation of the main Memphis themes; instead Artifici introduces its own challenging philosophy whereby a reconstituted granite base in the form of a boulder undermines traditional uses of this material while supporting a whimsical seascape pattern of plasticised fabric able to be changed at will.
Paolo Deganello was born at Este, Padua 1940. In 1966 he graduated in architecture at Florence and the same year founded Archizoom Associati together along with fellow architects Andrea Branzi, Gilberto Corretti, and Massimo Morozzi, and industrial designers Dario and Lucia Bartolini - initially based in Florence and then Milan 1966-72. Since then Deganello has practiced as an architect and designer in Milan with his philosophies and theories on design widely published. He lectures at numerous universities including Florence.
The table was bought new from 'Space Furniture' by Dr Ricardo Farago for use in his home. Dr Farago and his wife (an interior designer) feel they have lived with a 1980s aethetic for a long time and now want a change. Ricardo feels he has has had plenty of enjoyment from the table and is happy to see it enter a public collection.
Photographs of the table in use have been supplied.