This website uses cookies to enhance the user experience.


03/20/24: Celebrating 50 Years of Design Classics

Cassina toasts a milestone of immortal objects from the likes of Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret with a new book; and the best of new festivals and exhibitions around the globe.

March 20, 2024 By THE GRAND TOURIST
The Zig Zag chair from Cassina’s iMaestri collection. Photo: Scheltens & Abbenes

You’re reading The Grand Tourist Curator, our weekly newsletter with the latest handpicked news and insights from the worlds of art, design, style, food, and travel. Sign up here to get The Curator delivered directly to your inbox.

The Chaise Longue À Rélange Continu, by Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret, and Charlotte Perriand from Cassina’s iMaestri Collection. Photo: Mattia Balsamini

Some Legends Never Die: Celebrating 50 Years of Classics
Marking a half century of the famed iMaestri collection, a new book extols the virtues behind Cassina’s fine art of producing eternal designs for generation after generation.

When you’re covering the world of design, you’re always on the hunt for what’s new. It’s a constant obsession. Journalists and editors like me are constantly kicking the tires of the latest tables, sofas, and cabinets: What material is this? How was it made? Does it come in other colors? It leaves one to ask: Why do we produce so much newness? Does the world need another chair? As Paola Antonelli, the famed MoMA design curator and former guest of The Grand Tourist podcast, once explained to me: “Of course we need new designs. Do we ever stop recording new songs?” She’s right, of course. But new doesn’t always mean better.

Some designs, most of which were conceived during the heyday of 20th-century Modernism, are just perfect. Many brands reissue classics, or never take them out of production. But Italian design brand Cassina does it better than most. The company recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of its collection of masterworks, known as iMaestri, and capped the occasion with an impressive new tome, “Echoes: Cassina. 50 Years of iMaestri” (Rizzoli).

Both the book and the iMaestri collection contain some of the most important names (14, to be precise) any fan of design would recognize, notably Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret, Charlotte Perriand (my personal favorite and author of my very own coffee table), and Gerrit Thomas Rietveld. And even some slightly less known to the general public, including Ico Parisi and Franco Albini. Nearly every item’s originals can be found in museum collections the world over, from the grid-like chairs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh that signaled the birth of a new era near the turn of the century to the simple-to-draw, incredibly difficult to make correctly Zig Zag chair by Rietveld.

While the book outlines the story behind many incredible pieces, it’s not a dusty account of history. Instead, it’s filled with essays from some of the most notable names in design criticism, including Céline Saraïva, deputy curator at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, who writes about what makes certain pieces truly timeless, and the husband-and-wife duo Mark Wigley and Beatriz Colomina, who explain the role iMaestri plays in fostering design culture. (It’s important to point out the level of research the company employs to keep these designs authentic, but also to keep them relevant, with estate-approved new colors or materials/configurations.)

As a part of Cassina’s effort to constantly refresh the best bits of design history for today, “Echoes” includes new photography by some of the most compelling contemporary photographers who specialize in capturing product and interiors, such as Dutch duo Scheltens & Abbenes and Italian artist Tommaso Sartori. “This anniversary is not just a celebratory event, but an opportunity to look ahead and define a direction in which the echo of the past not only reverberates in the present, but is amplified in the future,” says Cassina CEO Luca Fuso. “Through the definition of ‘the Cassina Perspective,’ these works have become even more contemporary, thanks to the dialogue with the most innovative products, giving life to eclectic atmospheres and environments that only Cassina can offer.” —Dan Rubinstein

A still from the video “Made in Rice,” (2021) performed by Soon-Hwa Jeong, directed by Hiền Hoàng, which is part of the Turin Photo Festival. Photo: Courtesy Turin Photo Festival

The Fine Art of the Advertisement; Japan’s Surrealist Movement; Turin’s First International Photo Festival; and What Else to See

Berlin, “Nancy Holt: Circles of Light” (Opens Mar. 22)
The uninhabited landscape of the American Southwest attracted late American artist Nancy Holt (1938–2014). In the Utah desert, Holt’s massive concrete “Sun Tunnels,” visible from a mile away, are positioned to frame the sun in the seasonal solstices. Over five decades, Holt’s sculptures worked with the Earth’s rotation, time, and space. With this exhibit, the Gropius Bau surveys Holt’s work, particularly how she played with natural and artificial light.

London, “Capturing the Moment” (Until Apr. 28)
The birth of photography transformed painting, and vice versa. This exhibit at The Tate Modern explores the relationship between the two mediums of art and is an opportunity to see some of the most iconic contemporary artworks all together, from Warhol’s silkscreen prints to David Hockney’s pastel Pop paintings.

New York, “The Real Thing: Unpackaging Product Photography” (Until Aug. 4)
Commercial camerawork is a magic that presents ordinary objects as drool-worthy must-haves. The Metropolitan Museum of Art presents a history of these still lifes, which began as early as the 1850s and continue to seduce us today.

Tokyo, “Surrealism and Japan” (Until Apr. 14)
Born in France, the Surrealist movement proliferated and came to fascinate Japanese painters, where it would catch on. Though it would falter in Japan under heavy scrutiny during World War II, its influence prevailed afterward. On the 100th anniversary of André Breton’s “Manifesto of Surrealism,” the Itabashi Art Museum presents a survey of the movement and its painters during the war and in the postwar era.

Turin, Exposed Turin Photo Festival (Opens May 2)
This inaugural, monthlong festival with the theme of new landscapes brings together photography with the goal of transcending aesthetic beauty, showing how art has the power to change perceptions of the world. The program features more than 20 exhibits hosted throughout the city, including “State of Emergency—Harakati za Mau Mau kwa Haki, Usawa na Ardhi Yetu,” a documentary work that sheds light on the history of British colonial rule in the 1950s and Kenya’s struggle for independence, and “A View From Above,” an exploration of vertical perspective by German filmmaker Hito Steyerl. —Vasilisa Ioukhnovets

Meet the greats.
Listen to The Grand Tourist.

newsletter illustration