Progressive Italian style in the mid 20th Century was driven and dominated by the talents of Milanese Gio Ponti. A painter, architect, ceramist, arts publisher and furniture creator, Ponti was the 'alpha' designer of his time.
Ponti started as a designer (from 1923-38) at Ginori and was awarded the Grand Prix for his exhibits at the 1925 Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. Recognising early on that 'Industry is the style of the 20th Century" (his words printed in the exhibition catalogue), Ponti endorsed the advances in post-war manufacturing and the new materials it employed.
Ponti additionally designed lamps and tables for the glass company Fontana Arte, collaborated with the equally prolific Piero Fornasetti on furniture designs and, from 1946-49, worked with Paolo Venini to produce a series of blown glass bottles.
Throughout his career, Ponti had a passion for conceiving and developing living environments which were open and stimulating. In the 1950s, his furniture for these spaces were often clad in figured veneers and characterised by a dynamic elegance. The unexpected cut-away angles and the asymmetry of elements such as drawer pulls set these designs apart and mark them as Ponti's own. They are now, deservedly, appreciated by collectors and museums as iconic of the Italian modern style. Ponti's work has been the subject of exhibitions worldwide and was most recently the subject of a 2018-19 exhibition at Le Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris.
His ideas and objectives on various design issues were outlined in 'Domus', the magazine he started in 1928. This seminal publication applauded mass-production for its potential to bring good design to everyman in a society where (ideally) life, art, and architecture were united, and influenced taste in design internationally for half a century. The magazine became to Ponti 'a living diary'. Its architectural manifestation was Milan's iconic Pirelli Tower, a design commission Ponti won in 1950. Companies such as Artemide, Cassina, Venini, and Singer, produced Ponti's many designs which secured his reputation throughout the decades.