Carlo Mollino - The Collector: Icons of Design New York Tuesday, December 16, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Lisa Ponti and Luigi Licitra, Casa Licitra Ponti, Milan
    Gansevoort Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1997

  • Literature

    “Una casa di predilezioni,” Domus, Milan, no. 267, February 1952, pp. 26-27
    Giovanni Brino, Carlo Mollino: Architettura come Autobiografia, Milan, 1985, p. 77
    Albrecht Bangert, Italian Furniture Design: Ideas Styles Movements, Munich, 1988, pp. 76-77, fig. 2
    Roberto Gabetti and Fulvio Irace, Carlo Mollino 1905-1973, Turin, 1989, p. 159 for a technical drawing
    François Burkhardt and Claude Eveno, L’étrange univers de l’architecte Carlo Mollino, exh. cat., Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1989, pp. 89, 119
    Irene de Guttry and Maria Paola Maino, Il Mobile Italiano Degli Anni '40 e '50, Bari, 1992, p. 209, fig. 4
    Rossella Colombari, Carlo Mollino, Catalogo Del Mobili – Furniture Catalogue, Milan, 2005, p. 24, fig. 8
    Fulvio Ferrari and Napoleone Ferrari, The Furniture of Carlo Mollino, New York, 2006, 148-150, 227
    Fulvio Ferrari and Napoleone Ferrari, eds., Carlo Mollino: Arabesques, exh. cat., Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Milan, 2007, p. 38
    Michael Webb, Modernist Paradise: Niemeyer House/Boyd Collection, New York, 2007, pp. 68, 69, 136-37

  • Catalogue Essay

    The present lot is registered in the library of the Museo Casa Mollino, Turin, as number CM255-2.

    Phillips would like to thank Fulvio Ferrari and Napoleone Ferrari, Museo Casa Mollino, Turin, Lisa Ponti, Milan and Mark McDonald, New York, for their assistance cataloguing the present lot.

    On the occasion of their wedding, Carlo Mollino gifted a set of six “Tipo B” chairs, a sofa and two armchairs to Lisa Ponti (daughter of his friend and colleague Gio Ponti) and Luigi Licitra. Mollino had designed three different models for this project, though “Tipo A” and “Tipo C” were never produced. This design also marked a departure in material choice for Mollino, as these were made in brass and Resinflex. Other examples from the set are in the collections of Bruno Bischofberger, Switzerland, and Michael and Gabrielle Boyd, Santa Monica.


    The pieces of furniture Mollino designed for us – Lisa Ponti and Luigi Licitra, two young newly-weds fifty years ago – were magnificent, unprecedented signatures. But it was also wonderful for us to meet Mollino, and listen to Mollino in “Il Messaggio della Camera Oscura.” Reading and listening to Mollino in countless, impatient letters. We were on very close terms with him: the godfather of our youngest child, at his baptism he gave him a “pedal rocket” (streamlined and silver, like the racing car Mollino designed for Le Mans). In those years, the perfect discussion would take place at night between Mollino and Luigi, another mental acrobat. I was forgiven for my sleepiness in those days. On the other hand, I was often not forgiven for Stile – for the way it was, or wasn’t. An ad lib magazine.

    “Ponti led me to achieve international recognition,” Mollino used to say. (But this was a reluctant Mollino, in those days, heedless of the world.) And yet it was Mollino who, through his works and reflections, gave Ponti the best of himself. And it was he who aroused in Ponti a desire for critique: “but said with admiration,” as was the Mollino form of criticism that Ponti liked best.

    In contact "from a distance" from as early as 1937 (Pagano enlightened them from afar) it was only through Stile that Mollino and Ponti tuned out to be friends. They were unlike each other, those two. (Ponti, the Olympian, had no notion of his “so-called enemies,” while Mollino, persecuted by Mollino, saw enemies everywhere). But the two saw eye to eye on the subject of architecture: architecture as art and – “the ultimate aspiration of art”- as “expression.” And it was in Stile, in April 1944, that Ponti had the reward and the enchantment of listening to Mollino through ten pages of manuscripts and images. This was the project for a “House on the Heights.” This was a Mollino who left no doubt as to what he thought, dreamt and knew.

    “Dear Ponti, I would not like to violate the Gospel by adapting it to the purposes of architecture. Together with the Gospel, I have also found De Maistre’s Journey in this old house in Rivoli. I would like to quote a piece: St Luke IX, 33-35 “Peter saith to Jesus: Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses; and one for Elias: not knowing what he said. And as he spoke these things, there came a cloud and overshadowed them…” Possibly, when he said ‘tabernacles,’ Peter was thinking of those tents of the Assyrian kings, with their half domes and courtyards, and their stays and cords – in other words, almost houses. The “House on the heights” I am sending you started off a bit like this: a "rigid" tent, both a pavilion and something more, as well as being the hunting tent of the Assyrian… Here, between you and I, I can allow myself to paraphrase what I would like to have already expressed in form. You will be my judge. Among select friends, one can also “sit in peace”, and comment to oneself…”

    Stile, the “unfindable” magazine, the magazine of dream-world designs – was short-lived. With Domus, as from 1948, for all of us it was a matter of meeting the public. Were things changing or was it we who were changing? Domus immediately published the stunningly beautiful "mountain architecture" by Mollino, “an architect who is a threat to weak spirits “– together with his interiors and furniture , furniture, furniture: but what did it know of Leonardesque Mollino – the Mollino who invented asymmetrical skis and built tiny biplanes in which to do the aerobatics that “calmed his nerves?" From Stile to Domus Mollino continued his reproach, meaning his reproaches to me, Lisa, for mistakes, delays and silence… in the true Mollino-style through "letters au citron." The editorial office was a "den of Amazons…”

    Was it really? Only now do I realise, when I go through the papers of the 1970s, that this was not the case. Mollino was A winged rider. All he needed was a gesture, some act of kindness from us, and the "den" became a royal palace – the “place of Amazons” (which he drew and sent me) to glide over, while still in doubt…


  • Artist Biography

    Carlo Mollino

    Italian • 1905 - 1973

    Carlo Mollino made sexy furniture. His style may have grown out of the whiplash curves of Art Nouveau, but the sinuous lines of his furniture were more humanoid than vegetal, evoking arched backs and other body parts. Mollino was also an avid aviator, skier and racecar driver — he designed his own car for Le Mans. His love of speed and danger comes across in his designs, which MoMA curator Paola Antonelli has described as having "frisson."

    Mollino had no interest in industrial design and the attendant constraints of material costs and packaging. His independent wealth allowed him to pick and choose projects, resulting in an oeuvre of unique, often site-specific works that were mostly executed by the Turin joinery firm Apelli & Varesio. Apart from a coffee table that he designed in 1950 for the American company Singer & Sons, his furniture never went into production. Notwithstanding the support of Gio Ponti, Mollino's design contemporaries largely dismissed him as an eccentric outsider. However, the combination of scarcity (Mollino only made several hundred works in his lifetime), exquisite craftsmanship and idiosyncratic "frisson" has rightly placed Carlo Mollino in the highest tier of twentieth-century design collecting.

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"Tipo B" side chair, designed for Casa Licitra Ponti, Milan

Resinflex, brass, tubular brass.
37 3/4 x 15 1/4 x 20 1/4 in. (96 x 38.7 x 51.4 cm)
From the production of 6.

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $482,500

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The Collector: Icons of Design

New York Auction 16 December 2014 5pm