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  • Literature

    Fulvio Ferrari, Carlo Mollino Cronaca, Turin, 1985, p. 129, fig. 215; Giovanni Brino, Carlo Mollino: Architecture as Autobiography, Milan, 1987, p. 132; Fulvio Ferrari, ed., Carlo Mollino Arabesques, Milan, 2006, p. 104, fig. 165; Fulvio Ferrari and Napoleone Ferrari, The Furniture of Carlo Mollino, New York, 2006, p. 109

  • Catalogue Essay

    Claviere is a high alpine village in the Cottian Alps, a hundred kilometers west of Turin. In the winter of 1934, Carlo Mollino discovered there the joys of discesismo—downhill skiing. On Sundays he would drive into the mountains with his father, a renowned engineer, who shared his son’s growing passion for carving turns in snow. Mollino’s long affair with the sport led to the publication in 1950 of Introduzione al Discesismo, his treatise on modern skiing. In it are Mollino’s copious sketches and downhill photographs from the 1940s. One particularly fluid drawing depicts a skier executing turns: he descends the page in a straight line followed by two round arcs, a perfect expression of speed and control. Only by turning can a skier check the former to achieve the latter.
    Attenuations and ribbons of wood accelerate through Mollino’s furniture, but they are slowed—controlled—by curves, whorls, and turns. Skiing was Mollino’s hobby, curves were not; they were his life. Arabesques wind through nearly everything he built, or fashioned, or photographed: the undulating banister for his Società Ippica (1937-40); the arched outline above the RAI organ (1950-52); the posteriors in his many erotic Polaroids (1956-62); and the silhouettes of all his built furniture. Mollino designed the present coffee table for Singer & Sons in 1950, the same year he published Discesismo. The table’s curved maple base, bent using hot irons and soaked sponges, animates the void as ski tracks would a slope. The glass plates are the reason for the supports, but they in turn support, similar to the tubular bracing under the wings of airplanes, another love.
    By the mid-1950s Mollino had largely abandoned architecture and interiors for race car driving, flying, and skiing. But we must not overstate the connection between his furniture and sports; Mollino was consumed with creation not recreation. The latter might be seen as his quest for controlled speed, for a paradise of motion through the architecture of engine, wing, and stance. To quote Fulvio Ferrari, Mollino’s furniture was "stripped to its original structure and freed from static lines in the quest for the sublime". We might say the same about the long traverse of his life.

  • 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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Coffee table, model no. 1114

c. 1950
Maple, glass, brass.
42.5 x 128 x 65.5 cm. (16 3/4 x 50 3/8 x 24 5/8 in.)
Produced by Apelli & Varesio, Italy and distributed by Singer & Sons, USA.

£75,000 - 95,000 


25 Sept 2008, 2pm