Ettore Sottsass, Jr. - Design London Thursday, November 12, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Private collection, Florence, acquired directly from the manufacturer, circa 1970

  • Literature

    'Proposte', Domus, no. 488, July 1970, n.p.
    Hans Höger, Ettore Sottsass Jun. Designer, Artist, Architect, Tübingen, 1993, p. 91
    Fulvio Ferrari and Napoleone Ferrari, Luce Lampade 1968-1973: il nuovo design italiano, Turin, 2002, figs. 147-48

  • Catalogue Essay

    Prototype ‘Essetre’ shelving unit

    Designed by Ettore Sottsass in 1969, the ‘Mobili Grigi’ series was first exhibited in May 1970 at ‘Eurodomus 3’, Palazzo della Triennale, Milan, the landmark exhibition devoted to the major international furniture companies. The series marked the final act of the prolific collaboration between Sottsass and Poltronova, for which he had served as artistic director for the last twenty years.

    Sottsass’ intentions for presenting this series were deliberately anti-commercial. For the architect, it was another opportunity to apply design as a tool for social communication, promoting existential self-awareness against consumerism. For the exhibition, Sottsass presented various elements for a domestic interior: a bed, a table, chairs, wardrobes, bookcases, disc cases, which he designed in painted grey fibreglass. The furniture was displayed in a dimly lit space with black painted walls, ceiling, and floor. The space was only illuminated by dim coloured neon lights that were integrated into some of the furniture designs: an environment that Sottsass defined as claustrophobic and compared to the interior of a submarine.

    To remedy the foreseeable commercial failure of the series, Sergio Cammilli, the 'enlightened' founder and owner of Poltronova, suggested to Sottsass that he change the colour from dark grey to white, to which the architect agreed to. In June 1970, the exhibition ‘Nuovi mobili bianchi Eurodomus di Ettore Sottsass’ opened at the Design Centre Poltronova in Florence. The exhibition featured the ‘Mobili Grigi’ series now in white fibreglass, which included the present ‘Essetre’ shelving unit, produced from the original wood moulds. However, to put the designs into serial production required new moulds, which due to their high expense were never created. Therefore, the only examples of the series are the prototypes in dark grey and white produced on the occasions of the Milan and Florence exhibitions.

    Arch. Milco Carboni


Prototype ‘Essetre’ shelving unit, from the ‘Mobili Grigi’ series

circa 1970
Fibreglass, painted wood.
182.5 x 86.4 x 33.1 cm (71 7/8 x 34 x 13 in.)
Manufactured by Poltronova, Agliana, Italy,

£18,000 - 24,000 

Sold for £37,800

Contact Specialist

Madalena Horta E Costa
Head of Sale, Associate Specialist
+44 20 7318 4019



London Auction 12 November 2020