Ettore Sottsass, Jr. - Design London Tuesday, November 9, 2021 | Phillips

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  • Ettore Sottsass’ Debut as an Industrial Designer

    By Arch. Milco Carboni, Specialist on Ettore Sottsass, author and architect at Sottsass Associati 1990-2007


    Towards the end of 1955, Angelo Lelii, the founder of the Italian lighting company Arredoluce, entrusted Ettore Sottsass with the task of designing a series of new lights. This was his first important assignment as an industrial designer and the first time that he would tackle the theme of domestic lighting with mass production in mind. The drawings of these works, kept at the Centro Studi e Archivio della Comunicazione of the University of Parma, show how their design took place between the end of 1955 and the beginning of 1956. It then paused before being resumed and completed six months later.


    The project’s interruption was due to Sottsass’ first trip to New York where he went to work in the studio of George Nelson, Herman Miller’s art director and worldwide cultural reference in the nascent field of industrial design. The differences between the initial and later phases of the project are evident. The first drawings reflect an interest in the intersection and union of curved surfaces, typical of the research led by proponents of the Spatialist Movement that Sottsass had been following for some time. The subsequent drawings, including the design of the present ceiling light from July 1956, are certainly influenced both formally and in the use of materials and colours by this first American experience.


    Sottsass wrote about the ‘impressive artificiality’ of this country which was filling the world with all kinds of goods. To describe the ceiling light, we rely on the words of the designer himself published in Domus in July 1957, when the project was presented in the magazine: ‘Ceiling light in coloured perspex. It almost reaches the ground and illuminates through diffused light both the interior and, more closely, a sitting reader. It can be dismantled for shipping.’


    IMAGE 1: A model of the present rare ceiling light published in Domus no. 332, July 1957 CREDIT:  © Editoriale Domus S.p.A
    The present model rare ceiling light featured in Domus no. 332, July 1957
    © Editoriale Domus S.p.A
    • Provenance

      Private collection, Naples

    • Literature

      Ettore Sottsass, 'Lampade e ceramiche', Domus, no. 332, July 1957, p. 45
      Giuliana Gramigna, Repertorio 1950/1980, Milan, 1985, p. 115
      Anty Pansera et. al., Arredoluce: Catalogo ragionato 1943-1987, Milan, 2018, pp. 181, 307
      Ettore Sottsass, l'objet magique, exh. cat., Centre national d'art et de culture Georges Pompidou, Paris, 13 October 2021-3 January 2022, p. 42

    • Catalogue Essay

      The present lot has been registered in the Arredoluce Archives, Italy as number 6041102.

Ο ◆240

Rare ceiling light, model no. 12625

designed 1956
Acrylic, brass, painted brass.
255.5 x 28 x 10 cm (100 5/8 x 11 x 3 7/8 in.)
Manufactured by Arredoluce, Monza, Italy.

Full Cataloguing

£70,000 - 90,000 Ω

Sold for £176,400

Contact Specialist

Antonia King
Head of Sale, Design


London Auction 9 November 2021