Ettore Sottsass, Jr. - Important Design London Wednesday, October 17, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Riva, Milan
    Private collection, Monza, acquired directly from the above, circa 1957

  • Literature

    Anty Pansera et. al., Arredoluce: Catalogo ragionato 1943-1987, Milan, 2018, illustrated p. 306

  • Catalogue Essay

    The present lot has been registered in the Arredoluce Archives, Italy as number 9089415.

    The ceiling light was designed by Ettore Sottsass Jr., however it never went into a serial production. Therefore, unlike other Arredoluce lighting, the present lot does not have a serial number, most likely because it was never officially photographed for sale purposes. Titled ‘Urano’, it belongs to the series of Sottsass’ ceiling lights named after the planets, which feature suspended wire details.

    -Arredoluce Archives

    The spaceship

    On the occasion of the rediscovery of this artifact by Ettore Sottsass Jr., I dug out a very long interview, which he granted me in July 1992. Whilst discussing the experience of returning from war, Sottsass stated: ‘Emotions, fears, complications of all kinds, I didn’t know what to do. Since university, I felt an innate desire to do something, to make drawings, no matter what it was. A desire that was then set ablaze by the French culture, the paintings and the people I encountered. Although my artistic ideas were not yet defined, I knew I was destined to realise them. Specifically, at that time architecture somehow felt too demanding, because of the required series of uninteresting technicalities, such as specifications, estimates, dimensional drawings, which were all too precise. Evidently, I was romantic and I took great pleasure in literature, music, paintings and arts. What else could I do? Make small drawings, imagine something. I have several past sketches and drawings that related to architecture, but many of them referred instead to something standing nearby, like sculpture or painting. For example, the consideration of colour has always been a source of great emotions for me’.

    The present ceiling light designed by Sottsass for Arredoluce embodies these primary interests, as expressed in the above interview. It is evident that the main characteristic of the ceiling light is the visionary nature of its design. Sottsass’ vision is distant from the rationalism of the typology and its technical requirements, and from form following function. We are instead confronted with those qualities in which Sottsass defines himself as an artist with an architecture degree: sculpture (space), painting (colour). Comparing the ceiling lights Sottsass designed for Arredoluce (which were relatively few in number), we discover that they are like spaceships with unusual geometric shapes and pure colours, which are full of personality, such as yellows, greens, blacks and whites. Why spaceships? As Sottsass describes, ‘young architects and engineers seek invention and emotion... within a particular idea of structure: that is, in that particular way of dealing with structural problems that goes beyond pure and simple static research and opens on wider, more mobile and fantastic horizons’.

    Isn’t it true that the way the two shades are assembled together is the most original element of the present ceiling light? It requires a process of sewing, far from the simple and inexpensive techniques adopted by other designers in order not to affect the price of their products. Here, the process requires a series of manual assembly, to create an unusual spherical structure that lies in between abstract sculpture, spatial vision and poetic declaration. The work is similar to that of artists such as Fausto Melotti or Riccardo Dalisi, who unsurprisingly will become friends of Sottsass and to whom he would confide that he, ‘…sits passively on the sofa staring at the clouds to see what they are doing’. Here, is the the explanation of the ‘cloud-lights’ designed by Sottsass for Arredoluce, expertly overseen and refined by Angelo Lelii’s creative madness.

    It is difficult to imagine the technical skill necessary to produce the present ceiling light. The two extremely light aluminum blades of the shades were formed in heavy metal rotating molds, then cut into their round shapes. Finally, to connect the two shades using thin steel wire, they were drilled by hand 126 times, without any space for error!

    -Fulvio Ferrari

Property from a Private Italian Collector


Unique 'Urano' ceiling light

circa 1957
Painted aluminium, brass, iron wire.
45.5 cm (17 7/8 in.) diameter, variable drop
Manufactured by Arredoluce, Monza, Italy.

£50,000 - 70,000 

Sold for £68,750

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

Important Design

London Auction 18 October 2018