Gio Ponti - Design London Thursday, October 17, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Private collection, Bologna

  • Catalogue Essay

    Gio Ponti’s Apta Tables and the Ecstasy of Movement

    For seven decades until the very end of his life in 1979, Gio Ponti was a tireless inventor of numerous concepts and realities. ‘From the spoon to the city’, he was the supreme exponent of that 1950s methodology, first articulated by Ernesto Nathan Rogers in the Charter of Athens, CIAM in 1952.

    In 1970 when he was almost eighty years old, he came up with his last masterpieces, the highly reductive furniture built by Walter Ponti of Mantua. In this series, named ‘Apta’, all basic domestic typologies were turned on their head in favour of pieces that were both mobile and collapsible thanks to castors and hinges. This which made them mobile when used and compact enough to stow away or transport, thus achieving an object that could be gloriously three dimensional one moment and dead flat the next but always radiant with colour.

    The two prototype tables presented here are the definitive gems from that series. One is red and white, the other aqua blue and dark grey and as such both emblematic of his colour methodology… 'he always contrasted a pure colour with black, white or grey' (Lisa Ponti in conversation with Brian Kish, January 2001 at her Studio, Via Randaccio 9, Milan). Meanwhile, his ever recurring graphic motifs were either the diamond or the obelisk and they became Ponti's essential matrix. ‘A perfection in architecture’ he once proclaimed, ‘[is] the ecstasy of movement’ (Gio Ponti in Amate l'architettura, Genova, 1957). In this respect, the wheels and hinges are key to allowing endless positions in any room as well as multiple exciting geometric configurations enhanced by intense colour contrasts.

    As it happened, these two tables were created in tandem with large scale architectural projects, the unrealised ‘coloured skyscrapers’ and Centre Pompidou as well as a completed masterwork the Cattedrale in Taranto. Like the folding tables, all these projects clearly demonstrate his agility at switching between the complex demands of different situations and scales to ultimately invent new and compelling solutions.

    Ponti began as a painter and later often evoked his hope to return to his artistic activities. However, he never stopped drawing and essentially looped art into his work for industry. He kept aiming at a particular synthesis which continues to catch and hold our attention in the twenty-first century. Indeed, his reappraisal has barely just begun.

    To sum things up, his teaching assistant at the Politecnico di Milano from 1945 to 1969, Vittoriano Viganò, provides us with an enlightening assessment of Ponti's method: ‘The impregnable weapon to which he always felt bound and which he always leveraged is 'art', art in its essence, as ethics, measure, strength, and action, indispensable for edifying man and his environment’ (Vittoriano Viganò in Ugo La Pietra, ed., Gio Ponti, L'arte si innamora dell'industria, Milan, 1993).

    Brian Kish
    Curator and Specialist in 20th Century Italian architecture and design. Associate member of the Gio Ponti Archives since 2006.

  • Artist Biography

    Gio Ponti

    Italian • 1891 - 1979

    Among the most prolific talents to grace twentieth-century design, Gio Ponti defied categorization. Though trained as an architect, he made major contributions to the decorative arts, designing in such disparate materials as ceramics, glass, wood and metal. A gale force of interdisciplinary creativity, Ponti embraced new materials like plastic and aluminum but employed traditional materials such as marble and wood in original, unconventional ways.

    In the industrial realm, he designed buildings, cars, machinery and appliances — notably, the La Cornuta espresso machine for La Pavoni — and founded the ADI (Industrial Designer Association). Among the most special works by Gio Ponti are those that he made in collaboration with master craftsmen such as the cabinetmaker Giordano Chiesa, the illustrator Piero Fornasetti and the enamellist Paolo de Poli.

    View More Works


Unique prototype folding coffee table

Plastic-laminated and painted wood, brass-plated steel.
40.7 x 121 x 43.3 cm (16 x 47 5/8 x 17 in.) fully extended
Executed by Walter Ponti, San Biagio, Italy. Underside with manufacturer's label printed design/Gio Ponti/per/WALTER PONTI/S.BIAGIO - Mantova/ITALY/W. Together with a certificate of expertise from the Gio Ponti Archives.

£30,000 - 50,000 

Sold for £81,250

Contact Specialist
Antonia King
Interim Head of Sale
+44 20 7901 7944


London Auction 17 October 2019