Superstudio - Design London Wednesday, April 29, 2009 | Phillips

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  • Literature

    Emelio Ambasz, Italy: The New Domestic Landscape: Achievements and Problems of Italian Design, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1972, pp. 246 for ‘Vita (super superficie)’ and 241-251 for other examples of Superstudio photolithographs and more information on the group; Albrecht Bangert, Italian Furniture Design: Ideas Styles Movements, Munich, 1988, p. 54 for ‘New New York’

  • Catalogue Essay

    It is with trepidation that one includes works by SUPERSTUDIO in an auction catalogue filled with objects; Life Without Objects was the title of their 2003 retrospective at the Design Museum, London. As radical reappraisers of consumer culture, Florentine architecture firm SUPERSTUDIO strove for just such a life. They rejected architecture too, a seemingly intractable contradiction. During a 1971 lecture at the Architectural Association in London, founder Adolfo Natalini remarked: “…if design is merely an inducement to consume, then we must reject design…until all design activities are aimed towards meeting primary needs. Until then, design must disappear.” Cattle auctions meet primary needs, art auctions do not. How does one proceed? And yet SUPERSTUDIO built objects, chairs, and lamps; they exhibited their plastic ‘Passion-flower’ floor lamp in The New Domestic Landscape, a seminal exhibition of Italian design at the Museum of Modern Art in 1972. “We’ll do very complicated mental acrobatics…,” they wrote in the accompanying catalogue, “We’ll play wonderful games, games of ability and love.” It’s an alibi of sorts. SUPERSTUDIO had a great sense of fun; the sheer exuberance of “mental acrobatics” must have sustained them under the constant predicament of contradiction. They did not often build in those early years, but they drew and talked and filled their careers with provocation, films, photomontage, and the occasional table.
    The present lot comprises seven photolithographs conceived for two separate ‘superprojects’ between 1969 and 1973: ‘The Continuous Monument’ and ‘Five Fundamental Acts’. The first series included collages of monolithic grid structures superimposed on preexisting landscapes and cities, “an architecture that does not portray ‘architecture’”, to borrow from Peter Lang. The second, an ambitious reflection on Life, Education, Ceremony, Love, and Death, was an unfinished film opus incorporating storyboards, live action footage, and collage animation.


Set of seven lithographs

Each: 100 x 69.9 cm. (39 3/8 x 27 1/2 in.)
Each number 21 from an edition of 100. Each signed in pencil with respective title, ‘Superstudio’, year and ‘21/100’.  Comprising ‘New New York’, ‘Le 12 città Ideali-Prima città’, the complete series of the 'Atti Fondamentali': ‘Vita (super superficie)’, ‘Educazione’, ‘Cerimonia (il grande pellegrinaggio)’, ‘Amore (la macchina innamoratrice)’ and ‘Morte (il cimitero di Modena)’ (7).

£18,000 - 24,000 

Sold for £22,500


30 Apr 2009, 2pm