Good morning everyone.

Today we are going to be visiting a beautiful and remarkable exhibition: “Tutto Ponti. Gio Ponti Archi-Designer,” at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Rue de Rivoli in Paris.

Here the Italian genius is expressed at its best.

Gio Ponti can certainly be counted among the purest heirs of the great Italian artists of the past who have made Italy the heart of European culture.

Today, in this era of standardization, of downward equalization, everything is questioned in the name of a presumed ‘freedom’, a word that, as we know, taken alone does not mean anything.

And indeed, today it seems easy to answer the famous question asked by Paul Valéry.

Will Europe become what it is in reality – that is, a little promontory of the continent of Asia? Or will it remain what it seems – that is, the elect portion of the terrestrial globe, the pearl of the world, the brain of a vast body?”

As to Ponti, he has certainly contributed to making Europe “the pearl of the world”.  He is known primarily as a great architect, but this exhibition also tells us a lot about his eclecticism.

From furniture designer to porcelain maker, his genius always shines through. A true genius based on apparent simplicity and veiled modesty.

The extremely beautiful painting “Racconto Immaginario”, a demonstration of his Renaissance-like talent unfolded at 360 degrees was a real surprise for me.

The caption of this painting reads: “Displayed in the dining room of the second class of the liner Conte Biancamano.”

At this point I told myself: if this masterpiece decorated a second class hall, what could possibly adorn the first class of this fantastic cruise ship?

Well, I did a quick search on the Internet and I found a video of the Conte Biancamano Conte Biancamano.

In the first class, in the background you can see a painting that was several square meters in size. The author? Mario Sironi, a great Italian artist of the first half of the twentieth century.

Seeing the furnishings of the great ocean liners of the ’50s and’ 60s is always overwhelming- The most talented architects and artists were called upon to comfort a journey that could last even several months.

But going back to our genius, Gio Ponti, I think that his biography and his experience as an artist contain all the elements that make him a symbol of our post-war Italy. Our society totally identified itself with the Pirellone (Pirelli building), the beating heart of Milan – Italy’s economic capital. Its birth and growth was a perfect metaphor of our Country’s re-birth and growth.

Devastated by the war in both spirit and resources, Italy embarked on a material and human reconstruction endeavour that was to profoundly transform it.

Seeing the videos of the exhibition, one is struck by the good manners, modesty, and bourgeois politeness that emerge and that are perfectly embodied by Ponti and his Milan.

Only a few years later, the 1968 revolts were to point to that bourgeoisie as public enemy number one, as the absolute evil to be demolished.

And they succeeded perfectly in their intent. But what did they create in its place?

While waiting for an answer, I would like to conclude with a personal notation. At one point a caption reads “Provenienza hotel Parco dei Principi Roma”

Now, whoever has been working in this field in Rome for a long time, will remember the famous exhibitions that used to take place in the Pinciano district in the 90s. The venue was precisely the Parco dei Principi Hotel which hosted high level exhibitions during the weekends. The items on display were mostly objects and small pieces of furniture (also because the entrance was narrow and there were several very steep steps). Well, I was totally indifferent to the same items that are now on display in this beautiful exhibition in Paris.

But not everyone was like me.  Here I would like to pay tribute to the memory of a true master of our profession, Giorgio Profili, who in the early 90s in one of the editions of the Mercanteinfiera of Parma presented a piece of furniture from the Parco dei Principi Hotel in Rome. It was a fantastic double door, of which I remember the magnificent contrast between the cardinal red and the golden brass decorations.

A true “Magister Elegantiarum”, he was always ahead of the times as evidenced by his fantastic collections; from the Lenci ceramics to the rare Futurist painter Bragaglia.

His gallery was within walking distance from Piazza Istria but in photo dating back to the ’70s, he is portrayed with some colleagues in the legendary Palazzo Brizzolari of Arezzo that I speak about in the Amarcord column.

These outstanding Italians have contributed, each in his own way, to making us live in the ‘pearl of the world’, and it will certainly not be their fault if one day we become a little promontory of the Asian continent.

Tutto Ponti. Gio Ponti Archi-Designer
Museum of Decorative Arts
107, rue de Rivoli
75001 Paris
from 19 October 2018 extended till May 5, 2019