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Schinkel Pavillon

Ettore Sottsass: In Ogni Stanza C’è Il Fantasma del Sesso / In Every Room There is the Ghost of Sex

Curated by Lili Reynaud-Dewar


Against the minimalism and elegance of much modern design, architect and designer Ettore Sottsass often tested the limits of “good taste.” Humorous items at the limit of aesthetic acceptability were the result, generally produced in collaboration with manufacturers of ceramics, household articles, furniture, and office machines. Monumental furniture, for instance, was coated in plastic and sprinkled with nervous patterns. Particularly in the years of the Memphis Group (a 1980s Milan design collective that was highly dismissive of tradition), his goal was to put mass products on the international market.

The artwork of Reynaud-Dewar has been grounded repeatedly in the writings and furniture designs of Sottsass, and he was thus a natural choice when she was asked to curate one of the exhibitions at the Schinkel Pavillon. Sottsass had planned to collaborate on this show before his untimely death at the end of 2007 but passed away before Reynaud-Dewar had the chance to exchange her ideas with him about this project. She ultimately drew on this lack of direct communication with the architect. Focusing on the 1960s and 1970s period of Sottsass’s oeuvre, she created a background for the objects with a selection of his texts, printed on posters displayed on the windows and in the space of the Schinkel Pavillon. The repetitive texts echoed the objects, which multiply themselves and do not try to fit with each other. The entire show thus created a sense of misplaced objects and absurd irony. Reynaud-Dewar saw Sottsass’s texts as a manifestation of his concepts of design.

On display were six Ultrafragola mirrors, twelve prototype office chairs, one ceramic piece, and one Superbox wardrobe, all designed by Sottsass between 1968 and 1971.