Como, Chiasso and Lugano: a summer journey through art and design

A journey along the lakes between Italy and Switzerland, taking in exhibitions and festivals of design, photography and film.

Balthasar Burkhard, MASI Lugano, 2018. Foto Studio Pagi

Culture in summer is on the move too, leaving the beaten track for alternative paths, in this case along the lakes between Italy and Switzerland.

We start from Como, the city of architectural Rationalism, which currently has an unusual exhibition on Giuseppe Terragni. The Pinacoteca Civica, the Como art museum, is showing furniture that the architect created as part of a nursery school, the Asilo Sant’Elia. This was designed between 1934 and 1936 in a Como suburb for the children of factory workers. Three types of chair (including a miniature version of the Lariana), benches, changing-room lockers and storage units were designed to meet the needs of the children. As the exhibition’s curator, Roberta Lietti, explains, the objects testify to “the genesis of modern school furniture”, updated for the Steiner and Montessori teaching approaches, which at the time were coming into conflict with the Fascist regime. Alongside these objects, the museum is also displaying historical documents, design material and photographs, texts from the period, furniture for an infirmary and an original example of the Benita armchair.    

Exhibition title:
Giuseppe Terragni per i bambini: l'Asilo Sant'Elia
Curators:
Roberta Lietti and Paolo Brambilli
Opening dates:
8 June – 4 November 2018
Venue:
Pinacoteca Civica
Address:
via Armando Diaz 84, Como

Following recent tradition, a summer exhibition of the work of the Visiting Professor at the Artists Research Laboratory, part of the Antonio Ratti Foundation, is being held in Como’s Romanesque masterpiece, the Ex Chiesa di San Francesco. For 2018, Christina Mackie (born 1956), a British artist, has been running a course for 18 young artists. Her solo show is on until 9 September. In the deconsecrated space, she presents “Yellow Machine” (exhibited at Tate Britain in 2015), a garish machine for filtering colour. It creates a striking contrast with the architecture around it. The aisle, the apse and the sacristy have videos and sculptures, including Powder People, an animation on methods of channelling, cleaning and filtering that evoke the control imposed on flows of human beings by modern society. 

Exhibition title:
People Powder
Artist:
Christina Mackie
Opening dates:
20 July — 9 September 2018
Venue:
Spazio Culturale Antonio Ratti - ex chiesa di San Francesco
Address:
viale Lorenzo Spallino 1, Como

A few short miles away, over the border with Switzerland, is Chiasso, where the m.a.x. Museum has a substantial exhibition on Achille Castiglioni, born 100 years ago this year. It’s on until 23 September. Castiglioni designed many famous objects in his career – the exhibition displays the Arco, Aoy, Noce and Gibigiana lamps, the Allunaggio garden seat, the Mezzadro and Sella stools, the Dry cutlery set, and the Wall Clock and Rekord clock – but also more than 480 stage designs for RAI, Italy’s national broadcaster, Eni, the energy giant, and cultural events and trade fairs. They let us interpret the figure of the architect almost as a director orchestrating a complex mise-en-scène. In parallel, the exhibition follows the friendship and collaboration between Castiglioni and the Swiss graphic designer Max Huber. (The Max Huber Foundation set up this space for graphic design and visual culture in 2005).

Exhibition title:
Achille Castiglioni (1918–2002) visionario. L’alfabeto allestitivo di un designer regista
Opening dates:
31 May — 23 September 2018
Venue:
m.a.x. museo
Address:
Via Dante Alighieri 6, Chiasso
Balthasar Burkhard, Kamel, 1997
Balthasar Burkhard, Kamel, 1997

Moving on to another lake takes you to Lugano, where LAC is presenting a retrospective on the work of Balthasar Burkhard (until 30 September). The exhibition traces the photographer’s whole career, from the documentary and reportage shots of the 1970s to his work as a chronicler of the international art scene alongside Harald Szeemann, the famous curator who put together historically important exhibitions such as “When Attitudes Become Form” (1969) and “Documenta 5” (1972). Burkhard’s photographs now form the visual record of these events. Particularly evocative are the large-format images of city and countryside made since the mid-1990s.

Exhibition title:
Balthasar Burkhard. Dal documento alla fotografia monumentale
Opening dates:
30 June — 30 September 2018
Venue:
LAC Lugano
Address:
Piazza Bernardino Luini 6, Lugano

Ethan Hawke, Blaze, 2018

The last stop on our journey along the border takes us to Locarno, on Lake Maggiore, which is holding its famous film festival between 1 and 11 August. Among other films, Blaze (Ethan Hawke), La Flore (Mariano Llinàs), Hotel by the River (Hong Sang-soo) and Diane (Kent Jones) are being shown, as well as a TV series directed by Bruno Dumont, who won this year’s Leopard of Honour. On the architectural side of things, the festival opened on 30 July with a special showing of the film Mario Botta. Oltre lo spazio.

Title:
Locarno Festival
Opening dates:
1 – 11 August 2018
Venue:
Locarno various locations

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