A recurrent theme seems to be running through collectible design just now. Vases are featured in exhibitions, studio visits and design week. Much innovation seems to be passing through these symbolic, decorative and functional objects, both familiar and affordable. Poised between art and design, indifferent to the invariably lame attempts to classify them.
In Rome on 9 February, the Daforma Gallery is opening its second exhibition devoted to collectible design. “Pandora's Syndrome” is an eclectic group show that starts in the early 20th century and comes all the way down to the present through the production – naturally of vases – by Ettore Sottsass, Angelo Mangiarotti, Mario Botta, Lino Sabattini, Piero Fornasetti, Coralla Maiuri, Sophie Dries, Federica Elmo, Valentina Cameranesi and Sara Ricciardi. As classical myth shows, vases can give rise to surprising visions, and it hardly matters that all the evils in the world once popped out of a vase. At the exhibition, the chorister Valeria Pesciarelli will interpret each piece with a composition specially devoted to it.
We asked the gallerist Carlo Pratis why vases are now on the crest of the wave. “I guess people feel increasingly at ease with something that can be used. It has a purpose and they can interact with it, creating a direct rapport. Most of the vases we’re talking about, though they were often conceived as actual sculptures (like the pieces made by, say, Sottsass, Melotti or Fontana), have the intrinsic potential of being completed in use. So it’s not like that ecstatic detachment which contemporary art generally elicits. A vase in some way mediates perfectly between the two worlds of art and design. It’s a sculpture that lives independently, with a life of its own, yet its function means it can be reinvented and come to life day by day, being completed even with a single flower. If you ask me what a vase brings into our lives, I’d say it enables us to indulge in that moment of small and simple creativity, that microscopic satisfaction you feel when choosing blooms from the florist’s shop around the corner. And if I’m speaking to you as a collector (which I am), I think of this intensely interactive, hence playful relationship with one’s own collection. In most art collections, this tends to be lacking, or at least more complex and mediated.”
The gallery's project room is presenting a personal project by Edoardo Dionea Cicconi. His totemic installation revisits the myth of Pandora, freezing it forever “in a dramatic implosion of beauty”.