Is Gaetano Pesce the true protagonist of Milan Design Week 2023?

The Italian designer, who has been based in New York for four decades, is an announced protagonists of this Design Week. Not only with the installation at the Bottega Veneta store, but also with works for Cassina, Bottega Ghianda and Luisa dalle Piane.

Gaetano Pesce recently enlarged his Brooklyn office. “A new space, and this already colourful environment will become even more vibrant and sparkling”, as we reported last year. On Domus it is almost a cliché: architecture as the mirror of life. Pesce, born in 1939, is undergoing a new youthfulness.

Above all, it was a recent collaboration that radically repositioned him on the map, making him make a paradigm shift of sorts. From being an “Italian design legend”, as the American newspapers usually define him (he went to New York in the 1970s and has never returned), his name has become the quintessence of desirability for the cool kids (and not only kids) of the global scenario. It is happening courtesy of Bottega Veneta, the rapidly rising visibility brand of the Kering group after Michele’s farewell to Gucci and Balenciaga’s epic fail with BDSM-themed teddy bears. Come stai? is a collection of 400 resin chairs designed by Gaetano Pesce for the fashion house, all different from each other and all colourful, the perfect product for the fluid and somewhat glitchy aesthetic that everyone is chasing these days. Domus included these chairs among the 20 objects of the year 2022

Gaetano Pesce, Come stai?, Bottega Veneta, Milano Design Week, 2022. Courtesy Bottega Veneta

Given these premises, it was obvious that Pesce’s in-store installation for Bottega Veneta, publicised on social media and by large posters in the city, is among the most eagerly awaited events of this Design Week. It has certainly been among the most Instagrammed so far. “Vieni a vedere” occupies the entire Montenapoleone store, using resin and fabric to create a cavernous yet light environment of soft, pastel colours for the visitor to walk through. It frames a collection of bags made from Pesce’s designs, with bucolic themes and names, My dear mountains and My dear prairies. “The space in which we present the bags is a cave,” explains Pesce, whom the brand defines in its press release as ’architect, designer, humanist artist’. But ‘what you actually pass through is the silhouette of a figure intent on shooting hoops’, he points out. It represents in fact ‘almost a victory - it is not clear whether it will hit the basket or not’. For Gaetano Pesce, ‘victory is a discovery, the discovery of the language of representation’. In conclusion, ‘it is about opening up new paths to design’. 

Gaetano Pesce, Bottega Veneta, Milano Design Week 2023. Photo by Daniele Ratti

A path totally consistent with what Gaetano Pesce confided in Domus recently, when we asked him what design is to him. “I would define design as an entity with an organic body,” the response from the New York-based Italian designer began. “If I think of the place that holds it, it should be declined into fragments scattered in different urban places, each one built with non-coherent languages.”

Visitors to the installation at the Bottega Veneta store are also offered gadgets that recall the mountains Pesce loves so much, namely a poster designed by his own hand and chocolates hand-painted by Peyrano, a historic chocolatier from Turin.

Pesce’s presence at this Design Week, however, is not limited to the collaboration with Bottega Veneta, although the great deployment of means deployed by the fashion brand risks eclipsing the other contributions. 

Gaetano Pesce, Luigi (o mi amate voi), Bottega Ghianda, Milano Design Week 2023. Foto di Daniele Cortese

Bottega Ghianda reissues a Pesce prototype created in the 1980s for Bernini, a company that no longer exists. In this new version, elements of translucent resin build a tale of colour around the wooden structure stained black, that is illuminated by an LED light, so that it becomes a sort of painting or backdrop, radically transforming the original function.

After last year’s Tramonto a New York, Pesce returns with a screen for Cassina, made in only nine pieces, Risacca. Consisting of three panels and sounded by a bluetooth speaker inserted in the base, it is made by casting a (guess what!) resin with an ooze painting-like finish. 

Gaetano Pesce, E’ bello continuare, Galleria Luisa Delle Piane, Milano Design Week 2023. Courtesy Galleria Luisa Delle Piane

Finally, at Galleria Luisa dalle Piane, there is Gaetana, a lamp that Pesce has named after himself. It is presented together with “È bello continuare”, the exhibition dedicated to industrial leather that opened in November and has been extended for this Fuorisalone. Together with Gaetana, three other historical lamps by the designer, all created between the late 1980s and the first half of the 1990s: they are the Osso Lamp (1989), the Spaghetti Lamp (1990) and the Quadrata a Muro Lamp (1994).

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