“I believe that good design is a commentary on everyday life. It is not simply the expression of form and style, but rather of what is happening in everyday life. It is a commentary on the real world.”
Gaetano Pesce (born 1939) – legendary artist, designer and architect – one of the most prominent Italian artists of the 1960s.
Pesce is a cult figure in the world of design, the founder of “emotional” and “behavioral” design. He was the first to break the boundaries between art, architecture, design and industry. His projects are endowed with a pronounced sense of concept, a special energy, and a meticulously planned unique execution, which has earned them the title of works of art.
Pesce’s figurative art was created under the influence of the pop art and op art movements and was closely tied to the political and social trends of Italy in the 60s.
At the peak of modernism, Pesce became one of the first designers to devote himself to functional art. His works were nothing like the cliches coming off the assembly line. They were extraordinary and imperfect. Pesce used irony and humor to draw attention to the problems of modern society.
One of Pesce’s most famous works is the UP armchair series, which became a symbol of Italian design. It was created by the artist from 1969–72. The “UP” chairs were made completely of polyurethane without any rigid components. They were compressed flat and sealed in a vacuum package for shipping. When a consumer opened one of these flat boxes, the chair would expand to its original shape and size before their eyes. The famous chair “UP5”, also known as “Donna”, whose anthropomorphic forms are similar to the curves of a female figure, is considered an icon of Italian design. An eight-meter-tall installation in tribute to the chair was exhibited on Milan’s Piazza Duomo in 2019.
“Non-traditional furniture allows people to open up. It embodies… contact and feelings. Objects should improve our lives and add more warmth, more color, and more emotions. It seems to me that the more an item accomplishes these things, the better it is for all of us.”
In Pesce’s series of works, the main goal is to emphasize the individuality of each piece. In the early 1980s, Pesce began working with a translucent polymeric material, a synthetic resin, which he used to create a series of chairs, decorative vases, designer lamps, and two-dimensional reliefs, which he calls “industrial skins”.
His work is distinguished by the use of a rich color palette and the active use of synthetic materials, such as polyurethane foam, plastic, and silicone, in combination with wood, metal and papier-mâché.
“Irony provokes feelings. If people look at a chair and smile, this is progress, because the chair is no longer just a comfortable piece of furniture to sit on. Design is now not only a matter of comfort. It has become a form of entertainment, a way to think and express oneself. Modern man is faced with problems on all sides, and if we can bring more joy, more bright colors, more sensuality into our lives, we will definitely become happier.”
The result of these creative experiments with new materials and forms are unique objets d’art, pieces of furniture, and decorative art. Outstanding artistic vision and style, which Gaetano Pesce successfully embodies in his work, put him on a par with such unsurpassed geniuses of Italian design and architecture as Ignazio Gardella and Carlo Scarpa. He is among the ranks of those who purely embody the national ideal of a creative mind in Italy — the “quintessential artist.”
Gaetano Pesce implemented many architectural projects, including Mark Hubin’s apartment in Paris (1986), Organic Building in Osaka (1990), Mourmans Gallery in Knokke-Zoot (1994), Schumann’s House in New York (1994) , design of the Palace of Fine Arts in Lille (1996).
Pesce lives and works in New York, works at universities in America and Europe, and collaborates with leading brands and companies, including Cassina, B & B Italia, Bernini, Venini and Meritalia.
The artist’s works are presented in the permanent collections of the world’s largest museums and art institutions: the Museum of Contemporary Art (New York), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), the Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco), the Victoria and Albert Museum (London) , Museum of Decorative Arts (Paris), Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), Museum of Decorative Arts and Canadian Center for Architecture in Montreal.