Traditional and contemporary intertwine in the halls of Palazzo Reale, through the works of designer Vito Nesta in collaboration with the Architecture and Design department of the Genoa University
Diario di un designer. Sessantanove giorni nel segno di Vito Nesta exhibition
On 17 June the exhibition Diario di un designer. Sessantanove giorni nel segno di Vito Nesta, curated by Alessandro Valenti and Luca Prodi in collaboration with the Department of architecture and design of Genoa’s University, opened at Palazzo Reale, Genoa, built in the mid-XVII century and owned through the centuries by Italian noble families. The exhibition, which fits into the context of the second edition of Genova Design Week, unfolds in two separate paths characterized by two exhibition methods: the first one is installative and takes up the main room of the historic residence, while the second method is mimetic, «like an acupuncture» in the words of Valenti. The first path traces the designer’s sixty-nines days of enforced isolation during the first Italian lockdown, the second one pays homage to the historical building in which contemporary pieces designed by Vito Nesta and ancient architectural features and furnishings dialogue and intertwine. In the Hall of Mirrors the curators have placed a large-size installation comprised of a long bamboo sea water-colored table, designed by Nesta together with some of his students and produced by Studio F. The curators, Valenti and Parodi, stressed the role the design students had in the project: «We want to stress the contribution of the students. It was an opportunity to put the spotlight on the work of the new generations». With the purpose of putting the everyday life at the center of his narration, Nesta has set the long table, symbol of conviviality, with one hundred ceramic dishes created during the lockdown enforced by the Italian government in the first months of 2020. The collection of dishes is a journey through the emotions lived by the artist and through the memories which came rushing back while isolated in his Milan apartment. «The themes of the journey and of the personal experience of the artist are very much present as the collection of dishes is the product of an introspective analysis» Parodi claims.
Lampoon reviews Diario di un designer. Sessantanove giorni nel segno di Vito Nesta
Nesta also focuses on the relationship with time which, on the one hand, seems stuck and monotonous but, at the same time, provides the visitors with an opportunity for traveling with their mind and imagination. The world portrayed by Nesta is figurative, sometimes cryptic, a world in which real and imaginary overlap and mingle. The one hundred dishes, all unique pieces, are grouped in series united by subjects and aesthetic features. La finestra sul cortile is dedicated to windows and balconies of Italian houses which, during the first months of the pandemic, have been protagonists of the Covid-19 narrative being the only outlet and meeting point. The collection Up & Down, in which skies and pavements are the main subjects, refers to the emotional swings Nesta experienced in those days. Being isolated from the outside world also meant reducing human relations and physical contact to a minimum, the series Erotica focuses on this matter through evocative, and sometimes explicit, drawings about sexuality and eroticism. Lastly, a series of ceramic plates is dedicated to masks and hand sanitizers which, in the past year, have united countries and cultures around the world. The months of lockdown have been for Nesta an occasion to reflect on his origins. From these considerations was born the collection devoted to the history of his family: letter fragments of his grandparents’ correspondence between Venezuela and Puglia, stamps, and pictures of his ancestors, collected by Nesta over the years, trace a timeline which brings us to the present. Family heirlooms and memories have been a fascination of his: «When I was five years old, I used to visit my nonagenarian aunts and offer to do little house works and errands in exchange for old pictures of my family». House interiors, food, natural elements and geometric patterns and structures are just some of the subjects portrayed by the designer in his collection of dishes. Nesta claimed that his work was inspired by the Japanese-born, Italian-naturalized artist, Kengiro Azuma: «I met Kengiro Azuma during my first year in Milan. One day I went to visit him in his Milan studio, in Bovisa. After a while, I noticed this notebook which aroused my curiosity. Azuma showed it to me and told me that every day, right after entering the studio, he used to draw a line or a little sketch on a page of the notebook, which soon became a sort of personal diary. Every little drawing could be the beginning of something else and during the lockdown I tried to replicate this concept on my ceramic dishes».
Dialogue between contemporary and traditional art
The second exhibition path is disseminated with design objects made by Nesta which infiltrate the historic halls and rooms of the XVII century palace, creating a game of references and mimesis between traditional and contemporary, permanent and ephemeral. The colors, fabrics and decorations of the museum’s rooms have been echoed by Nesta and the curatorial team in the setting of the exhibition. «The former owners of the palace were design experts of their times, and we wanted our design heritage to interact with modernity. This curatorial project is not characterized by contrast or imposition, it is just a dialogue between old and new which stems from the work of Vito Nesta» Alessandra Guerrini, director of Palazzo Reale, claims. The project is the result of a research work carried out by Nesta in the palace’s historical archives, in which he discovered and studied historic furnishings and textiles which he exploited as creative tools. Many of the products exhibited are the result of a fruitful collaboration between the designer, his students and Italian artisans and workshops: «The best projects are never the fruit of a single person’s work, on the contrary they come from a multiplicity of ideas and sharing practices» Nesta says about the project. The pieces displayed range from the ceramic vases Grand Tour, designed for the exhibition Musica da viaggio. Vito Nesta nelle stanze di Giuseppe Verdi, to the Turquerie carpet, designed for Les-Oflomans, from the glass vases presented this year together with the Italian brand Efetto Vetro, to the benches designed specifically for the historic residence, made by Tapezzeria Druelfa and covered in archival fabrics of Rubelli. Walking across the finely decorated rooms of the palace, the visitors find themselves seeking out and discovering the pieces designed by Nesta, camouflaged among the stuccoes, inlaid furnishings and fine fabrics of the historic residence.
Design as a driving force of the cultural sectors
Diario di un designer. Sessantanove giorni nel segno di Vito Nesta, on view until the 25th of September 2021, is the first exhibition dedicated to a contemporary designer to take place in the halls of the museum and originates from the desire to offer the public new and appealing contents, in addition to the pieces of the museum’s permanent collection. Both the curators and the management of the museum intend to continue this collaboration: «The exhibition shows how design can be a driving force for the cultural sectors and a way to connect the valuable collections of Italian house-museums with elements of the contemporary creative scene» Valenti claims. Reopening the halls of the royal palace after almost one year of forced closure with a this particular project marks a new starting point for the Genoese museum which aims not only at resuming the relationship with the audience abruptly interrupted with the outbreak of Covid-19 but also at reaching new target audiences and promoting the heritage of the House of Savoy and of the other noble families who inhabited and contributed to the constitution of the palace’s art collection.
Vito Nesta Italian designer
Originally from Puglia, Vito Nesta graduated in Interior Design in Florence and is now based in Milan.
Designer, art director, interior decorator and craftsman, Vito Nesta is animated by a great curiosity for distant cultures. He has collaborated with Cadriano, Devon & Devon, Les-Ottomans and Roche Bobois, among others. In 2018 he founded his personal brand Grand Tour.