October 22, 2017


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Lot 72: Gio Ponti

Lot 72: Gio Ponti

Custom wall unit from the Villa Goldschmidt, Buenos Aires

Designed c. 1956-1967
57" x 166" x 38.5"; Side panel: 42" x 79"; (145 x 422 x 98 cm); (Side panel: 107 x 201 cm)
Together with a certificate of expertise from the Gio Ponti Archives
Provenance: Villa Goldschmidt, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Private Collection, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Private Collection, Los Angeles, California (acquired directly from the above, 2002)
Estimate: $25,000 - $35,000
Price Realized: $25,000
Inventory Id: 26072

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Gio Ponti (1891-1979) was the archetypal Renaissance man whose design sensibility was one that could be translated to a wide array of media. From cutlery to skyscrapers, Ponti's aesthetic translated to different forms and functions; he designed interiors for homes, businesses, chapels, and even the infamous Andrea Doria ocean liner, which still lives at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean off Nantucket. While Ponti was exceptionally knowledgeable about classical design and order, his work became progressively modern towards the latter half of his career. After decades of playfully referencing antique themes in his designs for ceramics, furniture, and architecture, Ponti increasingly rejected these elements in favor of more original and avant-garde designs until there was no longer any reference to historical precedent.

By the early 1950s, Ponti's interiors were becoming simplified in their decoration while gaining complexity in their execution. His concept for the "furnished wall" was a deconstruction of traditional cabinetry as he had designed specific uses for each floating element. In the wall unit from the Villa Goldschmidt (Lot 72), a pair of long bookshelves has recessed lighting to accentuate the floating nature of each element. An irregularly shaped desktop is part of a long cantilevered cabinet that juts out from a backboard and reinforces the horizontal nature of the piece while adding depth to the composition. Three drawers from the unit are accessed by "co-planar" handles offset by an ivory-colored background. A trapezoidal magazine holder protrudes like a sculpture, while a built-in lamp and sliding newspaper holders complete a radical reimagining of what functional furniture can look like.

While many furniture designers were still preoccupied with simplifying the form of a cabinet to follow the function, Ponti was rejecting even the prevailing rational ideas of modernism to create customized environments that, while ultimately functional, were never straightforward.