Enzo Mari, the Italian modernist artist remains an eminent industrial designer and theoretician whose words and works have outlasted his life. As a designer who firmly stood his ground against mass consumerism, popularity and material exhaustion, Mari is an idol for designers across the world. The Italian designer and polemicist were well-known for his critical comments alongside his affordable and durable designs, which were especially focused on the functional and material aspects of furniture. Shifting the spotlight to the extravagant life and works of Mari, the creative design hotspot C-Mine is all set to host a retrospective exhibition titled Enzo Mari curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist with Francesca Giacomelli at their historic Genk, Belgium location. The show will go on from February 11, 2023, until May 28, 2022, under the curatorial guidance of Hans Ulrich Obrist, an iconic Swiss art curator and Francesca Giacomelli, a multidisciplinary artist and designer. The exhibition was previously held at the Triennale Milano in 2021 and marked a return with never-seen-before projects, models, drawings, films and posters from the Enzo Mari Archive.
"With Enzo Mari, we are bringing a design legend to C-mine. Mari's work has not lost relevance over the years. Even today, he can inspire us to design and build ourselves, combining the beautiful with the useful,” says Louise Osieka, director of C-Mine. The exhibition travelling from Milan, Italy will follow a similar event and spatial flow wherein the first section will feature the exhibits from the immense retrospective Triennale exhibition involving Mari’s projects from 1952 to 2012. The section was curated by the artist himself in 2008-2009 for Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Turin as he worked towards imparting his knowledge to the world of design and generations of designers to come. The exhibition space is planned to house multitudes of abstractions and design incentives that righteously illustrate the Italian designer’s creative genius. A global project that includes the exhibits, exhibition design and a catalogue, was constructed as a chronological survey of his entire oeuvre as a designer, artist, intellectual and utopian theorist, without distinguishing between different disciplines, media or types of research. This historical segment also comprises the Study Platforms, which are nineteen in-depth investigations that give insights into projects where the essential topics of Mari's research originate. Sketches, iconographic studies, models, prototypes, sketches, and notes - many previously unseen - from Mari's studio archives in Piazzale Baracca in Milan give a handhold for understanding and admiring Mari's work.
For instance, the 16 animali puzzle (1957) was cleverly designed by Mari to produce 16 different animal shapes over a single piece of wood with just one continuous cut. It was a revolutionary design instance that continues to be useful in the field of didactic object design to date. Another one of his iconic designs on display will be the Autoprogettazione or the Self-design Proposal, 1973 hat not only worked as a symbol of democratisation in design but also a host to certain liberating values targeting socialised knowledge. The participatory furniture building kit involved a manual containing detailed blueprints along with structural parts that were easy to assemble. Autoprogettazione was not just a do-it-yourself kit, but a revolutionary undertaking in which he employed a simple methodology to enable everyone to participate in the exercise, challenging existing manufacturing techniques and throwaway culture.
The exhibition will also include a chronological overview of Mari’s oeuvre as a designer, artist and utopian theorist alongside a series of contributions from contemporary international artists and designers that were invited to commemorate Mari’s life and practice through their own adaptive installations. These will include work by the Belgian design studio OpenStructures, Tacita Dean, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Danh Vo, and Virgil Abloh, among others. On top of that, the expo includes a series of documents and video interviews from curator Hans Ulrich Obrist's archive, aimed at highlighting Mari's critical and radical take on design.
Enzo Mari’s work goes beyond design. He was an artist and a theoretician who taught at many Italian universities and is the author of 15 explanatory and political books. He has been awarded the most prestigious award for industrial design- the Compasso d’Oro for as five editions and was also honoured with the Ambrogino d’Oro, the highest award given by the city of Milan. His design expertise shaped a major historic part of the continuously developing design world that inspire designers today.