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Contemporary patrons / A conversation with Nancy Olnick and Giorgio Spanu

“The success of a museum is not measured by the number of visitors the museum welcomes, but by the number of visitors to whom it has taught something. Also, the success of a museum is not measured by the number of objects the museum shows, but by the number of objects that people might perceive in their human environment. The success of a museum is not measured by its extension, but by the amount of space the public will be able to reasonably cover in order to benefit from it. This is the museum.” Thus, in 1978, the French museologist Georges Henri Rivière identified the characteristics a museum should have in order to be defined with this name (La Muséologie selon Georges Henri Rivière, Paris: Dunod 1989, 7, the translation from the French is mine). Rivière passed away in 1985, but if he could visit Magazzino Italian Art today, he would consider it as an exemplary application of his teaching. Magazzino Italian Art is an exhibition center dedicated to Italian art, strongly wanted, conceived and built by spouses Nancy Olnick and Giorgio Spanu in Cold Spring, about 60 miles North of New York, which opened on June 28th, 2017.   Nancy Olnick, a New Yorker, is from a real estate...

Zingonia: Utopia and Reality

In 1964, Renzo Zingone decided to found and build a new town on farmland in the province of Bergamo. Zingone was a wealthy businessman from Rome who owned the Banca Generale di Credito and had made his fortune mining gold and copper in Venezuela. He had already built the Zingone quarter in Trezzano sul Naviglio just outside Milan. In both cases the choice of name – Zingonia – had been dictated by Zingone senior who, in a letter dated 1930, had advised his two sons, Renzo and Corrado, to “always strive to valorize the family name”.   Zingonia, Missile   Both the Zingone quarter and the new town Zingonia, were designed by the architect Franco Negri, born in 1923, who graduated from the Milan Polytechnic in 1956. The foundation of both projects was the prefabricated industrial depots produced by the family company, Zingone Structures, which in Renzo Zingone’s mind were to become the productive heart of the new settlement. There was an essential difference between the two designs, however. The Zingone quarter was to assimilate the already existing industrial and productive businesses in the Milanese hinterland. In the new town, Zingonia, by contrast, the industrial warehouses...

All about Sottsass

On September 8, 1981, Ettore Sottsass and Barbara Radice roll up in a taxi a the Design Gallery in Milan. They’re excited and a little scared. That afternoon was the launch of an exhibition of a group of designers who had got together the previous December in their apartment and called themselves Memphis: Martine Bedin, Aldo Cibic, Michele De Lucchi, Matteo Thun and Marco Zanini. They rub their eyes in disbelief as more than 2000 people crowd the showroom to see 31 pieces of furniture, three clocks, ten lamps and eleven ceramic pieces.   The crowd spills out into the street, blocking the traffic. Sottsass and Radice have no idea what is going on. They think there must have been a road accident. No design event has ever attracted a crowd like this, and nobody can tell them how so many people came to be there that day. The invitation to the private view was a T-Rex with his toothy mouth wide open and his eyes sharply focused. A suggestion of things to come, a provocation almost. Will Memphis devour modern design? That day in September, 1981, the founding father of the new movement reached the acme of his success and popularity.   Ettore Sottsass was born in Innsbruck in 1917,...