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Enzo Mari was one of the masters of Italian design. His work ranged from design to painting, from graphics to installation. Enzo Mari was a university professor as well as a political activist.
His characteristic style had minimal forms and the consistent use of materials which are considered fundamental in the history of Italian design. Enzo Mari believed in promoting the idea of creating well-designed items for ordinary people.
Born in the Italian city of Novara in 1932, Enzo Mari studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milan from 1952-1956. He was a prolific furniture and product designer.
His early works include a series of collaborations with the then recently established Italian brand Danese, which saw the designer create vases, a pencil holder, a series of calendars and his 16 Animals children’s puzzle. Enzo Mari also designed the Putrella tray from a slightly bent industrial beam for Danese.
Throughout the 1960s and 70s, Enzo Mari designed numerous pieces of furniture for Italian brands. These include the Delfina chair, which was designed for Driade in 1974 and won the Italian Compasso d’Oro industrial design award in 1979. Among his other noted designs are the Elisa chair and Box chair for Dirade, Tonietta chair for Zanotta and Squeezer for Alessi.
Alongside product and furniture design, Enzo Mari wrote numerous and varied books. In the 1960s he published a book of paintings called The Apple and the Butterfly book, which told the story of a caterpillar. In the 1970s, he published a guide to making your own furniture from boards and nails called Autoprogettazione.
Enzo Mari‘s varied and extensive work is the subject of a major exhibition curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Francesca Giacomelli at the Triennale Milano, which features around 250 of his designs.
During his lifetime Enzo Mari created an array of extraordinary works – made from paper, wood, glass, pottery, iron, and steel – that move freely between the spheres of art, design, architecture and graphic design, and are now in collections, museums, and homes all over the world.
The profoundness of Enzo Mari’s work along with his deep exploration of the substance of the world act as a counterpoint to his irony and scorn for the superficial mediocrity that he discerns in the fields of design and criticism – with a few rare exceptions such as Ettore Sottsass, who was so far yet so close to him in terms of work ethics.
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