I'm gearing up for my next trip across the pond, and needed to add one more post from my last trip: a visit to Villa Necchi Campiglio at Via Mozart 14 in the heart of Milan.
This was the last stop on our Smithsonian Made In Italy tour, providing us with an insider's view of the style, design and life of an upper middle class Lombardy family in the early 20th century.
The home belonged to the sisters Necchi - Gigina (1901-2001) and Nedda (1900-1993) - and Gigina's husband Angelo Campiglio (1891-1984), members of a famous Italian manufacturing family known for its eponymous line of cast iron and enameled sewing machines.
Constructed between 1932 and 1935 by the Milanese architect Piero Portaluppi, the home is set back from the street and surrounded by a large garden with a swimming pool and tennis court.
It has an Art Deco design, in contrast with the more traditionally ornate homes in the neighborhood, and was modern in both in its style as well as its amenities (e.g., an elevator, dumbwaiter, telephones and intercoms, and the area's first heated swimming pool).
The sisters, who died without leaving any heirs, bequeathed the property to the Italian government for use as a museum.
Stone from Lombardy Italian marble graces the exterior, along with a sundial:
A walnut root and marble stairway dominates the main entrance:
Briar root (walnut) and brass/silver/zinc pocket doors designed to withstand a bomb connect the library, smoking room, and sun porch, and salon.
Most of the rooms remain as they did when the Necchi family and their servants lived there, featuring beautiful architecture, decorative arts, furnishings and collections of the period. Claudia Gian Ferrari’s collection of early 20th century art and Alighiero de’ Micheli’s collection of 18th century paintings and decorative arts were added in more recent years.
The dining room features 16th and 17th century tapestries from Brussels:
As was custom at the time, servants quarters and the kitchen and laundry rooms were located in the basement, with food brought up by hand or via the dumbwaiter. The upper floor is comprised of the sisters' apartments - a large bedroom, bath, dressing room, and sitting area for Gigina and Angelo, plus a slightly smaller (single-bed) version of the same for the unmarried Nedda.
They shared a long corridor of custom closets designed to house their extensive collection of hats, frocks, and shoes.
Also on this floor is a tiny corner apartment for the dressing maid (yes, the woman who pressed, mended, laid out and helped them don their clothing every day).
The home, its contents, and history are simply amazing and worth a visit if you are in Milan. If you can't make it there, the next best thing is to watch the movie I Am Love, directed by Luca Guadagnino's and starring Tilda Swinton. After an exhaustive search for a set location that best represented his vision for the period piece, he landed on Villa Necchi Campiglio, commenting:
“It shows the obsession with perfection and details that the Milanese bourgeoisie have. Old money always comes with great charm. Their real success is making others believe that money doesn’t exist — and luxury, as most people perceive it, doesn’t really exist in this house. It’s very severe, and feels almost unmovable, like a piece of rock.”
And it is that obsession with perfection and details that made this the perfect place to wrap up a week steeped in Italian design. Bellissimo!
The Tortona district is a creative enclave southwest of Milan's city center. It's full of old warehouse buildings dating back to World War I (sounds familiar) that for years housed industrial giants like GE and Nestle. Today, the factories have been refurbished into a lively neighborhood of restaurants, showrooms, and artists studios (the Nestle building was converted to Giorgio Armani's headquarters), thanks to an early move by a couple of fashion insiders back in 1983.
At that time, Italian Vogue art director Flavio Lucchini and photographer Fabrizio Ferri created Superstudio Group to fill a void that they saw in the fashion, communication and creative fields. Not only would their company offer physical space for artists, photographers, and performers to show their wares, but it would also provide all of the related support services - staging, lighting, casting, hosting, production, security, catering, etc. - that might be needed. And they chose Tortona for the location of their business (a move that many of their peers thought was questionable at the time).
Today, Superstudio is comprised 13,000 square meters of large, flexible warehouse space that can be used for events, exhibitions, fashion shows, photo shoots, advertising/television/cinema shoots, parties, and dance performances.
The historic Superstudio 13 in via Forcella 13 is comprised of 13 photo studios with different characteristics (e.g., dimensions, lighting, backdrop) which over the years have hosted some of the world's top fashion and music photographers, videographers, directors, models, and performers.
Vogue fashion shoots, Fashion Week runway shows, and Salone Internazionale del Mobile events are all in a day's work for the Superstudio team. Countless celebrities, models, and artists have worked in the space:
In fact, they had just broken down an exhibit by photographer David LaChapelle, who unveiled his "Land Scape" show here the night before I visited.
Which left lots of empty space for us to have fun in.
To see a behind-the-scenes video of what a fashion shoot inside Superstudio 13 is really like, click through to WhoWhatWear, which has a video of the M Missoni Fall fashion shoot that was done there last Spring.
Arnaldo Pomodoro is an Italian sculptor known for his "Sphere within Sphere" series that graces locations around the world, including the Vatican Museum, Trinity College in Dublin, UN Headquarters, the Guggenheim in NYC, and the Columbus Museum, among others.
I had taken this picture of one of his huge, bronze sculptures in front of the Banca Popolare di Milano building, not realizing that I'd visit his studio the very next day!
Yes, this is yet another artist we learned about on my recent Made in Italy art and design tour through Smithsonian Journeys (I cannot say enough good things about this tour...we saw and did so much! As evidenced by the fact that I'm still blogging about it two months later...)
On the second-to-last day of the trip, we visited the Arnaldo Pomodoro Foundation at Vigevano 9, an exhibit space originally set up to document and archive his own work, but now also showcases the works of others.
The installation on view the day we visited was made especially for the space by artist Loris Cecchini. Part of it, called "Module and Model," was made up of hundreds of small steel modules assembled into large 3-dimensional sculptures on the wall and floor.
The other part, called "Wallvave Vibrations," consisted of sculptural carvings in the walls themselves. I neglected to take a photo of those so I've included one here, taken by Carlos Tettamanzi and appearing on the Foundation website; in it, you can see nearly the full installation (note the carvings on the back and right walls):
Interestingly, the pieces have a nature-inspired feel to them, despite the austere colors and materials. And despite it's small size, the Foundation offers a great little gallery for viewing contemporary sculpture by international artists.
Browsing through a recent issue of InStyle Magazine today, I was overjoyed to see a reference to Antonio Marras (even though his wild animal runway look was deemed over the top for anyone but a street-style star).
Last month when I visited Milan, I had the chance to visit Antonio's concept store, Circolomarras - and meet the Sardinian-born womenswear designer himself - in the heart of Zona Tortona, on via Cola di Rienzo, 8.
His studio/concept store is absolutely gorgeous, and one of the most memborable visits of the trip. In true Milan fashion, it sits back off the street, through a gate and a secret-garden of sorts.
Inside an old factory workshop with vaulted, unfinished ceilings and walls is a stunning collection of Antonio's designs, mixed in with antique furnishings, books, and gobs of fresh flowers.
It's a warm, inviting space, which is how Antonio likes to live and work:
I have always liked, as a child, the idea of having a space that was not my room or my house, an enlarged and private space, confidential, to stay with friends and unleash our energies. Back then it was the garage, the attic, a small barn in the countryside. As an adult, a huge space, a loft, a multipurpose space, a place not exclusively tied to exposition and sale. A comfortable place, private and open, welcoming, “hospitable” in the sense that this word had in ancient Greece, in Sardinia, in the Mediterranean area, where the stranger, the guest, was sacred and it was considered a crime to violate the laws of hospitality.
- Antonio Marras
Perhaps the most stunning aspect of the space is a collection of dresses hanging from the rafters, their hems tented out over bicycle wheels, and outfitted with lightbulbs to create an enormous, ethereal chandelier:
All of Antonio's clothes are made by hand in his home/studio/workshop back in Sardinia, and can be found at retailers like Saks and Shopstyle. From 2003-2011 he served as artistic director at LVMH's Kenzo fashion house, and over the years he became known for his hallmark "ligazzio rubio" (or, “red thread”).
There was a buzz of energy in the space when we were there, as Antonio's team was feverishly assembling racks of clothing for Fashion Week.
Back outside through the lush garden, we toured an adjacent exhibit by portrait photographer Daniela Zedda. Her collection "Aldilàdelmare" contains eighty-eight pictures of Sardinians (she is from there as well) who have left the island to find new opportunities. Her portrait of Antonio Marras is prominently featured at the entrance to the exhibit:
Her portraits are amazing. I was particularly taken with this one of editorial consultant Colomba Rossi in front of street art by Kenny Random at Torre della Specola, Padova.
Here it is nearly 8 weeks later and I still haven't shared all of the sites and stories from Milan! But seeing reference to the people and places I encountered there gives me a little burst of creative energy. Good way to start the week.