An inspiration to generations of creatives: Enzo Mari retrospective opens at the Design Museum

The first solo UK exhibition spans an Italian designer’s 60-year career, showcasing over 300 objects, many of which have not been seen in the UK before. Words: Daria Hufnagel

Sunday 17 March 2024 06:00 GMT
Mari’s Atlante secondo Lenin , with Francesco Leonetti, 1974
Mari’s Atlante secondo Lenin , with Francesco Leonetti, 1974 (Edizioni L’Erba Voglio)

The Design Museum in London is set to host the first solo UK exhibition dedicated to the renowned Italian designer, Enzo Mari.

Curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist, the artistic director of Serpentine, and Francesca Giacomelli, Mari’s studio project assistant, this extensive retrospective spans Mari’s 60-year career, showcasing over 300 objects that encompass the spheres of art, design, exhibition and graphic design. Most of the objects have not been seen in the UK before.

The Italian modernist artist and designer, Enzo Mari (Ramak Fazel)
Equipment for research on colour and volume relations, 1952 (Paolo Monti)
Formosa , perpetual wall calendar, 1963, and Timor , perpetual table calendar, 1966 (Danese Milano)

A pioneer of post-war Italian design, Mari’s life and work have inspired generations globally. The exhibition, organised chronologically, reveals the evolution of his work, from furniture to conceptual installations, product designs, and graphics. Also on show will be his children’s books and games.

16 Animals , a wooden puzzle, was created by Mari in 1957 (Danese Milano/Federico Villa)

The collection includes Mari’s timeless designs, such as the Nature Series prints of apples and pears, perpetual calendars in injection-moulded plastic, and enduring furniture and kitchenware that went on to fill homes across the globe, leaving an enduring legacy.

The Nature Series, No. 1: La Mela (the apple), with Elio Mari (Danese Milano)
The Nature Series , preliminary sketches and variations for the goose, with Elio Mari (Studio Enzo Mari)

The exhibition offers a journey through Mari’s design philosophy, showcasing his commitment to accessibility and sustainability, and illustrates his significant contributions not only as a designer but also as an artist, teacher, critic, and theorist.

Camicia , glass flower vase with aluminium cylinder (Danese Milano/Triennale Milano)
Per forza di levare , “broken vase” (KPM Berlin)

Additionally, the exhibition features tributes from contemporary artists who reflect on Mari’s life and legacy through site-specific installations and specially commissioned works. Artists include Dominique Gonzales-Foerster, Mimmo Jodice, Dozie Kanu, Adrian Paci, Barbara Stauffacher Solomon, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Nanda Vigo, Danh Vō, and Virgil Abloh.

Lo zoo di Enzo , a 2020 artwork inspired by Enzo Mari’s legacy, crafted by Nanda Vigo (Triennale Milano/Gianluca Di Ioia)

Enzo Mari is at the Design Museum from 29 March until 8 September

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