Born near Florence and trained at the Politecnico di Milano, Italian designer-architect Gabriella Crespi (1922-2017) attracted a cult following thanks to her penchant for creating geometric, sculptural forms imbued with an aura of glamour.
Crespi's career spanned from the 1950s to the 1980s. Although she often cited modernist pioneers like Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier as key influences, her designs for furniture, lighting, and decorative accessories were largely artisanally produced in fine materials—never intended for the mass market. Her her high end collections were the result of expert Italian artisans bringing her sketches and wax prototypes to life.
Among her more famous designs are her Z Table and Z Bar (1972-75); the Tiffany-like Fungo Lamp (1973); the block-shaped Menhir Cabinet (1978); the Yang Yin Desk (1979); and the sculpted Ara Table (1979). Notably, Crespi designed four Plurimo collections, the prototype of which was revealed at an exhibition in Dallas in 1968. The first collection, designed in collaboration with her daughter Elisabetta in 1970, comprised the Magic Cube, 2000, Dama, and Scultura. The second launched in 1976 and included the Ellisse and Cubo Tondo, and the third introduced Blow Up, Eclipse, and Sit & Sip in 1980. The final fourth edition of the Plurimo series was created in 1982, called Punto ’83. This final Plurimo was a unique piece, designed specially for the exhibition "I Plurimi di Gabriella Crespi" at Milan’s Museum of Science and Technology, organized by art critic Vanni Scheiwiller. It is no surprise therefore, that the Plurimo is often considered Crespi’s best work as well as her most well known—the gilded coffee tables with a split tabletop that can be swiveled to serve drinks—are reminiscent of Willy Rizzo’s designs: elegant, luxuriant, and conceived with entertainment in mind.
In 1987, Crespi abandoned her high-profile design career to embark on a spiritual journey, which took her to the Indian Himalayas to follow guru Shri Muniraji. She remained in India for almost two decades and documented her experiences in the book Ricerca di Infinito, published in 2007 upon her return to Europe.
In the last decade of her life, Crespi contributed to a number of fashion and design collaborations, such as a limited-edition jewelry collection with Stella McCartney for charity in 2008 and a retrospective exhibition with Sergio Rossi in 2013. In 2015, Galleria Rita Fancsaly in Milan presented New Bronze Age, a series of new limited-edition designs by Crespi.
In 2012, Crespi established an archive of her works, which is managed by her daughter Elisabetta. The Wave Desk—with its undulating curved form in signature Crespi gilt metal—was her last design. She passed away in Milan on February 14th, 2017.