Italian designer Gino Sarfatti gets his due


Back in the Spotlight

By Anna Carnick

One of the most important—and innovative—Italian lighting designers of the 20th century, Gino Sarfatti (1912-1985) pioneered a variety of techniques, materials, and production ideas throughout his career. In the mid-1950s, for example, he began to work with Plexiglas, and in the early ’70s, he began to incorporate halogen bulbs into fixtures. He designed and produced several hundred lamps and lighting components and, in 1939, founded the successful Arteluce lighting firm, which eventually sold to Flos in the ’70s. Along the way, he twice earned the Compasso D’Oro for excellence in industrial design (1954 and 1955). Given all these accomplishments, it’s quite surprising (and even a bit confusing) that, until just a few years ago, Sarfatti was largely overlooked in the design history annals.

Designer Gino Sarfatti Designer Gino Sarfatti

Gino Sarfatti, recognizable in his preferred Prince of Wales suit, demonstrates the use of model 607 (1971) Gino Sarfatti, recognizable in his preferred Prince of Wales suit, demonstrates the use of model 607 (1971) Image courtesy of Sandra Severi Sarfatti

Thankfully, Sarfatti has begun to get his due. In 2012, on what would’ve been his 100th birthday, Milan’s Triennale Design Museum hosted a retrospective of Sarfatti’s work, curated by Italian designers Marco Romanelli and Sandra Severi Sarfatti (the latter is also the late Sarfatti’s daughter-in-law). That same year, Flos debuted Re-Lighting Gino Sarfatti, a collection of Sarfatti designs incorporating contemporary LED technology. 

Around the same time, SilvanaEditoriale published the gorgeous tome, Gino Sarfatti: Selected Works 1938-1973, written by Romanelli and Severi Sarfatti. The book took the pair five years to research and write. Among other references, they pored over numerous vintage issues of Stile and Domus magazines (the former from the 1940s, the latter spanning the 1930s to the ’70s); designer Gio Ponti was the editor of both, and dedicated several articles over his tenure to Sarfatti and his work. The result is an in-depth profile—including over 1,000 images—of Sarfatti, both as an individual and a designer. 

And this week, Severi Sarfatti will discuss the book and her famed father-in-law—in particular, his influence in design as well as some of his most iconic lighting fixtures—during an intimate event at the Wright auction house in New York. Chilean lighting designer Paola Pietrantoni (who previously worked with Severi Sarfatti at Lucepan in Milan) will moderate the conversation. A question-answer session will follow. Space is quite limited—and RSVP is essential—but for Sarfatti lovers in the New York area, this is a can’t-miss event.

A showroom for Arteluce in Milan during the postwar period A showroom for Arteluce in Milan during the postwar period Image courtesy of Sandra Severi Sarfatti

Gino Sarfatti’s No. 604 “Moon” table lamp for Arteluce (1969). . . As noted in the book: Gino Sarfatti: Selected Works, “Under a large transparent dome, dozens of stars light up.” Gino Sarfatti’s No. 604 “Moon” table lamp for Arteluce (1969). . . As noted in the book: Gino Sarfatti: Selected Works, “Under a large transparent dome, dozens of stars light up.” Image courtesy of Sandra Severi Sarfatti

1950 Model No. 524 (1950) 1950 Model No. 524 (1950) © ivansarfatti.com image courtesy of Sandra Severi Sarfatti

Model No. 548 (1951) Model No. 548 (1951) © ivansarfatti.com image courtesy of Sandra Severi Sarfatti

 

*All images courtesy of Sandra Severi Sarfatti

 

  • Text by

    • Anna Carnick

      Anna Carnick

      Anna is Pamono’s Managing Editor. Her writing has appeared in several arts and culture publications, and she's edited over 20 books. Anna loves celebrating great artists, and seriously enjoys a good picnic.

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