Spotlight: Carlo Mollino Was a Master of Italian Midcentury Design—Now a Rare Desk by the Architect Is Heading to Auction

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About the Artist: Italian polymath Carlo Mollino (1905–73) is noted for his wide-ranging creative practice, which spanned design, architecture, and photography. His early interest in art and design led him to study architecture at the Polytechnic University in Turin, before working with his father who operated an engineering firm. In the 1940s, Mollino struck out on his own and went on to design numerous buildings and interiors across Turin—from auditoriums to apartments. His furniture designs specifically have garnered him a cult-like following, with nature-informed pieces that, although similar to many common aesthetic trends of the time, express Mollino’s ideological eclecticism and distinctive creative lexicon. Undertaking a number of interior design commissions in his lifetime, he approached these projects holistically, creating both the space and the furnishings that went in them, and rarely created individual pieces (only doing so occasionally for an exhibition). Unlike many of his contemporaries, Mollino never mass-produced his work or designed pieces for another company to produce.

Carlo Mollino. Courtesy of Artcurial.

Carlo Mollino. Courtesy of Artcurial.

What You Need to Know: In 1951, Mollino was commissioned to design the new offices of Casa editrice Lattes (Lattes Publishing House), Turin. Mollino created the space to be simple and straightforward, which was then punctuated by wood furniture. Though he produced 16 models of different furnishings—from armchairs to lamps—not all were made. One design that was realized was an ash and ash veneer desk featuring an open locker on one side and five drawers with a cubby on the other. For the first time ever, the desk will be presented at auction at Artcurial in Paris—a sale that comes 50 years after the designer’s death, and 40 years held in a private collection. With an estimate of €250,000–350,000, the piece will be included in Artcurial’s Italian Design sale, which will be held on March 28, 2023. Leading up to the sale, the desk will be exhibited from March 24 through March 27, 2023, for those who want to view one of the most significant works by one of the 20th century’s most important designers.

Carlo Mollino, detail of important desk for the Casa editrice Lattes (1951). Photo: Stephane Briolant Paris. Courtesy of Artcurial.

Carlo Mollino, detail of important desk for the Casa editrice Lattes (1951). Photo: Stephane Briolant Paris. Courtesy of Artcurial.

Why We Like It: Comprised predominantly of natural wood and featuring lithe lines and complimentary shapes, Mollino’s 1951 desk for the Lattes’ editorial offices is a pinnacle of Italian midcentury modern design. The piece gracefully illustrates Mollino’s unique ability to synthesize the organic and the industrial, both embodying 20th century aesthetic inclinations as well as exemplifying his rare and unique design talent—which has garnered followers worldwide. Fans of the designer will immediately recognize Mollino’s signature aesthetic, and, even half a century after it was made, the desk still boasts a timeless allure as well as avant-garde sensibilities. Contextualized within the greater Italian design sale, it is clear just what an extraordinary opportunity the desk coming to auction is—for both collectors of Mollino’s work and general important design followers as well.

Carlo Mollino, detail of important desk for the Casa editrice Lattes (1951). Photo: Stephane Briolant Paris. Courtesy of Artcurial.

Carlo Mollino, detail of important desk for the Casa editrice Lattes (1951). Photo: Stephane Briolant Paris. Courtesy of Artcurial.

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