Design Masterworks 19 May 2016

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Gio Ponti

Distex lounge chair

Italy, 1954
brass, upholstery
30½ w x 43 d x 31½ h in (77 x 109 x 80 cm)

result: $25,000

estimate: $20,000–30,000

Sold with a certificate of expertise from the Gio Ponti Archives.

provenance: Treadway Gallery, Important 20th Century, 11-12 September 1999, Lot 1182 | Roger Hollander, Cody, WY | Wright, Important Italian Design, 23 May 2006, Lot 514 | Sebastian Barquet, New York | Important Private Collection
literature: Gio Ponti: L'Arte Si Innamora Dell'Industria, La Pietra, ppg. 229, 234

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Gio Ponti

A Postwar Sensibility

Gio Ponti was astonishingly prolific, and his multi-disciplinary creativity reflected not only the diverse styles of the era, but his insatiable search for innovation. The 1950s proved to be an era of invention and modernization, and he drew upon that environment of origination to embrace a new design ideology within his own body of work.

By the 1950s Ponti had established himself as a visionary in multiple fields; as an industrial designer, author, editor, teacher and architect. With technological innovation constantly advancing around him, Ponti embraced the possibilities of new materials and requirements of a postwar lifestyle. Nowhere is this modern vision more evident than in his iconic Distex chair, introduced in 1953.

Born from the tradition of classic design, Ponti elevates the form to a masterpiece through adaption. The first version of the Distex chairs had fully upholstered fixed arm panels and ash feet. The basic tenet of functionalism remains resolute in the later Distex chair, however the shift of the materials and lines communicate the essence of modernity. Distex, a nylon, was one the new materials that provided a durable, easy to work with fabric. The selection of the material alone demonstrated his willingness to embrace timely innovation. However, the genius lies in the pairing of sculptural framework elevated by the brass supports and elegant contours of the upholstered seat and backrest. Ponti’s design vision encapsulated so many disciplines, one can see the subtle references to his other artistic expressions in this chair model. The Distex chairs embraced the same geometric and faceted references as the contemporary skyscrapers, automobiles and industrial designs that was simultaneously exploring. There is a true sense of movement and complexity communicated through the form and emphasized in the materials.

The Distex chair model encapsulates the radical vision of Ponti’s postwar design aesthetic. Ponti included the Distex chair in several significant interiors completed in the 1950s, including the Alitalia office in New York and his own residence on via Dezza 49. The Distex chair form became an important communicator of Ponti’s innovative and distinctly modern vision of the midcentury period.