Design is only design if it communicates knowledge.
Danese: An Archetype
Designs from 1957–1978
The Italian firm Danese stands as one of the most influential companies in the history of design. Founded in 1957 by Bruno Danese and Jacqueline Vodoz, it was conceived to connect culture and industry and to bring art into the everyday.
According to the company’s manifesto, their story “is a narration of material culture, suggested functions, discreet pedagogies and practical beauty.” With an emphasis on quality craftsmanship, forms born out of function and materiality, and details that are always essential, Danese is known around the globe for its production of timeless design, art and objects.
Danese’s success can largely be attributed to the philosophies and creations of Enzo Mari and Bruno Munari—Mari, known for asserting that “Form is everything” and his unwavering belief in the accessibility of good design, and Munari for his relentless experimentation with materials and technologies in the pursuit of new modes of visual communication. The result is an astonishing variety of products. From items for the home and office, to games, exhibitions, books and more, the two designers set the company on its course and established the quality and gold standard of Danese production.
By the 1970s, Danese achieved global recognition. The firm was participating in international fairs and exhibitions while opening stores and selling their product around the world, including the United States, France, Japan, etc. The firm paid great attention to the presentation and display of their product aligning themselves more closely with the world of art. And indeed Danese was in the business of selling works of art for the home and office.
Over the years, many other influential designers—Angelo Mangiarotti, Claudio Boselli, Achille Castiglioni, Matali Crasset, Marco Ferreri, Naoto Fukasawa, Jonathan Olivares, Ron Gilad—would create for Danese, producing enduring and coveted objects for the use, enjoyment and benefit of all.
Wright is honored to present the first auction dedicated to the influential production of Danese. The selection was amassed by a private European collector who acquired his first piece of Danese design in 1969 and proceeded on a global odyssey purchasing works from Danese stores as he traveled. Most works were obtained near their time of production, though a handful of select pieces were specially sought out and acquired later from private collections. Comprehensive in scope this exceptional collection traverses the first 20 years at Danese and the innovative, playful, and genuine designs of Enzo Mari and Bruno Munari.
This is a recognition of something belonging to art, but also of a quality to be found in things designed in the spirit of truth and made with love.
Vanni Pasca, Danese Catalog October 1990
A major retrospective of Enzo Mari’s work opened in October of 2020 at the Triennale di Milano just days before Mari passed away. Extended until April of 2021, the exhibition, Enzo Mari curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist with Francesca Giacomelli, explores Mari’s more than 60 year career and includes previously unpublished material from his archive.
Irascible, polemical, and influential are just a few of the words most commonly associated with Italian artist, designer, critic, and theorist Enzo Mari, who is perhaps most famous for his favorite (and oft-repeated) quote: “Design is dead”. Born and raised in Cerano, a region of Piedmont, Mari moved to Milan in 1947 and worked a variety of jobs before enrolling in the prestigious Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in 1952. He studied art and literature with a specific focus on the psychology of vision, the planning of perceptive structures, and the methodology of design. Not long after graduating he met Bruno Danese, co-founder of the eponymous design brand Danese; it was an encounter that would shape the remainder of Mari’s career.
Danese and Mari both felt strongly that good design should be accessible, economic, and affordable. Mari designed a multitude of creations for the company, including the much admired 16 Animali wooden puzzle. Inspired by his own children as well as his research into Scandinavian toys, it was a toy made from a single piece of oak that, with one continuous cut, came apart into 16 separate animals. Mari went on to conceive of over 1500 designs for many premier Italian design companies including Driade, Artemide, Zanotta and Magis. He also created illustrations, books with Einaudi and Bollati Boringhieri, and works for children. One of his most memorable projects, and the one which best demonstrates his belief that design should be accessible to all, was his Proposta per un’Autoprogettazione (Proposal for a Self-design) series. It consisted of a set of diagrams that allowed anyone to build DIY furniture with cuts of pine and some nails, the instructions for which Mari would mail to anyone who sent him postage.
Auction Results Enzo Mari