Gio Ponti

Important Desk for Fontana Arte

This desk is one of four examples produced by Dassi, Milan for each of the Fontana Arte offices in Torino, Genoa, Milan and Bari. Founded in 1931 as the artistic division of Luigi Fontana & Co. by the preeminent Italian architect Gio Ponti, Fontana Arte is responsible for creating some of the most important designs of the 20th century. Under Ponti’s visionary eye—and with the help of relief funds issued by the Marshall Plan for economic recovery—the company expanded in the postwar years and sought to refurbish their regional offices. The present design was selected for the managers’ offices (a smaller, similar desk was chosen for their secretaries) and this example comes from the personal collection of the director of the Torino (and later Genoa) Fontana Arte offices, Domenico Romagnoli. Thanks to recent scholarship by experts Laura Falconi and Salvatore Licitira, this magnificent desk joins the remarkable body of work that is the Gio Ponti oeuvre. 

Gio Ponti 1891–1979

Gio Ponti excelled at painting as a child and expressed a fervent interest in the arts. Feeling that a career in architecture was preferable to that of a painter, Ponti’s parents encouraged him to pursue the former and in 1914 he enrolled at the Faculty of Architecture at the Politecnico di Milano. His studies were interrupted by war, and in 1915 he was forced to postpone his education. He served as a captain in the Pontonier Corps until 1919, earning multiple military honors. After graduating in 1921, Ponti married Giulia Vimercati, the daughter of local aristocracy and started an architecture firm. During this time, Ponti aligned himself with the neoclassical movement, Novecento and championed a revival of the arts and culture. In 1928, Ponti founded Domus, a periodical tailored to artists and designers, as well as the broader public. A shift occurred in the 1930s when Ponti took up a teaching post at his alma mater, the Politecnico di Milano. In search of new methods to express Italian modernity, Ponti distanced himself from the sentiments of Novecento and sought to reconcile art and industry. Together with the engineers, Eugenio Soncini and Antonio Fornaroli, Ponti enjoyed great success in the industrial sector, securing various commissions throughout Italy. In the 1950s, he gained international fame with the design of the Pirelli Tower in Milan and he was asked to be a part of the urban renewal of Baghdad, collaborating with top architects from around the world. His 1957 book, Amate l’architettura, is considered to be a microcosm of his work —an incredible legacy spanning art, architecture, industrial design, publishing and academia.

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