Exhibition design can be decisive in communicating the message of an exhibition, creating spatial solutions which suggest a particular interpretation of the displayed works. The power of design is evident in the setting up of Italy: The New Domestic Landscape, an international exhibition on Italian product design held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1972. The exhibition, which promoted the artistry of made in Italy design production, was organized by the Argentinian architect Emilio Ambasz, curator of the museum’s Department of Architecture and Design. To underline the intrinsic social, formal and technical values of design objects, reproduceable by definition, they were presented in their unicity, fuelling a dialoguing opposition between artistical creation and mass production, museum and domestic settings. The exhibition was divided into two sections, objects, a selection of 180 design pieces located in the garden terrace of the museum, and environments, a group of domestic spaces interpreted by 11 designers and recreated within the galleries. The objects were presented as sculptures: closed inside 60 wooden display cases and visible through windows, they were untouchable, denying the direct contact with human body that would be required for objects of everyday use. The environments, on the contrary, offered live experiences of spaces, which were expounded directly by designers through short videos on screens, recalling the modes of installation and video art. The exhibition overturned the modes of fruition: objects were exposed outdoors while the environments were exhibited in the closed space of the museum’s rooms, redrawing the oxymoron of the title which matched the closeness of a domestic space with the openness of a landscape. Italy: The New Domestic Landscape provided product design with the means to be accepted in the art sphere. The big jump from house to museum, significantly affecting the construction of taste, was possible thanks to Ambasz’s ambitious project, which excavated in the common ground between product design and art to produce one of the most memorable exhibition designs of the last century.
From design product to art through exhibition: the case of Italy: The New Domestic Landscape (1972) / D'Uffizi, Raissa. - (2020). (Intervento presentato al convegno Museum Exhibition Design: Histories and Futures tenutosi a University of Brighton, UK).