One year after the centenary of Dino Gavina’s birth, Cambi Casa d’Aste presents the exclusive auction dedicated to the production of Gavina, one of Italy’s leading historical design furniture brands.
Founded in the 1960s by Dino Gavina, one of the most important entrepreneurial figures in the Italian furniture and Design sector, the Gavina SpA company has been and still is, in fact, a point of reference and inspiration for many other companies in the sector, both Italian and international.
Dino Gavina’s business card bore the peculiar inscription “Dino Gavina, subversive.” That’s all. Not a phone number, not an address. The formal choice is itself nonconformist, especially at a time in history, the 1960s, when subversives were often affiliated with movements and organizations that had nothing to do with aesthetic research and experimentation.
Dino Gavina was a romantic idealist in declining diverse entrepreneurial experiences with the multifaceted commitment of entrepreneur, principal and visionary. It is precisely this multifacetedness that connects with what has been the real driving force behind his success: direct contact with architects, designers, sculptors, painters, and critics over a very broad span of time beginning in the early 1950s that brought him back to work with such varied personalities that he became familiar with untangling projects and ideas that were difficult to realize and even more difficult to mass produce.
Dino Gavina’s ability to go to the essentials, mastering the artistic tradition, allowed him to see the success of an idea even before the artist himself was aware of it: even when the artist was not focused and, almost spontaneously, produced any artifact, Dino Gavina knew how to grasp its poetics and translate it into technical design. Example above all the game Silla oval-shaped cookie box where Man Ray drew an eye, which would later evolve into the seat Le Timoni. He was thus, in addition to a volcanic creator of projects, a facilitator of skills and a catalyst of ideas.
François-Xavier Lalanne, Kazuhide Takahama, Screen Rhinocéros, Prod. Simon Gavina, Italy, 1976, lot 94
“If one does not know literature, visual arts and maybe a little music, one cannot understand or design a piece of furniture, which is an expression of the time in which it was made.” Dino Gavina
Dino Gavina is the first person to have brought the language of art into the industrial production of furniture, thus introducing the concept of the “artistic factory.” Not everyone knows that the idea of the contemporary – as well as that of the future or modern – has not always existed and unchanging, but, on the contrary, is designed and interpreted over time. And, if there was an inventor of the contemporary in the field of design, it was certainly Dino Gavina. In the postwar years, in fact, he was able to give a decisive impetus to Italian design, which had come a long way behind technologically and educationally compared to the international scene.
Sebastian Matta, Salotto modulare mod. Malitte, Prod. Gavina, Italy, 1966, lot 29
Dino Gavina founded Gavina Spa in 1960 and assumed the role of managing director, naming architect Carlo Scarpa as president. The company’s historic headquarters are located in San Lazzaro di Savena, in a building designed by Pier Giacomo Castiglioni in 1959.
In a panorama dominated by furniture in (false) antiquarian style or that identified modernity with Scandinavian design, Gavina understood that the Italian game could only be won through the enhancement of artistic culture in the industrial furniture product. His personal attitude brought him into direct contact with artists and architects. In fact, Dino will frequent all the greatest authors of those years: Lucio Fontana will introduce him to the environment of the Triennale where he will meet Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, his lifelong partner together with the Scarpas, father and son. Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Meret Oppenheim, Roberto Sebastian Matta are just some of the names with whom Gavina will collaborate.
Dino Gavina, Pouf tribute to Andy Warhol, Prod. Simon Gavina, Italy, 1971, lot 42
In 1967 the Duchamp Center is founded, which is an art factory: it sounds like an oxymoron, but it too is actually a precise strategic plan, based on the idea that “production is the most effective means of communication of our time.” In those years the Center would become the driving force behind the experimentation of many artists, and the projects with the Castiglioni family would be first and foremost “formal provocations.”
Sensitivity for aesthetics and technology, however, must go hand in hand, and on the purely technical-innovative front the Gavina products of those years have nothing to reproach themselves for. Takahama’s sofas and Matta’s seats, for example, are provocations, yes, but they are also impeccable technical objects, designed to finally use polyurethane in its real industrial potential by cutting its volumes into large blocks.
Ignazio Gardella, Two armchairs mod. Digamma, Prod. Gavina, Italy, 1957, lot 7
His many visionary projects include:
The Ultramobile series of 1971, an open-edition collection of works of art with pieces by, among others, Matta, Duchamp, Oppenheim: here the Gavinian goal of liberation from the form-function mechanism of rationalism is realized and the piece of furniture expands in its other meanings, almost continuing the rupture operation begun in 1936 in Paris with the exhibition on the surrealist object. The introductory text to the presentation of the series, which had all the modalities of art exhibition, speaks of domestic furniture as “torpid unpredictable animals” that must be brought back to a “primordial wonder,” creating “the dark feeling that a chair is as living as a rose.”
Tobia Scarpa, Two hanging lamps mod. Fior di Loto, Prod. Flos, Italy, 1962, lot 12 and Tobia Scarpa, Table lamp mod. Biagio, Prod. Flos, Italy, 1968, lot 24
The second key project is the 1974 Metamobile series, which put into production the research already begun months earlier by Enzo Mari in his Proposta per un Autoprogettazione. In this case it was the “offering of the kit for the self-building of poor and essential furniture, with guaranteed aesthetics,” arriving at the situation-paradox of a manufacturer making furniture components that invite self-production-a sort of metaproject that is perhaps in its meaning the true conceptual masterpiece of the great subversive. Another significant project in 1983 with Paradisoterrestre, a decade-long research on the relationship between the artificial and the natural that has at its center the dialogue between anthropic artifact and urban context, with elements of street furniture that encroach on sculpture, and that today proves prophetic. Never before, in fact, is it clear that the fragile relationship between man and the environment requires attention, reflection and culture.
Kazuhide Takahama, Two armchairs mod. Mantilla, Prod. Simon Gavina, Italy, 1974, lot 68
Today his designs, decades after their origin, outline the profile of a man who not only managed to be modern and disruptive to his contemporaries but who, even now, turns out to be a visionary at times unattainable.