“I consider Alessi a good example of the 'Italian Design Factories' phenomenon, but I insist on the fact that we are more than an industry in the conventional sense. We are instead a research workshop in the field of applied arts whose inherent attitude, even though we rely on contemporary industrial technology, is still rooted in handicraft culture.” Alberto Alessi
The exhibition The Beauty and the Mastery, that was shown for the first time in 2013 during the London Design Festival at the Victoria and Albert Museum, now moves into the Museum für Angewandte Kunst Köln (MAKK). It describes the evolution of the Alessi ‘Italian Design Factory’ from the Bombé tea and coffee service designed by Carlo Alessi in 1945, through to the Dressed collection designed by Marcel Wanders in 2012, and offers a rare insight into its production and creative processes.
The showcase includes sketched artwork, prototypes, finished products and features seven short films illustrating the different aspects of the phases of production and the design process. The exhibits bring to life the untold stories of how some of the most iconic and emblematic of Alessi’s products are created. They show how every object is a small but ingenious adventure of creativity and technology and that Alessi products are still marked by traditional craftsmanship. In the latest video production Alberto Alessi, president of the Italian design factory, explains the concept and the background of the exhibition.
In addition, ‘Household Goods Factory’, a short film by the Turkish video artist Ali Kazma, will complete the exhibition. In the past few years Kazma has been exploring human activity as it relates to production, creation and maintenance: including craftsmanship, small production and large assembly. ‘Household Good Factory’ was made after a period of artist residency at Alessi in Omegna, Italy and is one part of ‘Obstructions’, a complete video project.
Pieces in the exhibit include: the 9090 espresso coffee maker by Richard Sapper (1979), the 9093 kettle by Michael Graves (1985), the 90018 Neapolitan coffee maker by Riccardo Dalisi (1987), the Babyboop vase by Ron Arad (2002) and the Liconi centrepiece by Pierfrancesco Cravel (2012), the Dressed collection by Marcel Wanders (2012), the centerpiece Kaleidos by Naoko Shintani (2015) and other.
About Alessi: from a workshop to an international design factory: Alessi was founded in 1921 by Giovanni Alessi at Omegna, a village on Lake Orta, Northern Italy. The last in a long line of craftsmen, Giovanni was a skilled lathe turner producing tableware items in brass, plated in nickel, chromium and silver and nickel silver in his workshop. Today, metalworking remains a core activity at Alessi.
Carlo Alessi joined the company, founded by his father, as an industrial designer and he created several of the products that appeared in the Alessi catalogue between 1935 and 1945. It was in 1945 that he designed his last project: the iconic Bombé tea and coffee service, which will be on display at the V&A exhibition. Going forward, he and his brother, Ettore, began to explore contributions from freelance designers. This was in accordance with a practice that was to become typical of all "Italian Design Factories". It was in this period that Alessi turned from a handicraft shop into a truly modern company.
Alberto Alessi, Carlo’s eldest son, joined the company in 1970 and since then he has collaborated with architects and designers from all over the world, further enhancing the company’s reputation of working with key names in the field of international design.