Designer and Architect Gaetano Pesce Dead at 84

MILAN – Italian architect and industrial designer Gaetano Pesce has died at 84 year, according to a post Thursday morning on his official Instagram account. 

“Over the course of six decades, Gaetano revolutionized the worlds of art, design, architecture and the liminal spaces between these categories. His originality and nerve are matched by none,” the post stated.

Born in La Spezia, Italy, in 1939, Pesce studied Architecture at the University of Venice and was a participant in Gruppo N, a collective concerned with programmed art patterned after the Bauhaus.

The post said that over the last year, Pesce had been dealing with health-related issues. 

“Gaetano remained positive, playful and ever curious. He is survived by his children, family, and all who adored him. His uniqueness, creativity and special message live on through his art,” it said. 

Tramonto a New York, Gaetano Pesce for Cassina, 1980.

Tramonto a New York, Gaetano Pesce for Cassina, 1980.

Amendolagine Barracchia/Courtesy of Triennale Milano

According to his website, Pesce’s work is featured in over 30 permanent collections of the most important museums in the world, such as MoMa of New York and San Francisco, Metropolitan Museum in New York, Vitra Museum in Germany, Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Pompidou Center and Musee des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. 

In October, the Museum of Arts and Design recognized Gaetano as a “visionary” in the fields of art, architecture, and design. For the occasion, filmmaker Chiara Clemente produced a short film chronicling Gaetano’s career and lifetime achievement.

“I cannot say that my work is elegant, it’s not. I cannot say that my work is practical, but maybe my work makes people think,” he said. 

Pesce taught architecture at the Institut d’Architecture et d’Etudes Urbaines in Strasbourg, France, for 28 years, at the Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, at the Domus Academy in Milan, at the Polytechinc of Hong Kong, the Architectural School of Sao Paulo and at the Cooper Union in New York City. After living in Venice, London, Helsinki and Paris, he made New York City his home in 1980. In Venice, he said in the film, he learned about the power of color thanks to the city’s vibrant hues and water reflections. “Venice is color… New York is the capital of the world… full of energy,” he reminisced. 

Among his most seminal furniture pieces are the Tramonto, a New York sofa for Cassina in 1980, and the 1969 Up 50 armchair for B&B Italia that he made in the shape of a woman with an affixed ball ottoman, which was a representation of imprisonment. 

As a sculptor, he embraced synthetic materials that he argued could trace their origins to nature and the ground. Resin, foam and silicone captured both the sort of transparency and color Pesce sought to achieve in his jubilant and sometimes provocative works. 

“Gaetano Pesce is the Madonna of design… He is a mover of culture,” said ceramicist Jonathan Adler when Pesce received the Andrée Putnam Lifetime Achievement award in January.

Pesce’s relevance in the fashion industry only grew over time. In 2022, Pesce designed 400 resin chairs for Matthieu Blazy’s sophomore show for Bottega Veneta, each with a unique resin finish, some with hand-drawings. Also in 2022, MSGM designer Massimo Giorgetti took cues from Pesce’s furniture designs for his colorful, and often quilted, fall collections.

Pesce had plans for the upcoming Milan Design Week. The Ambrosiana Library is expected to unveil “Nice to See You,” an exhibit of 30 of his most recent works, between April 15 and 23. In addition, and in collaboration with the City of Milan, Pesce was expected to showcase an installation entitled “L’Uomo Stanco” (Italian for the tired man) in Piazza San Pio XI, right in front of the library. 

MSGM Pre-Fall 2022

MSGM Pre-Fall 2022

Courtesy of MSGM

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