Naturalis Historia is the title of this year’s Lake Como Design Festival, now in its fifth edition. Opening last weekend and concluding on Sunday, September 24, this year’s Festival again offers a rich program of exhibitions and events, but we have selected four not to be missed.
For those who are not familiar with it, the Lake Como Design Festival is an initiative of Wonderlake Como that every year aims to organize exhibitions and moments of reflection within historical places of the city, with the goal of promoting and sharing the artistic and cultural heritage of the city through what is the most democratic language of all, design. In fact, we are not only talking about design but also about art. In fact, the exhibitions we will be proposing swing on the thin line that divides, and sometimes unites, design from art.
This year’s subject
As we anticipated, this year’s subject is Naturalis Historia. Rereading these two Latin words, they do not sound so new. They are in fact the work of Pliny the Elder, after whom, by the way, the square overlooked by the Palazzo del Broletto, our first stop, is named. The Lake Como Design Festival chooses to pay homage to and be inspired by the writer and naturalist who was born in Como precisely two thousand years ago. The Festival’s title refers to the first encyclopedia ever written that encompasses under the same container a veritable cataloging of the animal, human and botanical worlds, through medicine, mineralogy, metalworking and art history. What is surprising about Naturalis Historia is the incredible contemporaneity of the writings, with their lively and curious writing. Thus, stage by stage, this ancient writing accompanies visitors to discover works of art and design objects conceived from careful research into the natural world.
#1 Palazzo del Broletto, The Other Animals
We start from the cathedral square, going up to the beautiful hall of Palazzo del Broletto. On the upper floor is The Other Animals exhibition, which among all is the one that best renders the concept inherent in the Plinian encyclopedia. In particular, the exhibition focuses on the volumes devoted to Zoology. Curators Lorenzo Butti and Massimiliano Mondelli have selected sixty descriptions of animals, and for each of them they have chosen a work or design object to place in dialogue. Extremely contemporary creations find themselves communicating with such ancient writing that, paradoxically, appears very current. One example is the dialogue between Andreas Kowalewski‘s work Olifant with Pliny the Elder’s description in which we read, “The greatest among animals is the elephant, and it is also the closest to man’s sensibility: it understands the language of the place where it was born and obeys commands; it is capable of remembering exercises; it feels desire for love and glory.”
The variety of the selection is astounding, especially when one notices that alongside a piece by Ettore Sottsass one can find works by young and emerging artists such as Lucrezia Costa and Ilaria Cuccagna, who, by the way, have recently finished an exhibition at the nearby Ramo Gallery.
#2 San Pietro in Atrio, Stories of Fabrics
The second stop is San Pietro in Atrio, which is a few hundred meters from the Palazzo del Broletto. Inside this magnificent location, which is open to the public on the occasion of the Festival, there is a selection of national and international designers working in textiles with a strong experimental bent. The exhibition, titled Stories of Fabrics, sees an evocative layout with special care devoted to lighting. Among the various designers, what strikes us is the installation by the duo Milla Novo, whose bright colors create a strong contrast with the darkness of the environment.
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#3 Villa Salazar, Contemporary Design Selection
Moving toward the lakefront we arrive at Villa Salazar, an 18th-century villa open to the public for the first time. Inside the magnificent rooms is housed the Contemporary Design Selection exhibition, curated by Giovanna Massoni in collaboration with Catawiki. The exhibition encompasses the work of thirty-five designers from different parts of the world, ranging from industrial design to site-specific installations and craftsmanship.
#4 Villa Olmo, Back to Nature
Our journey concludes at Villa Olmo with the Back to Nature exhibition. The event brings together designers, artists, publishers and galleries of modern and contemporary design. Various special projects take place in the different rooms of the villa, known as one of the main symbols of Como and one of the most famous historical residences in the area.
As soon as one crosses the entrance of Villa Olmo, one is confronted with Kris Rhus’s evocative floral installation The Second Song – Falling to Earth that leaves one breathless. Continuing through the various rooms of the villa we find, among others, the ETEL presentation by Brazilian architect and designer Oscar Niemeyer, the Ken Scott Archive’s exploration of the famous designer’s passion for botany through photographs and archival materials, and Grieder Contemporary gallery’s Mumo Forest exhibition featuring glass sculptures by Austrian artist Melli Ink. In the music room, the last one following the exhibition route, Movimento Club returns, which never fails in terms of staging and experimentation. With an exploration of unconventional perspectives on beauty and nature, The blue flower exhibition aims to be a rarity, like a blue flower – symbol of Romantic literature – emerging with wonder from the classic green landscape.
Don’t miss the Lake Como Design Festival 2023 and other stops:
– Former Ursuline Convent San Carlo, Between Art and Nature
– White House, FENIX with the installation When Nature Blooms
– Ramo Gallery, De Curiositas
Find out all the others and more info at the dedicated website