Gio Ponti, behind the Mirror: Venini and Fontana Arte

By Brian Kish

Excerpts from the catalogue.

Countless designers and architects are renowned today because of their designs for Venini and/or Fontana Arte but, surprisingly, Gio Ponti is rarely mentioned in connection with these prominent glass makers. The paradox is even more blatant when you consider that Ponti provided the impulse that shaped the evolution these two very different companies, leading to the prestigious status they enjoy today. (…)

Bottle, Produced by Venini, Circa 1940
Glass, crinoline
All rights reserved

In the six decades during which he worked with glass as a material, either with Fontana Arte or Venini, Ponti was first and foremost motivated by his obsession with architecture. It was also the driving force in transforming every material he came in contact with. His elaboration of an analogy to a pure architecture, to crystal as form is enumerated many times in his writings; “When architecture is pure, it is pure as a crystal – magic, closed, exclusive, autonomous, uncontaminated, uncorrupted, absolute, definitive like a crystal.” Standing discreetly behind these glass companies, he increasingly delegated to his colleagues and associates like Pietro Chiesa at Fontana Arte or Tomaso Buzzi at Venini and connected his students to the means of realizing their projects: Saul Steinberg to Fontana Arte and Massimo Vignelli to Venini, or his friend Piero Fornasetti to both companies. His combined endeavours opened the manufacture of glass into formerly unexplored aesthetic territory.