FontanaArte: ninety years of glass and light

28 April 2022

The company is approaching one hundred years of history, giving life to a highly prestigious historical archive

In 1881 Luigi Fontana & C. was born in Milan for the processing of crystals, glass and mirrors. This company took part in the Milan International Fair in 1906 and was then acquired by Saint Gobin in 1910. In the meantime the artisan root begins to germinate, to transform itself and in 1931 Gio Ponti takes over its artistic direction. It is his initiative to transform its name into FontanaArte, creating the brand we all know today, adding the word “art” that encompasses his intention to enhance the creative and design matrix of the collections to come. It is 1932, therefore, the year in which FontanaArte was officially born, whose 90th anniversary is celebrated this year. For the occasion, on the days of the Milan design week, from 6 to 12 June, the historical archive of the company will be presented to the public and at the same time, until 31 July, the Stanze del vetro, glass museum in Venice will host the FontanaArte exhibition. Living in Glass by Christian Larsen.

Moreover, the history of FontanaArte deserves to be deepened, because it intersects with the professional path of some of the greatest masters of 20th century design who have marked its direction over the years. The aforementioned Gio Ponti, in 1932, in addition to taking over the artistic direction and giving the company its name, designs the Bilia lamp and the “1932” coffee table, two icons that are still very relevant today. In the same year the “Cartoccio” vase was designed by Pietro Chiesa, another great master who in 1933 became creative director and designed Luminator, an indirect emission floor lamp that he taught.

In 1954 he was succeeded by Max Ingrad, who designed the iconic Fontana table lamp. Classical in form but certainly innovative in functions, it has a multiple switch: both the base and the lampshade contain one or more light sources and are all made of blown glass. In 1972 en Swildens designs the famous Uovo lamp.

Glass and technology continue to be the two recurring and distinctive elements of the company’s collections in which a woman also leaves her mark: in 1979 the artistic direction was entrusted to Gae Aulenti who signed the iconic Tavolo con ruote and the Parola lamp in 1980 with Piero Castiglioni.

The 90s marked the opening of the company towards new materials and production processes involving international designers and in 1998 it received the Compasso d’Oro award for creativity. Sigeru Ban, Paola Navone, Oscar and Gabriele Buratti and Stefano Boeri accompany FontanaArte in the first two decades of the 2000s. In the meantime, the company’s historical projects are increasingly establishing themselves as true timeless icons; in 2020, for example, the Re and Regina lamps, designed in 1968 by Bobo Piccoli, are re-edited, assuming the thickness of real light sculptures.

Thus we come to 2021: Francesco Librizzi, current creative director, signs the Alicanto arc floor lamp (on the cover) characterized by an innovative design yet consistent with the formal history of the company.

He himself comments on the ninetieth anniversary: ​​“ “FontanaArte lamps and furnishings have contributed to the creation of extraordinary domestic settings. By bringing art into the home and giving glass the capacity to personify light, transparency and reflection, our lamps influence everything around them “.

Among the latest projects launched, Matrix, by the Dutch studio OS ∆ OOS founded by Oskar Peet and Sophie Mensen, represents a decisive step towards a future and entirely new aesthetic: the globe of light, inserted in a reticular metal structure, emits a soft and diffused light. Because even in this new formal approach, the original vocation of combining art and lighting remains alive to make the living environment special.

FontanaArte Alicanto
FontanaArte Bilia
FontanaArte Fontana 1853 Medium
FontanaArte Re Lamp
FontanaArte Regina Lamp
FontanaArte Uovo
FontanaArte Tavolo con Ruote

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