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Zoom: Italian Design and the Photography of Aldo and Marirosa Ballo at the Vitra Museum
A general view of a room that is part of the exhibition 'Zoom. Italian Design and the Photography of Aldo and Marirosa Ballo' in the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany. The exhibition runs from 26 March to 03 October 2011. EPA/GEORGIOS KEFALAS.

WEIL AM RHEIN.- In the second half of the 20th century, Italian design attained worldwide recognition. The Milanese photographers Aldo Ballo and Marirosa Toscani Ballo played a considerable part in this success - there is hardly a design icon from that era which was not photographed in their studio. The exquisitely precise, dispassionate shots of the Ballos emphasized the beauty and functionality of the objects. This helped to convey their message: in the context of discussion of the relationship between object and medium, these images have influenced our perception of Italian design. Today, the archive of Studio Ballo documents an important chapter in Italian design history, of which it forms a significant part. Presenting outstanding objects with the Ballos' photographic interpretations, the exhibition presents this story as a discourse of empathy and interpretation, of the signs of the times and their transmission into the future - from Albini, Aulenti, Bellini and Castiglioni to Colombo, Mendini, Pesce and Ponti, to Sarfatti, Sottsass and Superstudio.

A unique design culture evolved in Italy which positioned the country as a leader in the realm of international design. It was characterised by the creative collaboration of visionary entrepreneurs with innovative designers, by a close relationship to the fine arts and by a sure feel for contemporary style. Functioning as mediators between these spheres were a number of new Italian weekly journals with a focus on interior design, which made an early appearance on the market in multilingual editions and had an essential influence on the international image of Italian design. The collaborative work of Aldo and Marirosa Ballo between 1953 until 1994 coincided precisely with the heyday of Italian design, and from the outset they were two of the most sought-after object photographers for magazine covers, advertising campaigns and editorial articles.

The Ballos’ photographs are distinguished by their fresh perspective and concentration on the inherent qualities of the objects they portray. They are based on precise, clean settings and a restrictive selection of props. They were created for prominent manufacturers such as Pirelli, Olivetti, Artemide, Danese or Kartell, and for magazines including Casa Vogue, Domus and Abitare. Along with specific object portraits, the Ballos also photographed painstakingly staged arrangements, architecture, and home interiors, as well as personalities from the Milan design scene. Up until the present day, these photos have been reproduced in every important catalogue or publication on Italian design. They have etched themselves in our collective memory and have fundamentally shaped our view of Italian design.

Based on the holdings of roughly 146,000 photographs in the archive of Studio Ballo, the exhibition ‘Zoom’ presents a new view of Italian design and its history. It focuses not only on the legendary design classics that were created during this period, but also examines the intense dialogue between objects, media and marketing that first facilitated the worldwide dissemination of these designs. Over 300 photographs, numerous original publications, film clips from Italian motion pictures and a documentary survey of the most important exhibitions on this topic sketch a fascinating panorama of this grand epoch in the history of Italian design. The core of the exhibition comprises photographs by the Ballos as well as a selection of approximately 75 objects from the collection of the Vitra Design Museum, including spectacular artefacts like Archizoom’s seating landscape ‘Safari’ from 1968, and classics such as Mario Bellini’s stereo system ‘Totem’ from the year 1970. Nearly all of the leading designers of the period are represented – from Franco Albini, Gae Aulenti, Mario Bellini and Alessandro Mendini to Gaetano Pesce, Aldo Rossi, Ettore Sottsass and Marco Zanuso.

An exhibition of the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein
26 March – 3 October 2011

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