Multi Chair
Italy, 1970
Joe Colombo

ink on tracing paper
59.4 x 84.1 cm

Joe Colombo (1930–1971), born Cesare Colombo, was an important Italian designer and architect who started his artistic and creative interests as a painter and sculptor. Renowned for his embrace of modern technologies and for the potential he saw in modular furniture and designs, Colombo created a body of furnishings that spoke to the energy and excitement over the potential of the Space Age.

After a couple of years at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera, Colombo transferred to Politecnico di Milano, where he studied architecture and graduated in 1954. During his studies at the Accademia, he befriended artists Sergio Dangelo and Enrico Baj, who had been influential in the creation of the avant-garde Movimento Nucleare, a group whose aim was to transform the art of painting in response to the tensions of the modern nuclear age. Until 1958, Colombo worked mainly as an Abstract Expressionist painter and sculptor and thrived on the Movimiento Nucleare group’s energy and intensity, which fueled in his work a fascination with an almost futurist aesthetic.

In 1959, Joe Colombo’s father died, and he decided to run the family electrical appliance business while experimenting with new manufacturing methods and materials. This new and unexpected experience influenced him to switch from painting to architecture and design, where his fascination with futuristic themes not only remained intact but found a new invigorating venue. Colombo decided to open his own design studio in Milan in 1962, entering the busiest phase of his career as he designed furniture, lighting, interiors, and glassware.

Colombo’s emphasis on curved forms, use of bold color, and reliance on emerging material made his designs their own meditation on the Modern age and thus incurred a remarkable number of fans. His sudden death at the age of 41 from heart failure cut a brilliant career too short, but his importance has lived on. —Casati Gallery

📷 Centre Pompidou