The Wolfsonian–Florida International University (The Wolfsonian–FIU) is a division within the Florida International University. This institution is comprised of a museum, a library, and a research center, with the main focus on art and design and its interconnections in various media. The Wolfsonian was founded by Mitchell Wolfson, Jr., a collector with vast expertise in modern art and design, who started to build up his collection during the 1970s and donated it to FIU in 1997. He is also the founder of the sister museum in Genoa: The Wolfsoniana – Palazzo Ducale Fondazione per la Cultura in Genoa.
Since 1997, The Wolfsoniana holds the MITA (Manifattura Italiana Tappeti Artistici) Archive. Manifattura Italiana Tappeti Artistici (Italian Artistic Rug Manufacturer) was founded in 1926 by Mario Alberto Ponis in Genoa. It was marked by an innovative collaboration with the most talented and remarkable Italian artists and designers aiming to reflect modernist aesthetic trends. MITA brought a new artistic, aesthetic language into everyday life and the MITA archive, composed of design drawings on textiles and papers, documents this fruitful partnership in the course of an extended period, starting from the Fascist period through the 1970s.
This unique collection that originated in Genoa is now on show in Miami, at The Wolfsonian–FIU. These two geographical points are both port cities and connected through an institutional exchange. This relationship is symbolically significant to this exhibition. MITA enjoyed an active collaboration with shipping companies as its archive traveled from one port to another to be showcased in one of the most important cultural institutions in Miami.
Silvia Barisione, Gianni Franzone, and Matteo Fochessati curated the exhibition, which includes original drawings by artists and designers, exemplars of rugs, carpets, and fabrics, photos which document the production of MITA as part of interior design, and various other objects.
This variety of the showcased material creates a multidimensional context. It begins with an idea from an artist or designer expressed on paper using a representation of the original MITA production and continues till the end of integration into interiors and its reception by the public.
This conceptual elaboration of context shows a high professional level of the curators’ team and represents the results of in-depth and detailed research. The curatorial team put much value in rethinking and reshaping this exhibition, which has already been presented in three Italian venues for an American audience.
The artistic value of the showcased items can hardly be overestimated. The exhibition displays designs, either as an end product or as drawings and sketches, done by Alberto Bevilacqua, Antonia Campi, Fortunato Depero, Giocondo Faggioni, Mario Labò, Emanuele Luzzati, Riccardo Manzi, Enrico Paulucci, Gio Ponti, Gio Pomodoro, Ettore Sottass, Jr., Luigi Vietti, and many others.
An example of excellent curatorial expertise is the beautiful piece of tapestry designed for the Andrea Doria by Michael Rachlis. This tapestry was specially designed for the First Class Reading Room by Gustavo Pulitzer Finali in 1952. The original drawings of the artist are accompanied by a picture of the tapestry by Rachlis in the interiors of the First Class Reading Room from 1953.
The exhibition showcases the artistic production from different perspectives and allows for a discussion on the concept of the final result of an artist’s or designer’s production.
Another very remarkable piece displayed at the exhibition is a tapestry La Favola by Emanuele Luzzati from the year 1954. This tapestry was created for the Mostra del Pezzo Unico at the X Triennale di Milano and blends the border between art and design.
On the occasion of this exhibition, a book was made in Italy: MITA Textile Design: 1926–1976. It was published with contributions by Silvia Barisione, Matteo Fochessati, Gianni Franzone, and Paolo Piccione.
The exhibition runs till the 28th of April 2019 at The Wolfsonian–FIU.
Written by Daria Elagina.
Featured images: MITA exhibition views. Courtesy the author.