Friday 5 April 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 5/4/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Bright spark: Gaetano Pesce

Image: Daniel Terna

Design / Ed Stocker

True colours

Even though they might deny it, gatekeepers of design often have a narrow vision of what makes something good. Sleek form, minimalism and safe colour schemes are common – but things that Gaetano Pesce clearly thought were a load of old tosh. Yesterday it was announced that the vibrant 84-year-old artist, architect and designer had died in New York, a city that he had called home for more than 40 years. His strong, contrarian voice, which railed against minimalism and uniformity, will be sorely missed.

Born in La Spezia, Liguria, in 1939, Pesce was a pioneer of the radical Italian avant garde movement that flared up in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It threw the conventional design rule book out the window with its edgy shapes and shades. His work, such as the curvaceous Up chair series produced with B&B Italia, was always provocative, bursting with form and colour. He was also behind several architectural projects, including the red-steel Organic Building, an early pioneer of vertical gardens, which was constructed in Osaka in 1989.

He had recently collaborated with fashion brand Bottega Veneta and was due to be honoured at this year’s Salone del Mobile. He had also been continuing his long-time partnership with Meritalia, for whom he previously designed the multicolour, modular La Michetta sofa and the padded, crumpled polyurethane armchair, Shadow.

Pesce is a reminder of what design can and should be: whimsical, experimental and boundary-pushing. You had the sense that he was constantly poking fun at everyone, himself included. “We have undoubtedly lost the most radical of radicals with Pesce,” said Meritalia CEO Charley Vezza. “A man who turned inconsistency into his consistency; a genius who will be remembered not only for his fluid forms but also for his edgy personality that made him truly unique.”

Ed Stocker is Monocle’s Europe editor at large. Gaetano Pesce’s ‘Nice to See You’ exhibition will take place at Milan Design Week from 15 to 23 April and his designs for Meritalia will be on show at Salone del Mobile’s Rho trade hall from 16 to 21 April. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

Balancing act: Prabowo Subianto (on left) with Fumio Kishida

Image: Shutterstock


Middle man

Indonesia’s president-elect and current defence minister, Prabowo Subianto, travelled to China and Japan this week for back-to-back diplomatic visits. Prabowo, who will begin his presidential term in October, spent three days in China to meet president Xi Jinping, before visiting Japan’s prime minister, Fumio Kishida, in Tokyo. The international trip is Prabowo’s first since he was elected in March.

His choice of countries signals his intention to improve relations with China and Japan, while maintaining a balance between the two powers, both of which have attempted to gain influence in Southeast Asia in recent years. Prabowo is expected to pursue the objectives of Indonesia’s current president, Joko Widodo, whose focus on investment from China has guided the country’s foreign policy. But Prabowo’s trip to Tokyo also shows that Indonesia will not take sides between China and US-allied Japan.

Fashion / Global

New look

Former Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri has announced the creation of Nessifashion, a personal holding company that will invest in fashion and design businesses. He has also said that he will first invest in Italian fashion brand Elisabetta Franchi, taking up to a 23 per cent stake in the company. Bizzarri, who exited Gucci last September, has been an instrumental figure in the Kering Group, working as the CEO of several brands under its umbrella, including Stella McCartney and Bottega Veneta. Though his new role as an investor is starkly different, his industry knowledge will prove invaluable to younger, independent brands looking for the right partner to help them navigate the ever-evolving fashion landscape.

Image: Shutterstock

Society / USA

One for the books

Who said that print was dead? The 64th annual Antiquarian Book Fair is once again taking over the Park Avenue Armory’s drill hall in New York this weekend, attracting bibliophiles and dealers from nearby and abroad. The 55,000 sq ft space will host more than 200 international exhibitors of rare and vintage books, maps, illuminated manuscripts and artworks.

There will also be talks and panels, covering everything from the history of book collecting and publishing to the connection between literature and wine. Highlights include an original print by Pablo Picasso and first-edition copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Bring your wallet but beware, the latter will set you back up to $115,000 (€113,800).

Beyond the Headlines

Image: Rahim Fortune/Loose Joints

Photo of the week / ‘Praise Dancers’

Good fortune

This week’s photo, entitled “Praise Dancers”, features a group of worshippers in Texas. It is part of US photographer Rahim Fortune’s recently released photo book, Hardtack, by Loose Joints Publishing. Through a series of striking portraits and photographs of coming-of-age traditions, Fortune’s latest work explores the history, resilience and cultural identity of black communities in the American South.

Image: Shutterstock

Monocle Radio / The Urbanist

Suomenlinna, Helsinki

Petri Burtsoff takes us to a historic military fortress off the coast of Helsinki to see how Finns make use of the island today.


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