Frieze Masters 2023

Friedman Benda | Booth G09



Ettore Sottsass [Italian, 1917-2007]
Opera Cosmica, 1958
Tempera and paper collage on masonite
74.75 x 6.5 inches
190 x 16 cm
Signed and dated

Private collection, Italy

Ettore Sottsass, L’Objet Magique. Centre Pompidou, Paris, France. October 13, 2021 – January 3, 2022.

Marie-Ange Brayer, Ettore Sottsass: l’objet magique, exh. cat., Paris: Editions du Centre Pompidou, 2021, p. 36.

          Entitled ‘Opera Cosmica’, this 1958-dated work most clearly reveals Sottsass’s aspirations towards the ethereal and the conceptual. Both in terms of format and treatment, ‘Opera Cosmica’ can be directly associated with four other closely related panels, one of which is dated 1957, now held in the collection of the Triennale Museum in Milan. All these works are considered as slender vertical arrangements featuring alternating rhythms of horizontal striations, that offer a diversity of pace from static grid-like bands countered by others that are wildly gestural.

          The work can be associated most directly with Sottsass’s friendship with the painter Luigi Spazzapan (1887-1958) whilst a young student in Turin during the late 1930s. Further inspiration was to come in 1937, when Sottsass traveled to Paris for the Exposition Internationale, and saw Picasso’s Guernica. Upon release from military service in 1945, Sottsass aspired to be a painter and sculptor, participating in several exhibitions in Milan and in Lugano during the late 1940s, however financial needs necessitated a default to producing interior designs and furniture for his architect father’s projects, or by working as a commercial artist.

          Another significant motivating factor was Sottsass’s conclusion very early in life that objects and their context should have relevant social, emotive or intellectual value. Sottsass had been both captivated and disturbed by the consumerism that he discovered during a trip to America in 1956. By the 1960s his own creations became increasingly counter-commercial through their absorption of totemic, metaphysical qualities – most specifically through shape, color and pattern.

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