Agneta Holst’s Megalopoli

Agneta Holst’s Megalopoli
History of a collection between art and design

Carla Accardi, Rosanna Bianchi Piccoli, Paolo Buggiani, Enrico Castellani, Alik Cavaliere, Pietro Consagra, Agostino Ferrari, Sofus Holst, Mauro Lovi, Ugo Marano, Sandro Martini, Mario Nigro, Mimmo Paladino, Luigi Parzini, Gianni Pettena, Bobo Piccoli, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Giò Pomodoro, Ettore Sottsass, Tarshito e Shama

Footnotes for Megalopoli
Mauro Lovi

In 1985, through my friend Omero Biagioni’s Blue Chips Gallery, in Lucca, I exhibited a painting titled Emiciclo Anaforico at Expo Arte, in Bari. (…) Agneta bought the piece, and asked me to bring the chair out of the painting. (…) The object, taken from the Emiciclo, was presented at the 1986 Salone del Mobile in Milan. Aldo and Marirosa Ballo took photographs, which were published in many architecture and decor magazines. The chair was invited to appear at many international exhibitions. My career in designing objects began through this Socratic thought-creates-object birthing process.
For this reason, I’ve never asked myself too many questions about the relation between art and design, or the primacy of one over the other, as far as the interpretation of objects is concerned. In many cases, the definition lies more in an object’s destiny, therefore in the processes and proofs of the work in question, than in creative intentions.
At Megalopoli, her gallery/showroom in the center of Milan, Agneta produced and exhibited objects and furniture for the home and its surrounding areas, designed or produced by artists who’d exhibited at the galleries where she’d worked…artists who’ve become part of art history, (…) From the time when she worked with Carla Accardi and produced her spatial colors, frames for two mirrors. Piero Consagra, whose marble stools look like lost 3D logos or re-discovered quasi-letters of an alphabet. Alik Cavaliere’s tables of cast bronze, steel and glass. Michelangelo Pistoletto’s benches, which turn the act of sitting into a moment of reflection on where we’re sitting, be it the Carrara marble model, with its thermal shock, or the version where the seat is a mirror-surface that creates a dialogue with the space between sight and action. Enrico Castellani had the bright idea to soften the light of his stylistic cyphers (the neat rhythmic geometric spiritual spatial modulations on the canvas), using the mattress-pattern stitching of a quilt for a bed. Giò Pomodoro’s black Belgian marble end-tables, separately adorned with the male-female sexual symbols. Ettore Sottsass’ consolle with tumultuous solids on pedestals. (…). More mirror-frames by Luigi Parzini, but in drilled and colored steel. Sandro Martini contributed a small frame in raw, morticed wood.  Rosanna Bianchi Piccoli contributed a large plate…in porcelain, of course…with colored lines on white…all very rigorous. Mario Nigro, a low-slung wooden table. Agostino Ferrari with his signs, probable words, on cloths for directors’ chairs. Finally, the first object made in 1978, the “Love Light” lamp by Paolo Buggiani, with colorful brushstrokes on glass.
Around the time when I first met Agneta she was working, along with the individual artists and pieces described above, with a group: Tarshito and Shama, Ugo Marano and Gianni Pettena. I was interested in the way they re-designed objects and space, re-defining both according to their own material and spiritual measures; using refined, unusual processes. Along with the others’,Ugo Marano’s solo pieces were produced around that time, including La Sedia del Pensiero (the Chair of Thought), in iron and mosaico,(…) and the copper Wakanda, are both by Tarshito (Nicola Strippoli) and Shama (Cinzia Tandoi). The two works by Gianni Pettena are: the Labyrinths, tapestries made using chain-stitched silk; and Integrazioni, which explores representation’s incursion into space, a two-meter-square three-dimensional painting, into which one entered and sat, on two benches and a table rendered in perspective. (…) The group’s energy and synergy wore out at the end of the 80s. In 1989, in Megalopoli’s space, we produced two exhibitions: Ugo Marano presented a series of small drawings; I presented Il Letto di Ulisse, a wooden bed made entirely without the use of screws or nails, and which could be completely dismantled. Agneta cut down on her appearances in Milan and became increasingly active on her property in the Tuscan countryside. Before closing the Megalopoli space, she suggested that I produce an installation that would bring closure to this phase of her life.
My first solo exhibition was held in Milan in 1991. Il sogno di Proteo was a painted environment composed of two site-specifically designed pieces: L’arnia delle api guarite (The Healed Bees’ Hive), in red elmwood, and the carpet Mare rame (Copper Sea), in textile and copper shavings. A work dedicated to a figure from Greek mythology: Proteus, the mutable god of calm and the ocean depths. I approached the space as though it were a quiet, dim Tuscan chapel, with painted walls. One entered and slowly allowed one’s eyes to absorb the vision of what was contained and told therein, in the light from a big candle and a large window.  A place for a meditative pause while, outside, Milan was living one of its most frenetic moments: (…) the Salone Internazionale del Mobile. The work elicited curiosity and interest. Aldo Ballo chose to document the show with a splendid sequence of snapshots, which I guard jealously. Isa Tutino Vercelloni dedicated the cover of Casa Vogue to my installation. Of all my pieces, it ranks highly among those that involved and excited me the most,(…).
These lightly-edited fragments were taken from a text written for the catalogue of the exhibition Arte del Quotidiano (I curated the La collezione Megalopoli section), at the Fondazione Ragghianti, in Lucca, in 2009. The show was curated by Isa Tutino, Antonia Jannone and Mauro Lovi: a panoramic overview of Italian objects and furniture, between art and design, from 1970 to 2000. A show strongly desired by Avv. Giovanni Cattani and Dott.ssa Maria Teresa Filieri, the President and Director, respectively, of the Fondazione Ragghianti. This institution, with its full staff, managed the various phases of the show’s realization with a degree of competence and professionalism much-appreciated by those outsiders who participated in the work, and those who attended the show. The event inspired in Agneta’s daughter Olivia the desire to somehow take this world created by her mother in hand. She has done it, two years later, by opening a gallery/laboratory space in Florence: Otto Luogo dell’Arte, a place to consider the creative process which got its start at Megalopoli; where new creative challenges to objects for everyday use will be promoted and produced by contemporary artists, through or with the complicity of the local Tuscan artisans’ network. Otto dutifully dedicates its second show to that experience; we will exhibit the collection and expand upon it wth previously unpublished written and photographic documents, and hold out the possibility of a museum future for Megalopoli.

Mauro Lovi