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Inventing the future

They don’t make ’em like they used to. Manchester Art Gallery looks at the work of 60s influential furniture designer Joe Colombo

Published on January 16th 2007.

Inventing the future

Televisions that retract into the ceiling, pivoting walls with a built-in mini bar, underground ‘nuclear cities’ – this is the work of Italian designer Joe Colombo, being exhibited at Manchester Art Gallery until February 25.

Colmbo’s work wouldn’t look amiss in James Bond or Austin Powers, as it captured the spirit of the swinging sixties, yet maintained functionality and striking form. He was one of the most influential designers of his time, producing design classics such as the Elda armchair, the Universale chair and the lamp Alogena.

Joe Colombo – Design Laboratory is the first international retrospective of Colombo’s work. Manchester Art Gallery is the only UK venue to show the exhibition.

The first international retrospective of work by influential Italian designer Joe Colombo. An exhibition of the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany and the Triennale di Milano in co-operation with the Studio Joe Colombo.

Produced in close co-operation with the estate of Joe Colombo, the exhibition previously unseen material from Joe Colombo’s body of work. These include early original objects and prototypes from Colombo’s most important furniture designs as well as original sketches, plans, brochures, architectural models, several films and contemporary photos.

Although Joe Colombo died in 1971 at 41 years of age, the exhibition traces the rapid development of Colombo’s brief career that fascinated his contemporaries.

As illustrated by the many photos of Colombo’s own apartment in which he himself appears, he was a gifted self-promoter. Always elegantly dressed and never without a pipe in his mouth, Colombo cultivated a fitting image to accompany his designs: that of a designer dandy who was fascinated by the possibilities of new technologies and improving everyday life. He even perfected the design for a simple pipe by levelling out the base so it could be placed on a table without falling over.

Colombo was both one of the great design visionaries of the 20th century and a pragmatist for whom the future began with the little everyday things of life.

An exhibition not to be missed.

Manchester Art Gallery opening times: Tuesday – Sunday 10am-5pm
Closed: Monday, except Bank Holidays
Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley Street, Manchester M2 3JL

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