Bisiluro da corsa, Nardi – Mollino – Giannini, 1955, © Alessandro Nassiri, Archivio Museo Scienza.

Lenkrad Enrico Nardi, 1955, © Alessandro Nassiri, Archivio Museo Scienza.

Carlo Mollino's Hybrid Multidisciplinary Designs in a Contemporary Key

Carlo Mollino, Teatro Regio, 1965-73 (Detail), Photo: Armin Linke.

Carlo Mollino, Lutrario Ballsaal in Turin, 1959, Photo: Armin Linke.

Carlo Mollino, circa 1950.

Carlo Mollino, Untitled polaroid, 1960s.

Carlo Mollino, Untitled polaroid, 1960s.

Carlo Mollino, Casa Mollino, 1960-68, Photo: A. Bartos.

Carlo Mollino, Armchair for Casa Minola, 1946.



Haus der Kunst
Prinzregentenstrasse 1
+ 49 0 89 21127-113
Carlo Mollino
Maniera moderna

September 16, 2011-January 8, 2011

Carlo Mollino is not only diverse, but also contradictory. Yet it is not the individual excentricism, but rather the programatic mannerism, which makes Mollino a reflexive representative of modernity. Mollino opposes the heroic postulates of a Le Corbusier or Gropius with a complex processing of concrete situations in their contradictions. Exemplary for this is his handling of traditions, such as the Alpine log cabin structure, which he reinterprets by combining it with contemporary reinforced concrete construction, or his use of new techniques, including bentwood, which were constructed according to a low tech method that he invented and patented in order to develop his furniture.

By appropriating found objects and materials by means of suprising montages and processes, Mollino has a greater affinity to the form language of contemporary art between 1930 and 1960 than to the contemporaneous architectural discourse that actually paid him little heed. His use of photography is an expression of this approach: It is not the photograph itself that is important to Mollino, but rather how it is processed during extensive post production. Out of the combination of darkroom, retouching and photomontage, he creates a new image. The result of his work — be it a building, piece of furniture or a picture — is always a hybrid.

Carlo Mollino is contemporary. His interdisciplinary work is important for architects and designers and photographers. The offensive processing of opposites, such as traditions and the newest technologies, is decisive for the artistic production. His handling of found objects demonstrates a way of understanding architecture beyond the competition of styles and the newest determination of forms, as a conceptual work within situations and contexts. The resulting mannerism is not mannered. It represents the ability to create a piece of work out of any fragment of reality, regardless of how trivial or inappropriate it initially may seem, a work that can assert itself as a contextually operating art form.

The exhibition was intentionally prepared by a curatorial team, which includes different areas of competence and experience. It initially developed out of a transdisciplinary work by myself, Armin Linke, students of exhibition design and photography students at the State Academy of Design in Karlsruhe. The results led to further research, which was deepened together with the former director of the Haus der Kunst, Chris Dercon, and in cooperation with Luciano Bolzoni, the Archivio Carlo Mollino of the Faculty of Architecture Turin (Sergio Pace and Elena Tamagno), as well as Fulvio and Napoleone Ferrari of the Museo Casa Mollino in Turin.

The aim of the exhibition is a contemporary look at a body of work that asks more questions than it provides answers. On journeys and field trips, Linke photographed Mollino's few remaining buildings and interiors for the exhibition. Together with the two installations by Nairy Baghramian und Simon Starling which relate directly to Mollino, the photographs, films and displays form a presentation that is the point of departure for a new examination of Mollino's work.

— Wilfried Kuehn, July 2011

Maniera moderna is devoted to the multifaceted by the Italian architect, designer, photographer Carlo Mollino (1905-1973). The exhibition's selection of works reflects the versatility of Carlo Mollino's oeuvre: on view are his drawings and architectural plans, furniture and furnishings, Mollino's race car "Bisiluro", his photomontages, Polaroids of female nudes, his essays on architecture, photography and downhill skiing, as well as other archival material. A photographical essay by Armin Linke created for the exhibition provides an overview of Mollino's constructions and their state of preservation.

Mollino's buildings were long handled with negligence. It is significant that in 1960 the Turin city council voted to demolish the Societ‡ Ippica Torinese, which had only been completed in 1940. Although Carlo Mollino has gained increasing attention in recent years, he is still not fully recognized as an architect. In contrast, his furniture has long been on great demand by collectors: in 2005 one of his tables was sold at auction for 3.8 million dollars. Contemporary artists, such as Karole Armitage and David Salle, Nairy Baghramian, Steven Claydon, Armin Linke, Mai-Thu Perret, Heidi Specker and Simon Starling, refer explicitly in their work to Carlo Mollino. The Casa Mollino is a popular site for shoots among photographers like Jürgen Teller and others.

Born in 1905 in Turin, Mollino's career begins before, during and after the Second World War. Mollino learns the basics of architecture from his father Eugenio, a considered engineer and architect in the first quarter of the 20th century. This eases his entry into the profession, and he enjoys a certain degree of financial freedom from the beginning. In 1931, after completing his training, his father takes him on in his office. In 1936 the interiors of Casa Miller, Carlo Mollino's residence and studio, are created. As it is the case with other architects born in the early 20th century, opposites are a characteristic element in his works: In his first commissioned work, the headquarters of the Federazione Agricoltori Cuneo (1933-35), Mollino makes use of the severity and monumentality of the fascist style. Later he distances himself permanently from political regimes. His second commission, the Societ‡ Ippica Torinese (1937-1940), already exhibits the dynamic curves that would remain typical of his work. With these Mollino lends from the Baroque. He also repeatedly uses elements of Surrealism: When creating settings for female models in his interiors he allows materials that are soft and silky to abut onto hard and severely reflecting surfaces. The manner in which he treats light and shadow, materiality and surfaces, recalls the work of Man Ray. The effects live from artificial light, as corresponding to a night person.

Mollino's appropriation of Alpine building methods and of Baroque and Surrealistic elements is conceptual and remains equidistant from ideologies. He rejects the purely functional, geometrically simple, architecture of some of his contemporaries as sterile and mechanical. "We live unhappy because it is useful and fast", he claims, and searches for beauty in freedom of purpose. The dandyism, which some people attest him, suits to this: He repeatedly designs works for the private and intimate needs of individualists ñ and not least for himself.

The projects Mollino designs during the Second World War are not realized, but published in "Domus" and "Lo Stile." In 1947 he completes the mountain station and ski hut on Lago Nero located at an altitude of 2,400 meters; the hut was soon left to its own devices and the ravages of time. Structures like the auditorium for Radiotelevisione Italiana and the Lutrario Ballroom in Turin from 1959 have been greatly altered in recent years. In Turin one can still visit the Casa Mollino (1961-1970) — today maintained and run by Fulvio and Napoleone Ferrari — as well as the posthumously inaugurated Teatro Regio with its fan-shaped ceiling (1965-1973).

Mollino's fascination with the beauty of a sweeping, corporal movement is reflected in all his designs. The roof of the Lago Nero hut reaches upwards so dynamically as if it might literally take off. Mollino has recourses to his own experiences when designing these sweeping forms. From 1953, the year of his father's death, onwards he expands his athletic activities: simultaneously an amateur and virtuoso, he practices downhill skiing, air acrobatics and race car driving. Strangely even-tempered, in these disciplines he dares to perform experiments in which everything could go wrong, although nothing ever happens to him. In 1955 he participates in the Le Mans car race with "Bisiluro", a car desgined by himself. The curves of this race car, Mollino's photographs of ski tracks in deep snow (his educational publication "Introduzione al Discesismo" was published in 1950), photographs of female nudes and his aeronautical drawings prove that everything for him is, above all, a question of creating artistic, sweeping lines. One could say that, no matter what Mollino does, he draws: on paper, in the snow, in the sky or along the female body. He draws with both hands, even simultaneously, and hardly needs an intermediate step between the initial sketch and the true to scale construction drawing. His drawings can be regarded as the intellectual point of departure for his designs.

The furniture designed by Mollino is all one of a kind. The pieces do not follow the commodities logics of serially produced furniture. They thus remain alien to both industrial design and handcraft and make sense only as autonomous artworks. Mollino produces a greater number of a piece only if a client commissions this, as it is the case with the armchairs for Casa Minola (1944-1946) and the seating for Lutrario Ballroom (1959-60). For his chairs Mollino combines traditional elements — like those of the Alpine board chair — with bentwood techniques, thereby advancing to the limits of the possible. Characteristic of the armchairs is the combination of elegant bentwood and corporal upholstery. He constructs desk frames according to aeronautical or natural organic patterns. He assembles glass plates and marble slabs with bent metal tubes. Furniture represents another high point in Mollino's oeuvre. All phases — the Surrealistic, the natural-organic and the modern style with its straighter forms — are represented in the exhibition. On view are designs for Cadma, Casa Orengo, Casa Rivetti, Uffici Lattes, Casa del Sole, Mostra USA, Casa Devalle, the RAI auditorium and Casa Mollino. Three chairs of a private collection, which were believed to be lost, can be seen for the first time.

For years Mollino photographs female nudes in the interiors he designs. Initially acquaintances like Ada Minola and Lina Modell serve as his models. A central feature of these images is the wavy, shining hair, which Mollino arranges with the precision of a high-gloss magazine. He later replaces the Leica with a Polaroid. Dark fantasies about encounters with a stranger move into the foreground: Mollino now asks prostitutes to pose for him. The Polaroids were intended to accompany him in his life after death. From 1961 to 1970 Carlo Mollino built his apartment in the Via Napione where he also shot some of the Polaroids. The apartment was possibly intended to serve as an outer shell for the transition into his next level of existence. Surrounded by the women of the Polaroids and other personal treasures, Mollino wanted to sail away in a boat-shaped bed: "I am preparing, like the Chinese of rank who in life adorns his own mausoleum, a corridor of my house to be a twilight avenue where the photographs and many other mementos of life shall follow in sequence: all beautiful, or almost", he wrote in 1973, the year in which he died of a heart attack. More than two thousand Polaroids were later found in this apartment — today the Casa Mollino, supervised by Fulvio and Napoleone Ferrari.

During his life Mollino never lived in this apartment nor did he ever invite anyone to it. The Casa Mollino thus still possesses the aura of mysterious loneliness. The other interiors also appear to be extremely private settings, created for the eye of a camera, and seem uninterested in being used by permanent residents. The Casa Miller from 1936, for instance, was a two-room apartment with a bathroom, but without a kitchen. Together with other peculiarities — he was a freemason, lifelong bachelor and interested in the occult — this continues to support the psychological interpretation of Mollino as a "holy madman."

In addition to Armin Linke, two other contemporary artists are represented: Simon Starling with a film in which the camera moves close up along the curves of a Mollino chair (Four Thousand Seven Hundred and Twenty Five [Motion Control / Mollino], 2007), and Nairy Baghramian with the installation Tea Room, which makes reference to Mollino's surrealistic installation Te numero 2, which he created together with his artist friend Italo Cremona in 1935 in Turin.

Carlo Mollino, Chair for Mollino's studio at the Faculty of Architecture, 1959.

Carlo Mollino on his Bisiluro car, 1955, Photo: Invernizzi.

Carlo Mollino, Innenansicht der Casa del Sole, Cervinia, 1947-55, Photo: Armin Linke.

Carlo Mollino, Teatro Regio, 1965-73 (Detail), Photo: Cavalli.


Carlo Mollino, Untitled Polaroid, circa 1962-73.

Carlo Mollino, Table Reale, 1946, Table with Glass Top and Wood Structure.

A Message from the Darkroom Manifested in the Showroom

Carlo Mollino, Bureau en contre-plaqué cintré, 1950, courtesy Centre Pompidou.

Carlo Mollino, Il Diavolo Nel Bicchiere, 1936 circa. Stampa autografa con ritocco chimico colorato. Copia esposta alla biennale fotografica torinese del 1949.

Carlo Mollino, Scalpo, 1938 circa. Stampa autografa ritoccata.

Carlo Mollino, Untitled Polaroid, circa 1962-73.

Carlo Mollino, Untitled Polaroid, circa 1962-73.


Kunsthalle Vienna
Project Space
Museumsplatz 1
+ 43-1-52189-33
Project Space
Carlo Mollino. Un Messaggio dalla Camera Oscura
August 31-September 25, 2011

"He was a performer, this all skiing all flying character. His body was covered in scars from all the crashes he’d had."

— Simon Starling 

Carlo Mollino, internationally renowned for his work as a designer of furniture and exclusive interiors in the spirit of the gesamtkunstwerk, owes much of the organic language of his designs to the inspiration of the form of the female body — as evidenced by over 1,000 Polaroids portraying beauties of Turin’s night life in the nude in mise-en-scène settings (photographic work he kept private over the years). The pictures were part of the preparation of his “House for the warrior’s rest” (today: Casa Mollino), a villa in Turin on the Po River.

Born in 1905 into a Turin engineer’s well-to-do family, Carlo Mollino began to work in his father’s office after graduating in architecture. He practiced as an architect throughout his life, though today he has become famous above all for the furniture developed for his interior design projects. His pieces of furniture were hand made unique pieces manufactured with the highest quality. Being financially independent, he could focus on his personal researches, developing his projects in detail as an artist, in the spirit of the gesamtkunstwerk.

He designed a racecar as a red double-torpedo for the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans of 1955; he used the shape of a female torso as the ground-plan of a theatre; he redesigned an apartment in a villa in Turin, where he did not spend a single night, into a sort of Egyptian pyramid for the afterlife; a keen alpinist, he wrote a book on the technique of downhill skiing and being an architect, he planned a cableway station and several mountain houses; he created interiors and furniture in a style labeled “surreal engineering” for which collectors paid top prices; he was a passionate pilot and a master of aerobatics; he published the first Italian historical and comprehensive book on photography, The message from the darkroom; he loved the Classical World as much as Art Nouveau; he was particularly fascinated by female sensitivity, both as a photographer and for his designs.

Mollino was part of the Modern Movement yet he constantly endowed design solutions linked to human models, sophisticated, organic and psychological. This intellectual attitude found itself side by side with a deep interest for the language of the female body — which he indulged in as a photographer: between 1962 and 1973, he shot over 1,000 polaroids portraying through beauties of Turin’s night life, the vision of an ideal woman. For this project he had especially turned into a photographic studio a villa on the hills of Turin. In the 1930s Mollino acted as a photographer exhibiting in competitions and publishing black and white portraits, in the 1960s, except for friends, he kept his polaroids hidden from the public. These late portraits hold an enigmatic position in Mollino’s oeuvre. They exemplify a private side of the artist who presented himself as a performer to the public yet secretly produced for these idiosyncratic representations.

Un Messaggio dalla Camera Oscura juxtaposes furnishings of Casa Mollino with a selection of his Polaroids for the first time. It explores the boundaries and bridges between this artist’s male erotic imagination and his intellectual and artistic attitude.

The exhibition sheds light on this ambivalence by confronting a selection of Mollino’s Polaroid portraits with a number of extraordinary objects from the Museo Casa Mollino for the first time, which had also not been accessible to the public during the artist’s lifetime. His challenge with feminine forms springs either from a male erotic imagination or it reflects something of his intellectual and artistic attitude as expressed in his guiding principle: “everything is allowed as long as it is spurred by fantasy?"

The exhibition was realized in cooperation with the Museo Casa Mollino, Turin.

Curator of the exhibition is Gerald A. Matt.

A catalogue will be published on the occasion of the exhibition by Verlag für moderne Kunst Nürnberg, ISBN 978-3-86984-244-8.

Carlo Mollino, designed for Casa Devalle, 1939-1940.

Carlo Mollino, Untitled Polaroid, circa 1962-73.

Carlo Mollino, Le Fiabe Per I Grand, 1936. Stampa autografa, ritoccata.

Carlo Mollino, Furniture designed for Casa Devalle, 1939-1940.


Carlo Mollino, Casa Mollino.

Carlo Molino test driving his Bisiluro, designed for the 24 Hours of LeMans. Powered by a Giannini 735cc engine, the Bisiluro didn't finish the 1955 race.

Carlo Mollino's Diversity of Practice – Industrial Design and Photography

Stola Group, Carlo Mollino Racing Car, a 1:1 scale version of one of his two racing car plans, 5.5 metres long.

Carlo Mollino, Untitled Polaroid, circa 1962-1973, Image courtesy of Sebastian + Barquet London.

Carlo Mollino, Untitled, c. 1950s, Photograph, 6 x 4.25", Estate of Carlo Mollino.

Carlo Mollino, Untitled, c. 1950s, Photograph, 6 x 4.25", Estate of Carlo Mollino.


19 Bruton Place
+ 44 (0)20 7495 8988
Carlo Mollino
May 7-June 27, 2009

"Everything is permissible as long as it is fantastic."

— Carlo Mollino

Carlo Mollino (1905-1973) was an Italian designer and architect, a Renaissance man with a prolific and innovative career. Twelve unique Polaroids taken by Mollino between 1962 and his passing in 1973 are exhibited alongside pieces of his furniture and a film installation. It is the most comprehensive UK exhibition of Mollino’s work to date.

Original chairs from RAI Auditorium, a structure Mollino designed in 1952, are shown, as part of a theatre installation. A visual biography is screened as part of the installation and illustrates the breadth of his diverse career. Featured alongside are rare archival materials including architectural models, letters and books.

Mollino had a lifelong passion for photography, indulging this in the latter years of his career through his Polaroids of primarily nude female models. Each one a unique and highly staged image, and taken at a flat he owned in Turin, this rare group of works remained undiscovered until after his death. He loved not only the apparatus of the Polaroid, but also the privacy it allowed, in creating something that couldn’t be copied or reproduced. Thought to be local women, some prostitutes, the models in the Polaroids remain enigmatic while their manufactured poses and settings suggest erotic narratives.

“Like Gio Ponti, Mollino was a man of exceptional and diverse talent. His buildings — some of which no longer exist — influenced a generation of Italian and international architects. His vision was pioneering, always unexpected and occasionally disquieting. This exhibition reveals the private passion of an important figure in 20th century art and design.”

— Oscar Humphries,
Sebastian + Barquet

In 1930, Carlo Mollino started his career as an architect designing a house in Forte dei Marmi and receiving the G. Pistono prize for architecture. Between 1933 and 1948, he worked in his father's office, and took part in several architecture competitions (e.g. the Farmers Association Building in Cuneo, the Fascist House in Voghera, and, after World War II, the Monument to the Partisan, which was created in collaboration with the sculptor Umberto Mastroianni. The Monument to the Partisan was placed in the Generale cemetery of Torino after winning the competition.

Between 1936 and 1939, Mollino designs, in collaboration with Vittorio Baudi di Selve, the Società Ippica Torinese building in Torino, considered his masterpiece. However, this building was destroyed in 1960. This work breaks with the past and the regime, refusing the rationalist school and taking inspiration from Alvar Aalto and Eric Mendelsohn.

Carlo Mollino loved the mountains and was a ski enthusiast; he wrote the book Trattato sul Discesismo where he explained his personal skiing technique with many illustrations. He designed some mountain houses like the Casa del Sole in Cervinia, Italy and the Slittovia of Lago Nero in Sauze d'Oulx, Italy. In this work, all the art of Mollino is shown: a large, modern terrace protruding from the main volume contrasts with the traditional materials of the building. This building, placed on the ski runs and reachable during the winter only by ski, has been restored in 2001 and now contains temporary expositions.

In 1952, Mollino designed the RAI Auditorium in Torino, which was radically restored bringing big changes to the original structure in 2006. In the first half of the sixties, he directed the team of architects responsible for the design of the INA-Casa district in Torino and he is placed second in the competition for the design of the Palazzo del Lavoro building in Torino, won by Pier Luigi Nervi, for the 100th anniversary celebration of the unification of Italy (1961).

In the last years of his life (between 1965 and 1973) he designed the two buildings that made him famous: the Camera di Commercio building and the Teatro Regio Torino (Regio Theater), both in Torino. Before his death he completes the projects for the FIAT Directional Centre in Candiolo, the AEM building in Torino, and the Club Mediterranèe in Sestriere.

Son of an engineer, Mollino is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential designers of the 20th century. His individual aesthetic was defined by contrasting modes of expression, blending surrealism and organic form. A racecar driver, photographer, skier, engineer, architect and aviator, Mollino’s eclectic
character and broad range of interests inspired his unique career. His architectural projects included the Camera di Commercio and the Teatro Regio in Turin. Mollino’s diverse interests and non-conformist attitude set him apart from his peers. A world record price for a piece of 20th Century Furniture was set in June 2005 when a piece designed by Carlo Mollino was auctioned by Christie's New York in June 2005. An oak and glass table for Casa Orengo, 1949, sold for $3,824,000

Mollino is currently the subject of an exhibition at the Alinari National Museum of Photography in Florence, curated by Fulvio Ferrari. Carlo Mollino. With Naked Eye runs until 14 June 2009.

Since it opened in October 2008, Sebastian + Barquet London has established itself as a leading gallery for international modernist design. Sebastian + Barquet was established in New York in 2005 with the intention of providing collectors with access to the finest available examples of 20th century design. With two locations in New York’s Chelsea design district and a further gallery in Bruton Place in London’s Mayfair, Sebastian + Barquet maintains a presence at principal design fairs worldwide. With a focus on masterworks of American and European design of the 1940s-1960s, the gallery is dedicated to presenting well curated, museum-quality exhibitions that celebrate the works of established masters while simultaneously showcasing the work of lesser-known designers. The gallery’s exhibited artists include international designers who have left an indelible mark on the design landscape, such as Jean Prouvé, Le Corbusier, Gio Ponti, George Nakashima and Buckminster Fuller.


Carlo Mollino, Pair of theatre chairs from the RAI Auditorium, Torino, Italy, 1951, Velvet, brass, 85 x 63.5 x 66 cm., Image courtesy of Sebastian + Barquet London.


Carlo Mollino, Untitled Polaroid, circa 1962-1973, Image courtesy of Sebastian + Barquet London.