A journey that starts from Reggio Calabria and goes around the world to establish a unique creative approach.

 

Courtesy Photo Antonio Aricò, Photographer A. Muscatello – Nirù is “a little wooden puppet: a charm to hold and hang. An ebony wooden boy holding an olive branch in his hand. Inspired by the myths of southern Italy, Nirù depicts a micro version of Griffin, a Moor who is not a warrior but carries an olive branch. A meaning that must be read by the child in all of us. The puppet was built by Antonio’s grandfather and hand-painted by the designer himself. ”

 

There are designers who, through their projects, can also talk about their roots, their origins. Antonio Aricò is undoubtedly one of them. Born in 1983 in Reggio Calabria, Italy, Aricò is an Italian artist, designer, and creative director. After obtaining a double degree at the Politecnico di Milano, he obtained a master’s degree with a work based on the themes of design and tradition, combining the fields of art, craftsmanship, and design. These three themes are the core of all his works and they are the foundation of Antonio Aricò’s interdisciplinary practice: a unique approach that parallels craftsmanship and self-production with industrial design.

 

Courtesy Photo Antonio Aricò – Design as a work of art and auteur happening: this is one of the projects presented during the independent design festival Materia in 2019.

 

As a creative consultant for the last 10 years Antonio Aricò, together with his team and his family, has developed products and creative ideas for international companies, private collectors, and cultural institutions. These are companies of the caliber of Barilla Group, Alessi, Seletti, Editamateria, Altreforme, Designboom, and Bialetti, for which he was Art Director in 2017. Among his collaborations, there are also some international museums such as the Triennale in Milan, Holon Design Museum in Tel Aviv, the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, and the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome. His curriculum also includes teaching design at RMIT Melbourne, Australia, and the Made Program in Syracuse, Italy.

 

Courtesy Photo Antonio Aricò – With Materia, Aricò wanted to re-imagine a Festival in which Design, heritage, folklore and vernacular traditions came together to represent the world of memories and the cultural identity background of Mediterranean Italy.

 

Antonio Aricò’s design underlines the need for a poetic approach to the world of consumerism promoting a positive impact on people and the environment. He has recently been entrusted with the role of Art Director of The Independent Design Festival of Southern Italy: Matter carried out in his native region, Calabria, as well as one of the economically less developed regions of Italy.

To better understand his work, we asked him some questions. Enjoy!

Your works are defined as emotional, full of romanticism and linked to an “archetypal design”. Tell us more about your approach to design and what it means to put craftsmanship and self-production in parallel with industrial design.

 

Courtesy Photo Antonio Aricò – In the photo, one of the projects presented during the Materia independent design festival in 2019.

 

I started 10 years ago my path as an independent designer. After studying and working around the world (Scotland, Spain, Australia) and mainly in Milan, I decided to question all the clichés related to design niches to start again from what I had at home: my grandfather’s carpentry and family. Today my experience varies from self “editions” and for purely narrative purposes to collaborations with Italian design brands such as Barilla, Seletti, Alessi, Bialetti, etc.. I was lucky enough to make a dream come true: to know the dynamics of mass production and at the same time to free myself from any rule of the market in order to tell universal stories, so I stimulate the memory linked to the value of the objects of the past, that is what you have defined “archetypal design”.

I read that somehow you divide your work in two completely different places in Italy: the North and the South. Can we say that this is the dualism intrinsic to your way of conceiving design?

 

Courtesy Photo Antonio Aricò, Photographer A. Muscatello – Parlantina is the archetype of a folding chair from the 1970s that was handmade in Calabria by Antonio Aricò’s grandfather carpenter. Parlantina means in Italian “what speaks a lot”. On display for the first time in Naples, Aricò wanted to use some words engraved in the frame of the chairs to write a small poem dedicated to the lifestyle of southern Italy: Benvenuto, Siediti, Al Sole, Al Mare, Aspetta Qua! (Welcome, have a seat, under the sun, at the sea, hold on here!)

 

Italy, culturally speaking, is the richest and most multifaceted country in the world. It often happens, however, that as Italians we are “ashamed” and we deny our truest origins, the most popular and vernacular ones in favor of international trends that want to forcibly project us into a global and contemporary reality. Just think of our dialects and how they are disappearing. Milan and Reggio Calabria, represent for me the two extremes of our Italian culture: the more “evolved” and sophisticated and the more “sanguine” and authentic. The recovery and protection of a world made of genuine values combined with the study and research of the “never seen” represent my design dualism. Collections inspired by the theme of rural “simplicity” alongside colorful collections and POPs that represent the enlightened spirit of entrepreneurial realities of northern Italy, build a world of paradoxes and contrasts that over time I have learned to tell as a strength and not a clash.

You have worked as a creative director for several companies and multinationals. How important is the value of collaboration for you?

 

Courtesy Photo Antonio Aricò – A Room is a project that collects and brings together the essential aspects of an Italian way of life, all revolving around a single room: a cupboard to love, a table to share, a desk to think, a cot to rest, a painting to remember.

 

In the workplace, I’ve always said I’m not a leader. For me, the vocation and enthusiasm in the project must be natural and never forced feelings. In addition to my family, I have employees all over the world. There are few with whom I establish a lasting relationship, but they are those who are driven by a real vocation, only in this case I can work together having fun, and this is an added value that is transmitted to projects and objects.

Last year during the Fuorisalone in Milan you made a documentary called Le Radici e Le Ali. What is it about? How much do your Calabrian roots count in your projects?

 

 

Le Radici e Le Ali (The Roots and The Wings), represents the story of a moment of my growth that took place thanks to the figure of my grandfather, Saverio Zaminga. Figures formed in the world of know-how – such as Alberto Alessi and my carpenter grandfather, who started working at the age of 8, represent distant worlds such as Aspromonte Calabrese and Teatro La Scala in Milan – are compared to generate a story made of stories and evoke questions linked to the world of design but also to more universal themes: who are they? Where do I come from? The Calabrian roots are only a metaphor that can be extended to the history of all those who leave the province, their roots to new worlds. In my projects, I always try to put anchors linked to my memory… messages that are sometimes distorted and completely reinvented but that represent themes linked to my childhood. I believe that what you learn as a child represents what you “know best” when you grow up, and that’s why I always move these points… to generate more authentic projects that are more “felt”.

The cancellation of the Salone del Mobile in Milan 2020 was a shock. But right now it is essential to find the right solutions to live with COVID-19. How do you see the future of design? Do you have any projects in the pipeline?

 

Courtesy Photo Antonio Aricò, Photographer A. Muscatello – Mata & Grifo is a folk story from the Strait of Messina where Aricò grew up surrounded by myths and legends. In collaboration with Elena Salmistraro and the altreforme brand, Aricò drew poetry from a poem of his childhood and turned it into a product that entertained Rossana Orlandi’s guests during Milano Design Week 2019. Antonio designed Mata (in the photo) the giant female toilet, while the male Grifo was designed by his friend Elena.

 

My life has not been turned upside down by this “catastrophe”. For some years now I have decided to go “slow”, to work less to be able to enjoy the beautiful nature that my Earth offers me and the luxuries of simplicity. This is why I already spend so much time at home without going on dates. Here I miss the sea, swimming and the great walks in the open air, that’s it. For the Salone del Mobile I had in mind an operation that would leave out the city of Milan. A communicative operation to be done in a mysterious place far from the metropolis. Which I had to postpone. Many collaborations related to the world of products are on stand-by, and in recent months I have given vent to my world of drawings and illustrations. A lot of new collaborations are emerging from here. Personally, Covid-19 has marked this watershed… I’m going to move from product to design as “product”. That’s because it’s lightening time and investment, and frankly, I’m happy with this evolution!

What is the most significant work of your career as a designer, the one that represents you most?

 

Courtesy Photo Antonio Aricò – In the foreground, characterized by dark wood, we find the Dumba Chair within the Welcome Home project realized during the Salone del Mobile in 2014. On that occasion, Antonio Aricò opened a studio/showroom in his personal apartment in the center of Milan. It was full of Antonio’s previous limited-edition collections, all made in the family carpentry workshop in Calabria, but it also presented prototypes, samples, and objects from various design collaborations during his career.

 

That’s a question I’ve been asked a lot lately. I’m not particularly attached to one project rather than another. There are those that represent a crowned dream because they are linked to a prestigious collaboration and there are those with whom I have a particular emotional bond. But if I really have to choose is the Dumba Chair, the first chair I designed and made with my grandfather. It is a “concrete” chair, big and heavy and made of solid wood. An eternal chair and not fashionable. I have many of them at home and I have not even sold some to people around the world. I use it every day, and it is used by my friends and relatives. It’s a chair that can’t be “thrown away”, it’s one of those objects to be repaired, cared for and caressed. It represents me because it represents the essence of my work, the most “pure” and honest one.

 

Courtesy Photo Antonio Aricò, Photographer A. Muscatello – Portrait of Antonio Aricò

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