We proudly offer the creations of inimitable Italian designer, critic, and theorist Enzo Mari. His life, work, and teachings were enormously influential in the design world and will continue to impact future generations of makers and thinkers for years to come.
A major retrospective of Enzo Mari’s work opened in October of 2020 at the Triennale di Milano just days before Mari passed away. Extended until April of 2021, the exhibition, Enzo Mari curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist with Francesca Giacomelli, explores Mari’s more than 60 year career and includes previously unpublished material from his archive.
Homage to Autoprogettazione
Enzo Mari provided Artek with a deeper look into his thought-provoking project, the Proposta per un’Autoprogettazione (Proposal for a Self-design) series, in this 2010 documentary.
Design is only design if it communicates knowledge.
New York-based designer Adam Charlap Hyman describes just a few of his favorite Enzo Mari-designed objects for PIN-UP magazine. From chairs and letter openers to toys and vases, Mari's spare yet playful visual vocabulary is immediately recognizable.
Enzo Mari Unfiltered
"Design is dead."
"If someone tells me to be ‘creative’ I just want to give him a punch in the face!"
"Form is everything."
On Ron Arad's Bookworm shelf: "Pure shit. Who cares!"
Enzo Mari 1932–2020
Irascible, polemical, and influential are just a few of the words most commonly associated with Italian artist, designer, critic, and theorist Enzo Mari, who is perhaps most famous for his favorite (and oft-repeated) quote: “Design is dead”. Born and raised in Cerano, a region of Piedmont, Mari moved to Milan in 1947 and worked a variety of jobs before enrolling in the prestigious Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in 1952. He studied art and literature with a specific focus on the psychology of vision, the planning of perceptive structures, and the methodology of design. Not long after graduating he met Bruno Danese, co-founder of the eponymous design brand Danese; it was an encounter that would shape the remainder of Mari’s career.
Danese and Mari both felt strongly that good design should be accessible, economic, and affordable. Mari designed a multitude of creations for the company, including the much admired 16 Animali wooden puzzle. Inspired by his own children as well as his research into Scandinavian toys, it was a toy made from a single piece of oak that, with one continuous cut, came apart into 16 separate animals. Mari went on to conceive of over 1500 designs for many premier Italian design companies including Driade, Artemide, Zanotta and Magis. He also created illustrations, books with Einaudi and Bollati Boringhieri, and works for children. One of his most memorable projects, and the one which best demonstrates his belief that design should be accessible to all, was his Proposta per un’Autoprogettazione (Proposal for a Self-design) series. It consisted of a set of diagrams that allowed anyone to build DIY furniture with cuts of pine and some nails, the instructions for which Mari would mail to anyone who sent him postage.
In addition to being an influential designer, Mari was a radical and revolutionary thinker and artist. An avowed communist, he exhibited 44 sculptures at the 1976 Venice Biennale that formed a hammer and sickle when pieced together. He viewed good design as a maker’s responsibility to their community and as a means to create a better world. Curator Hans Ulrich Obrist recalls that Mari would often exclaim “Merda pura! (Pure shit!)” at openings and shows, critiquing work that he felt fell short of his stringent ideals.
Mari taught at University of Parma, the Accademia Carrara, and the Milan Polytechnic and exhibited his work throughout his career. He was awarded four Compasso d’Oro awards (1967, 1979, 1987, and 2001) and has been honored with multiple retrospective shows in Turin and Milan. Well-known and greatly admired within the design world, he is not as widely known as he should be because, as Obrist explains, “he refused to play the game of galleries, of the commercialization of his designs into fetishes”. Principled to the very end, Mari died of COVID-related complications in 2020, but his legacy lives on in his innumerable contributions to the creative and design industries.
When I create a project I always want it to last for at least 100 years or even 1000 years.
Auction Results Enzo Mari