Now showing: Studio65 at GAM

The Merchant of Clouds

By Anna Carnick

Founded in 1965 in Turin by Franco Audrito and a band of architecture and art students, Studio65 is an iconic Italian pop and radical design collective known for its fanciful, audacious, and countercurrent designs. In honor of the studio’s fiftieth anniversary, Turin’s Galleria d’Arte Moderna (GAM) presents The Merchant of Clouds: Fifty Years of Future. The whimsical exhibition celebrates not only the studio’s most emblematic projects, such as the lips-shaped Bocca couch and the foam, Greek Ionic column-inspired Capitello seat (perfect examples of the studio’s radical responses to the pure functionalism of the era’s International Style), but also its lesser-known projects, cumulatively retracing Studio65’s irreverent, ironic, and frequently politicized approach over the past several decades.

As curator Maria Cristina Didero notes, from the very beginning and still today, “For Studio65, dreams and reality are not separate.” As Didero tells us, “The occasion of the 50th anniversary of Studio65 was really just an excuse: We wanted to make a point about the group’s last half century of activity as a starting point to keep looking to the future. I also thought that it was fundamental—and I was very thrilled about this—to show the 'other works' by Studio65, the ones that are less known . . . I wanted to tell a story that was never entirely told. Most of all, I wanted to show how Studio65’s approach to design and architecture is still deeply characterized, after so many years, by the same ideology and motivations that its members shared when the studio was [first] initiated.”

For his part, Audrito has fancifully chosen to use the show as an opportunity to reveal an incredible secret—that the design and architecture studio has, from the start, been nothing but a front for his more vital role, as a Merchant of Clouds. According to Audrito’s tale, during the 1960s, an American Indian chief passed down the secret of the clouds to him, and since that time, “Yes, that’s exactly right: I have produced, sold and distributed around the world . . . clouds.” His larger point? “In taking this secret with you,” he writes, “having spent these fifty fabulous years with Studio65, you will begin to believe that ‘Reality’ is contained in the world of ‘Dreams,’ and that what awaits you outside, which everyone calls ‘Reality,’ is nothing but an eternal fiction.”

The exhibition invites visitors not just to view, but also to touch and play with many of the works; in addition, Tonatto Profumi has developed a special perfume for Studio65 inspired by the notion of clouds, adding another multisensory layer to the show. 

The Merchant of Clouds is on display at GAM through February 28, 2016; afterwards, it will travel to the Middle East. 

I wanted to tell a story that was never entirely told.

To visit: GAM via Magenta, 31 - 10128 Torino Italy -

  • Text by

    • Anna Carnick

      Anna Carnick

      Anna is Pamono’s Managing Editor. Her writing has appeared in several arts and culture publications, and she's edited over 20 books. Anna loves celebrating great artists, and seriously enjoys a good picnic.

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