Studio 65 turns 50! The radical group which has shaped the world’s design imagination is the subject of a celebratory exhibition at the Galleria d'Arte Moderna (GAM) in Turin, the city where their design adventure started. An exhibition celebrating the studio’s first half century, and the first show entirely dedicated to its work, 'Il Mercante di Nuvole' (a title meaning ‘the cloud vendor’) was curated by Maria Cristina Didero, who orchestrated a dynamic yet encyclopedic overview of the studio’s works. Didero worked closely with studio founder Franco Audrito, with the rest of the Studio 65 group and with a global network of scholars and design connoisseurs to contribute anecdotes and thoughts about the last 50 years in design.

Companies involved in the early stages of the studio’s design production also pitched in, with Gufram digging into their archives to unveil some rarely seen, early originals from Audrito’s magnificent creative production. The group's most famous piece, the lip-shaped 'Bocca' sofa (originally produced for a Milanese beauty salon) was reissued in an appropriate golden version by the company, on display at the show. For the occasion, the original red version of the sofa will also be installed in some of Turin’s train stations – the radical design movement subtly taking over the city for the three months of the exhibition. 

The studio was born in a turbulent political era, first forming at the Polytechnic University of Turin. Twelve members of the studio graduated from the school in 1967 with a group thesis titled ‘Sic Transit Scientia Mundi’ (an adaptation of the religious ‘sic transit gloria mundi’, indicating the ephemeral nature of the world; its contents were a clear critique of polytechnic life). The thesis, on display at the show, was a manifesto of sorts, drawn on tracing paper with pastel colours, presented to their lecturer, designer Carlo Mollino, as a continuous roll of paper hung with clothes pegs.

Its more famous design pieces are only a fraction of the vast production, that often took on a critical stance. ‘Both on large and small scale[s], the studio has always applied a single criterion: to think outside the box,’ says Didero. Each object or piece of furniture was designed according to the space that it would inhabit, and the studio’s interiors projects created imaginary universes, which merged past and future and tried to change the world at home. ‘The architect is able to design and realise everyone’s dreams, transforming water, stone, concrete and clay into objects to help us live our lives,’ says Audrito, whose work often merged dreams and reality.

‘We owe them the future,’ is the opinion of radical design collector Dakis Joannou on the group’s work, and Didero’s curation cleverly looks at the past of this design studio while clearly showing why their ideas have been important for the future. Their inspired ingenuity produced some of the most legendary pieces of design of the last century, but their work also set the basis for a wider creative conversation, combining a fun use of shape and colour with a critical discourse about everyday life.