Sotheby’s to auction art works taken from Gio Ponti’s ’Beetle under the leaf’ house
When we shot our ’Super Furry’ story back in 2007 (W* 102), we marvelled at Italian architect Gio Ponti’s skilful design for the iconic ’Beetle under the leaf’ house, whose carefully curated interiors contain part of the owner’s extraordinary art collection.
The playful residence, designed by Ponti in 1964, belongs to famed collector Giobatta Meneguzzo, who took up Ponti on his offer to work on the magnificent house for free, provided he would invest in the experimental design. Located in the village of Malo, in Northern Italy’s Vicenza, the incredible beetle-shaped, white-tiled house (also known as ’Lo Scarabeo sotto la Foglia’) was finished in 1969, complete with its distinctive fur-clad staircase and interiors by designer Nanda Vigo.
Fast-forward 45 years, and Sotheby’s is revisiting the project, orchestrating an exciting auction of a selection of works of art from the house and Meneguzzo’s collection - as part of its autumn Italian Sale. Taking place on 17 October, the auction will include significant works by the likes of Enrico Castellani and Lucio Fontana. Meneguzzo - also behind the Museum Casabianca - is known for his dedication to post-war and contemporary art.
’I have been passionate about collecting since I was child; I still remember insisting that my mother take a painting called "Flight into Egypt", made by a relative of ours, back to the house; I still have it in my home now,’ says the collector. ’Over the years, thanks to my profession, I came into close contact with the art world. For me, these years were an exciting journey, for the diverse relationships between artists, critics and gallerists.’ It was these relationships that inspired Meneguzzo to build his enviable collection, part of which lines the walls of Lo Scarabeo.
The artworks taken from the house, for the auction, are associated with the post-war Zero Group movement. This is the first time Sotheby’s have bought a single-owner collection of the specific style since 2010, and this auction will also include Castellani’s monumental ’Superficie Bianca’, 1967, which was created site-specifically for Lo Scarabeo.
Alex Branczik, head of contemporary art at Sotheby’s, explains: ’The Meneguzzo collection is unique. What’s so exceptional about the works from Lo Scarabeo is that the collector worked directly with many of the greatest artists of post-war Italy, who, in some cases, created works specifically for the house. Gio Ponti, alongside artists like Castellani, Fontana and Bonalumi, were hugely influential in redefining European art and architecture in the 1950s and 1960s, so the house and its collection capture this key moment in time.’
Thanks to Meneguzzo, Lo Scarabeo and its precious contents are an exceptional convergence of art and architecture. ’I think they [art and architecture] are parallel worlds that sometimes get closer without touching, fundamentally linked to the sensitivity between architect and artist,’ says Meneguzzo. ’The artist’s choices are aesthetic, the architect’s are to do with shape and mass, so they can talk to each other but not assimilate one another.’