Glass act: a Venice exhibition reveals a never before seen side of Ettore Sottsass

New exhibition of glassworks
Le Stanze del Vetro in Venice is celebrating what would have been Ettore Sottsass' 100th birthday with a new exhibition of his glassworks.
(Image credit: Enrico Fiorese)

Arranged jewel-like across the Le Stanze del Vetro showspace on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, Ettore Sottsass’ totemic glass sculptures tell the story of his life’s work. For the first exhibition dedicated entirely to the Italian designer’s work in glass and crystal, curator Luca Massimo Barbero has gathered more than 220 designs, dating between 1947 and 2007. 

The showcase, called ‘Ettore Sottsass: The Glass’, is timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the birth of Italian architect, and is, as Barbero says, ‘dedicated to revealing a never before seen Sottsass’.

Sottsass was first introduced to glass after he moved to Milan in 1946. His first glass object – a lined spherical vase, which was probably displayed at the eighth Milan Triennale – is dated 1947. He continued to work with the medium throughout his artistic life, collaborating with some of the most important glassworks of the time, such as Vistosi, Toso Vetri d’Arte, Gino Cenedese e Figlio, and Venini.

The Glass

Installation view of ‘Ettore Sottsass: The Glass’

(Image credit: Enrico Fiorese)

‘Glass is an incredible medium, at once mysterious, transparent and fragile,’ Sottsass said during one of his last interviews. ‘Glass, like ceramics, has a very peculiar characteristic: one doesn’t really know what goes into the furnace. Then all of a sudden a pure object breaks out, burnt by fire, an object of sheer purity and physical intangibility. It is like a vision. One is deeply involved when making glass. Glass is spectacular.’

With an exhibition layout by New York-based firm Selldorf Architects, who was responsible for the 2012 renovation of Le Stanze del Vetro, the showcase tracks the evolution of the designer’s works from the very first series he produced for the Vistosi glassworks in 1974, to the renowned sculptures he made with Toso Vetri d’Arte following the set up of the Memphis group in 1981.

Never-seen-before pieces include a series of sculptures, designed in 1999 at the request of the Sheik of Qatar, Saud Al Thani, for his Millenium House in Doha. The exhibition, which runs until 30 July, is accompanied by the first catalogue raisonné of the complete glass production by Sottsass, published by Skira.

Exhibition design - Selldorf Architects

The exhibition design has been conceived by New York-based firm Selldorf Architects

(Image credit: Enrico Fiorese)

Totemic glass sculptures

The totemic glass sculptures tell the story of his life’s work

(Image credit: Enrico Fiorese)

Arranged jewel-like across  Le Stanze del Vetro

Curated by Luca Massimo Barbero, the pieces are arranged jewel-like across  Le Stanze del Vetro

(Image credit: Enrico Fiorese)

'Ettore Sottsass: The Glass'

Installation view of 'Ettore Sottsass: The Glass'

(Image credit: Enrico Fiorese)


‘Ettore Sottsass: il vetro’ is on view until 30 July. For more information, visit the Le Stanze del Vetro website


Le Stanze del Vetro
Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore 1
Venice 30124