Genius Loci launches the first in a series of immersive exhibitions with a tribute to Italian architect and designer Gio Ponti. The sensory experience, which is being held at the Ponti-designed Paris villa, L’Ange Volant, from October 16 – 24 2021, showcases the responses of artists, architects and designers to the building.

L’Ange Volant by Gio Ponti

Le Saint light installation by Franklin Azzi 

The neo-Palladian villa, located in Garches on the outskirts of Paris, and built in 1927, was Ponti’s sole architectural project in France. Its romantic name, L’Ange Volant (the flying angel) was inspired by a wedding held barely a year after its completion. It celebrates the union between the villa’s commissioner, Tony Bouilhet, and Carla Borletti, Gio Ponti’s niece, who met her future husband on the building site while visiting her uncle from Italy.

This romantic spirit has inspired both emerging and established figures of art, architecture and design, who also nod to the villa’s elegant spaces, in the exhibition curated by Marion Vignal. Specially commissioned works come courtesy of Laurent Grasso, Mathias Kiss, Franklin Azzi, Sophie Dries, Julian Mayor, Maloles Antignac, Agnès Sébyleau, and Damian O’Sullivan, among others. These and other contemporary pieces – from the likes of Alicja Kwade, Mao Natsunaga and Studio KO, for example – are placed in juxtaposition with historical works by Gio Ponti and friends, including Ico Parisi and Piero Fornasetti.

Genius Loci design exhibition

pink stone with candle holders on
‘Plinth’ by Jonathan Trayte. Photography: Andy Keate, courtesy of Nilufar Gallery

The diverse nature of the works encompasses multiple media, from painting and sculpture to installation and fashion, ceramics, music and perfume. The pieces find a natural home in and outside the villa, delighting viewers, who are greeted by a light installation by architect Franklin Azzi floating in the courtyard. Inside, there are objets d’art, from Damian O’Sullivan’s double candle holder to Maloles Antignac’s sculptures, which pay tribute to Ponti’s fascination with the hand, as explored in his ceramics. Sophie Dries’ Murano glass mirror studded with stones makes a glinting foil for Julian Mayor’s low welded-steel table, while in the garden, Mathias Kiss draws angel wings in white inlaid marble.

The multisensory approach is manifest in Jérôme Echenoz’s sound installation, which visitors can enjoy upon their amble upstairs, while Barnabé Fillion was inspired by the lightness of being drawn into the building’s clean lines to create a perfume especially for Genius Loci.

After Paris, Genius Loci will visit Venice, Brussels, Milan, London and Los Angeles in a new celebration of artistically interesting buildings. §

Mirror with transparent glass frame photographed on a blue staircase inside Gio Ponti’s French villa
‘Alchemia’ mirror by Sophie Dries in collaboration with Nilufar gallery
glass table
Glass table by Studio KO ©Yann Deret
silver candlesticks

Candleholder by Damian O’Sullivan

green mirror

Mirror by Maurizio Donzelli, @Galerie Italienne