Charles Zana creates unexpected dialogues with 17 paired works in Paris

In exhibition Utopia, Charles Zana turns Tornabuoni Art in Paris into a salon of intimate conversations between Italy’s greatest post-war artists and architects

Slanted chair and photograph
Installation view of Utopia at Tornabuoni Art in Paris
(Image credit: Matthieu Salvaing)

In the decades that followed World War II, post-fascist Italy experienced a cultural revolution. The political awakening the resulted from years of dictatorship led to a creative renaissance, shifting the country’s cultural landscape forever. While arte povera artists, from the late 1960s onwards, celebrated a return to simple and unconventional materials, coincidentally, the radical design movement proposed new ways of living, empowering a generation of architects who were critical of traditional planning methods.

Paying homage to the radical legacy of the period spanning from the mid-1940s to the 1970s, the exhibition Utopia has turned Tornabuoni Art in Paris into a salon of intimate conversations between Italy’s greatest post-war artists and architects. ‘The exhibition is not about creating historical links between them,’ explains French architect Charles Zana, who curated and conceived the group show in collaboration with the Florence-born gallery. ‘It is about their common ways of understanding their time.’

Sideboard and painting

(Image credit: Press)

Lucio Fontana artwork

Rare cabinet Barbarella by Ettore Sottsass,1966 with L’addio dell’amico che parte all’amico che rimane, by Giorgio de Chirico, 1950. Below, Concetto spaziale, Attesa, by Lucio Fontana, 1965. © Tornabuoni Art

(Image credit: Jacques Pépion)

For Utopia, Zana has paired 17 artists with 17 designers and architects, creating a mise-en-scène of imaginary scenarios in which Giorgio De Chirico befriends Ettore Sottsass and Lucio Fontana meditates with Carlo Mollino. Whether linked by a similar aesthetic sensitivity, philosophical concerns or shared vocabulary, the Italian duos dismantle the boundaries between art and design to reveal the common approaches that came to define this hopeful epoch. If architect Andrea Branzi and artist Piero Paolo Calzolari never had a chance to meet in real life, Zana claims they now have: ‘I created a meeting between them, a sharing of values.'

Other significant works include a cast resin dining table by Gaetano Pesce from 1980, a wooden chair by Carlo Mollino from 1959 and a camouflage fabric on frame by Alighiero Boetti from 1967. ‘It was very emotional when we opened the boxes,’ recounts Zana, who sourced the historical pieces from a number of collections and foundations across Europe. ‘I was very touched to discover the works, some of which I had only seen in pictures.’ The exhibition will be on show until 21 December at the gallery’s Paris outpost, and is part of a programme of exhibitions devoted to the Italian cultural landscape from the 1950s to the 1980s.

Fluffy painting

(Image credit: Matthieu Salvaing)

Utopia at Tornabuoni Art in Paris

(Image credit: Matthieu Salvaing)


Utopia is on view until 21 December.


9 Rue Charlot,
75003 Paris