Joe Colombo

Design and the Invention of the Future


Curated by: Mateo Kries, Ignazia Favata

Curatorial Representative La Triennale di Milano: Arturo Dell'Acqua Bellavitis
An exhibition of Vitra Design Museum and La Triennale di Milano in co-operation with Studio Joe Colombo, Milan

Televisions that retract into the ceiling, pivoting walls with a built-in mini-bar, underground "nuclear cities" – the works of Italian designer Joe Colombo could have emerged from the set of a contemporary James Bond film. They exude the spirit of the shrill Sixties yet also impress with their functionality and striking forms.


One of the most successful designers of his time, Colombo produced design classics such as the "Elda" armchair, the "Universale" chair or the lamp "Alogena". In 1971, Joe Colombo died at 41 years of age. The exhibition "Joe Colombo – Design and the Invention of the Future" is the first international retrospective dedicated to Colombo's work.


Produced in close cooperation with the estate of Joe Colombo, the exhibition presents an abundance of never-before-shown materials on Joe Colombo's body of work. These include early original objects and prototypes of Colombo's most important furniture designs as well as many original rough sketches, plans, brochures, architectural models, several films and original photos. Structured into four groups, the exhibition traces the rapid development of Colombo's brief life and conveys a lively impression of the designer's tremendous productivity that fascinated contemporaries even during his lifetime.



As made clear by the many photos of Colombo's own apartments in which he himself is typically shown, Colombo was not only one of the most important designers of his time but also a gifted communicator and self-promoter. Always elegantly dressed and never without a pipe in his mouth, Colombo furnished fitting images to accompany his designs: that of a "designer dandy" who was fascinated by the possibilities of new technologies and the improvement of everyday life. He even perfected a simple object like a pipe by levelling off the bottom so it could be put down on the table without falling over. Colombo was hence both – one of the great future visionaries of the 20th century as well as a pragmatist for whom the future began with the little everyday things.

Kunsthaus Graz

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10th April 2023
1st May 2023
29th May 2023

21st February 2023
24th/25th December 2023