Press Release

“Celebrate Harry Bertoia” – Knoll Pays Tribute to the Centennial of the Birth of Harry Bertoia by Exploring the Work of the Eclectic Designer in All His Various Art Forms

Installation designed by OMA

April 14, 2015

To pay homage and to update its history, Knoll celebrates the birth centennial of Harry Bertoia with the exhibition “Celebrate Harry Bertoia” from 14 to 19 April, during the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, at the showroom in Milan. An installation designed by OMA to present, for the first time, along with the world-famous collection of seating designed for Knoll but also sculptures, jewelry and drawings by the eclectic artist born exactly 100 years ago, on 10 March 1915 at San Lorenzo di Arzene, near Pordenone, Italy.

An important section of the exhibition is on the design of the famous Diamond Chair, which Bertoia called “a real sculpture made of air and steel” that plays with the contrast between sturdiness and light lines. Florence and Hans Knoll, in close collaboration with the artist, thus created a collection of seating “inspired by an inner source,” with the right balance of art and industry, functional and aesthetic quality.

The celebration of the centennial is not just an opportunity to pay homage to a great artist but also and above all a chance to discover the versatile character of his work. An eclectic designer, he ranged from drawings to sculptures, jewelry engraving to music, with his “sound sculptures.” Different disciplines, approached with a spirit of experimentation in techniques and constructive methods, with a personal vision of art as work that can be industrially produced, in the spirit of the technologies of the time, and therefore inseparable from the approach and goals of design.

The exhibition design by OMA, the studio cofounded by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, interprets the various works from Bertoia’s vast output, which inspired by nature explores space and interprets its functional and material qualities. “Inside Outside” by Petra Blaisse brings new perspectives and completes the experience of light, sound and space within the exhibition.

OMA describes the project as follows: “Linoleum carpets in the form of a gong, directly based on the Monotype series of drawings by Bertoia, are used to indicate the different sections of the show. Areas set aside for reading, video and audio narrate his life and works, combining a retrospective of archival films and recordings with more contemporary analysis and reinterpretation of his iconic design. His jewelry, another art form he explored, again underlines the wide range of materials used by Bertoia, always in pursuit of new interpretations of what is offered by nature.”

Everything is enhanced by materials never before exhibited from the personal collection of Celia Bertoia, the designer’s daughter. An important nucleus of the exhibition is 30 monotypes, refined, rare prints on paper, made as one-offs from the late 1940s to the early 1970s. These works offer the opportunity to explore an original but seldom examined part of Bertoia’s output, shedding light on that various influences, also from Europe, that converge in his art, where he was never fully satisfied by the results achieved. The monotypes on display, juxtaposed with sculptures and the Diamond Chairs, make it possible to grasp the many references and interactions between the various expressive forms employed by Bertoia.


  • Designer Biography: Harry Bertoia