Design professionals and enthusiasts from around the globe have just started to catch their collective breath as Milan’s annual mega design fair, Salone del Mobile, comes to a close. Over 300,000 buyers, retailers, interior designers, architects, and more visited the fiera last week to scout the latest and greatest from 1,363 international design brands specialized in mass-market products. (Think Vitra, Moroso, and Knoll, to name a few of the most recognizable.) But it’s FuoriSalone (literally, “outside Salone”) that attracts those on the lookout for the unconventional and cutting edge. Hundreds of smaller scale, guerilla-style exhibitions mounted across the city offer a concentrated view of the work of emerging and experimental designers, small-scale producers, galleries, and institutions. This, perhaps more so than at the fair itself, is where the pulse of the design world is taken every year.
FuoriSalone has so much to offer (no one person can physically see everything!) with each edition presenting a variety of approaches, with varying degrees of success. This year, though, the most memorable projects told a story of renewed engagement with sculpture and craft. Rich materials—copper, brass, bronze, porcelain, blown glass, marble, fur, enamel, and lacquer—bold and sophisticated color palettes, and striking, confident forms abounded, often produced through traditional craft techniques, with a recurring tension between the civilized and the natural. Without dismissing the wealth of novel, researched, and visionary concepts, one of the biggest takeaways from this year’s crop of talent is an elevated and refined attention to detail that embraced the very materiality of the work. Whether conceptually or functionally driven (or neither), these standout objects delivered, in sum, a delicious feast for the eyes.