Fulvio and Napoleone Ferrari about Carlo Mollino

Interview & Photography by: Mart Engelen

Courtesy Museo Carlo Mollino
 

Courtesy Museo Carlo Mollino


 

Mollino’s story remains little-known, obscured by prejudice against his sometimes shocking behaviour, even as collectors around the world pursue his designs with increasing passion. To learn more about this myste- rious yet influential figure, I asked Mollino experts, Fulvio Ferrari and his son Napoleone, who founded and now direct the Casa Mollino, the Carlo Mollino house/museum and foundation in Turin, some more questions
 

Mart Engelen: Can you tell me about the Casa Mollino, the house/museum that you direct? What are its origins?
Fulvio and Napoleone Ferrari: The private apartment that Carlo Mollino designed for himself in the 1960s, but where he never actually lived, is an enigmatic work with no apparent use. We acquired the in- terior in 1999 and started a patient reconstruction, bringing back objects and furniture that were dispersed after Mollino’s death in 1973. This allowed us to immerse ourselves slowly in Mollino’s intimate project, as he put it, ‘preparation for his sunset boulevard’.
ME: When did your fascination for Carlo Mollino start?
F&N: In the early 1980s, as a gallery owner, Fulvio began researching and rediscovering Italian post-war design and this led to an encounter with Mollino’s work, meetings with the architect’s friends and clients and listening to extraordinary accounts of his personality and talent. In 1985, Fulvio set up the first Mollino exhibition of furniture and Polaroids. After publishing twelve books on his work, we are still busy shedding light and building an understanding of his life.
ME: Did you have the opportunity to meet him?
F&N: We never met him, but we interviewed his clients, colleagues, university professors, his craftsmen and the pilots, car drivers and skiers who shared his passion for those sports; we spoke with his girlfriends and models; we read hundreds of his private letters and documents. All this created a fantastic portrait that most probably even his best friends could not have ever put together.
ME: Can you tell me more about his Polaroid project? Did Mollino use the Casa Mollino as a backdrop for many of his Polaroids?
F&N: The Polaroid project follows up the first nude photographs he took with a Leica in the late 1950s. All together, hundreds of Polaroids make up a unique, refined, in-depth portrait of ‘the woman’—seductive, mysterious, indomitable, ingenuous. It is a fresco built up over ten years, beginning in the very early 1960s. Mollino purchased hundreds of dresses and prepared the interior of a little villa in the hills near Turin as a backdrop for styling this photographic work. Only a few Polaroids were actually taken in Casa Mollino. ME: Do you have a favourite story that you can reveal about Carlo Mollino?
F&N: Mollino’s life is strewn with anecdotes. One we like is the time he arrived at a chic and very formal party wearing his leather flying jacket. On being reproached for his inappropriate dress, he answered, “I am wearing my mental frock”.
ME: Analysing all his projects, from photography to architecture, from designing cars to furniture, can we conclude he just did what he liked in life?
F&N: We can probably claim more precisely that Mollino pursued many different aspects of life, all im- portant to a better understanding of our world, from his interest in missiles to cake recipes, making him a very ‘rounded’ man.
ME: Did he co-operate with the Agnelli family on projects?
F&N: No, a figure like Mollino was too extravagant for the Agnelli family, they preferred to work with more orthodox figures, such as the engineer Pier Luigi Nervi. Mollino, coming from a wealthy family, focused mostly on his own life and work, never trying to be part of any powerful clique or religious group. ME: Why do you think Mollino’s work continues to fascinate people today?
F&N: Mollino’s work is profoundly rich since it is grounded in a knowledge of nature and mankind. For this reason his work is ‘classical’—it moves us just like the emotions created by a work by Mozart or Bruegel or a Ferrari Testarossa.