Urushi no Kirameki

May 12th – June 9th, 2023
Galleria Giustini / Stagetti

About the Exhibition

Galleria Giustini / Stagetti presents the exhibition Enzo Mari, Urushi no Kirameki, dedicated to the Milanese designer’s (1932 – 2020) precious works for MaruTomi, a Japanese company specializing in the production of objects that are lacquered using the finest, traditional techniques.

The collection of nine works, designed in 2001, is on display for the first time in Europe since its initial presentation in Milan in 2002 (Salone del Mobile, Galleria Milano).

Cherished since ancient times, lacquer is a natural substance obtained from the sap of the tree which bears the same name, Urushi, found only in Japan and Southeast Asia.
The surfaces’ strength and shine result from the application of successive layers of lacquer – alternating whetstones sharpening and sandpaper processes – and a meticulous final polishing. Some lacquering methods require a total of more than 100 steps, applied by skilled artists inside sealed, perfectly clean, temperature- and humidity – controlled rooms.

Masato Hayashi, owner of MaruTomi, after working with Ettore Sottsass, was introduced to Enzo Mari by Masanori Umeda and his daughter Nanae and was immediately impressed by his design methodology, which always gave essentiality and coherence to his projects.
A connoisseur of Japan – he had first visited in 1969 – and of its craft traditions and materials, Mari for the first time uses Urushi lacquer. In these works, he showed his deep knowledge of lacquer by choosing forms that were best suited to illustrate its quality: mirrored surfaces, sharp edges, soft curves.

Some of these forms are new, such as the Magnifica and Segreto, while others draw on earlier projects like the 16 animali (Danese Milano, 1957) and 16 pesci (Danese Milano, 1961), or like the works Forte, Torre (Ferri Saldati, Danese Milano, 1958) and Nanae (Nias, Danese Milano, 1982).

Three different types of wood are used for these pieces: Japanese lime, Zelkova serrata, and Thujopsis dolabrata. They are refined using Nuritate, a deep glossy lacquering technique, Roiro, a lacquering technique which results in a mirrored surface and Fukiurushi, which gently conveys the atmosphere of wood materials.

Mari chose two different colors: mahogany and caramel.
The former is traditionally known as 溜 = ta me, the color of elegance. Caramel, on the other hand, known as shunkei, denotes radiance.

The exhibition seeks to document a lesser-known period of Enzo Mari’s connection with craftsmanship and the culture of manual labor. He considered those who performed this sort of work to be the custodians of knowledge and techniques, worth handing down to future generations, in opposition to modern society’s obsession with speed and consumption.

These pieces stand the test of time and are unique in that they are an expression of the subjectivity of the individual and, specifically, of the manual skill of artists of a millenary tradition, developed through the shared values of harmony, balance, and respect with/for nature.

A special thanks to Masato Hayashi and Alessandro Redaelli.