L’Ultimo Mobile


29 October 2020

“We never really talk about this,” says Martino Gamper. “The fact that when someone dies, we also need furniture.”

The London-based Italian designer was speaking to Serpentine Galleries artistic director Hans Ulrich Obrist in a live feed on La Triennale di Milano’s Instagram page. Almost every day since Enzo Mari and Lea Vergine died, the museum has been hosting daily conversations in memory of the influential designer and his partner, a leading art historian and critic. La Triennale is currently staging Enzo Mari, an ambitious retrospective of Mari’s work curated by Obrist and Francesca Giacomelli. Gamper is one among many designers who has drawn extensively on Mari’s thinking, in particular the 1974 book Autoprogettazione, a guide to DIY furniture-making. He was also a friend of Mari and Vergine.

“I wanted to make something to remember his spirit, his thinking, his ideas,” Gamper continued. “And I wanted to continue his project, the Autoprogettazione. So I made two coffins [in the style of the Autoprogettazione], as a way for me to think about Enzo and Lea’s legacy. I call them L’Ultimo Mobile, or the last furniture. It’s the idea of extending the book somehow – not just to chairs and tables and cupboards.” Gamper has made the coffins in his studio using Mari’s restrictions of 2 x 4 timber and nails, as specified in the Autoprogettazione. “Creating an object for someone you care for and love could be an interesting process for all of us,” said Gamper. “Sawing and hammering, and remembering the person.”

Disegno is pleased to share images of Gamper’s tribute below, with the permission of Gamper and the Serpentine Galleries, which staged Design is a State of Mind in 2014, a show guest-curated by Gamper in which Mari’s personal collection of paperweights was featured. Below is a joint statement from Obrist and Rebecca Lewin, curator of exhibitions and design at Serpentine Galleries.

“Mari’s seminal Autoprogettazione of 1974 has left a lasting imprint on the design world, and its message of autonomy, responsibility and activism continues to inspire today. At the Serpentine we had the privilege of working with designer Martino Gamper on the show Design is a State of Mind in 2014, and Mari’s personal collection of paperweights were placed at the heart of the exhibition, reminding visitors of the design thinking held equally within industrially produced and hand-crafted objects. In response to a conversation about how we could mark the passing of Mari and his wife, the legendary curator, critic and writer Lea Vergine, Gamper designed two coffins that pay homage to the principles of Autoprogettazione and worked with his neighbour, the Hackney-based photographer Robinson Barbosa, to create these images. Mari’s restricted use of 2 x 4 wood and nails, and his playful use of form, are applied by Gamper to the most personal piece of furniture any of us will ever come into contact with.”

Martino Gamper, L’Ultimo Mobile 1/2 (2020). Pine planks, nails. IMAGE Robinson Barbosa/Serpentine Galleries.
Martino Gamper, L’Ultimo Mobile 1/2 (2020). Pine planks, nails. IMAGE Robinson Barbosa/Serpentine Galleries.