Talking Shop

Luck and Sex. That’s All.

Wava Carpenter

The first retrospective of postmodern Italian designer-entrepreneur Paolo Pallucco

In the 1980s, the world was in love with designs made in Italy, as the country’s fashion, furniture, and cars enjoyed an international reputation for high quality and high style. At the time, the rich design culture in Italy nurtured a number of creative mavericks who challenged bourgeois tastes in favor of alternative lifestyles, outré forms, and bold aesthetic expressions. Operating within this subset of radical Italian designers (which included the likes of Ettore Sottsass and Alessandro Mendini) was Paolo Pallucco and his eponymous furniture brand, the subject of a new exhibition organized by postmodern design specialists Paul Bourdet of Paul Bourdet Fine Furniture and Ștefan Cosma of Eclectico Studio.

Designs by husband and wife team Paolo Pallucco and Mireille Rivier: Fauteuil Barba d’Argento, c. 1986 and Table Basse Tankette, c. 1987. Photo © Studio Shapiro

Opening next week at Ketabi Projects in Paris, Paolo Pallucco: Luck and Sex. That’s All.—the first-ever Pallucco retrospective—presents a collection of some forty pieces, all designed for the Pallucco brand in the 1980s by Pallucco himself, his wife Mireille Rivier, and famed Japanese fashion designer Rei Kawakubo, among others. This body of work is strikingly postmodern to be sure: chair structures intersected by oversized crosses, seat backs arching insouciantly into ground, coffee tables that mimic the continuous-track wheels of a tank. But unlike other ‘80s-era radical designs such as Memphis, Pallucco’s furniture is overtly minimalist, featuring rail-thin metal frames finished mainly in black.

Designs by husband and wife team Paolo Pallucco and Mireille Rivier: Sedia Tutta di un Pezzo Che si Curva ma Non si Spezza, c. 1990; Chaise Black Stalker Chair, c. 1987; Tabouret Black Stalker Stool, c. 1987; and Sedia del Calvario., c. 1990. Photo © Studio Shapiro

Last century’s anti-design movement has been a hot topic over the past few years, evident in record-breaking secondary market sales and in the popularity of contemporary decor rendered in the robust palettes and geometries that were the signature of Memphis nearly 40 years ago. Pallucco’s distinct iconoclastic yet pared back visual vocabulary will likely find fertile ground for a renaissance as a counterpoint to the exuberant side of the Memphis revival. “I think that his work is relevant in today’s design market, because we are in a time of rediscovery with a strong appeal for radical design,” Bourdet says. “So stars align for this forgotten genius!”

Designs by husband and wife team Paolo Pallucco and Mireille Rivier: Porte-Manteaux Bocca da Fuoco, c. 1987 and Angelo Necessario Bibliothèque, c. 1989. Photo © Studio Shapiro

Paolo Pallucco: Luck and Sex. That’s All. is on view at Ketabi Projects March 3 - 20, 2022.