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SALONE DEL MOBILE.MILANO 2023 (THE 61ST EDITION) : TOWARDS A NEW TAXONOMY OF THE TRADE FAIR

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Published by Sugar & Cream, Friday 24 February 2023

Text and images courtesy of Salone del Mobile.Milano

18-23 April 2023 Fiera Milano Rho: the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, the International Furnishing Accessories Exhibition, Workplace3.0, S.Project, Euroluce, and SaloneSatellite

The Milan trade fair, the international point of reference for the furnishing and design sector, has reclaimed its traditional spot in the calendar, boasting a totally new format and multidisciplinary cultural content for Euroluce, and a decision to plan the 2023 edition on one single level at the fairgrounds, thus acting as a shockwave and paving the way for the new design of the trade fair event.

The 61st edition of the Salone del Mobile.Milano is being held at Fiera Milano Rho from 18th to 23rd April, bringing its “good looking” and “well made” products back onto what is an internationally important stage. Its return is, in itself, somewhat exceptional, not just in terms of the quality of the proposals and the companies taking part, but also because of the acceleration of the process of transformation and evolution of the trade fair that the event will be seen to have made. The Salone has always been testament to an extraordinary curiosity, willingness and openness to comparison and a huge desire and ability to improve, innovating consolidated formulas. Over the last few difficult years, there has been much reflection, research and questioning around the future of trade fairs, leading to a concrete revision of the exhibition format in a bid to be able to continue to generate value for the entire design community.

This positive and constructive energy has fuelled three major new departures at this edition: the single exhibition level, with the exhibitors from the upper pavilions (8-12, 16-20) moving into the lower ones, thus simplifying, improving and enhancing accessibility and the visitor experience; the new Euroluce layout, which rather than being stand-centric is now focused on people and their fruition of the event, with a smart, hyper-accessible and better connected loop-shaped path; and the cultural component will be integrated into the spaces of the lighting biennial, with interdisciplinary and experiential content ranging from architecture to art, with exhibitions, talks, workshops and site-specific installations.

Maria Porro, President of the Salone del Mobile.Milano, had this to say: “One of the characteristics of the Salone del Mobile is its ability to evolve in order to respond to the most urgent challenges of contemporary life. We did so in 2021, when we invented SuperSalone, the first global event after the really tough years of the pandemic, and with last June’s edition, when we went back to the traditional format, getting to grips with sustainability, and this we have continued to do for the 2023 edition. The idea of simply reverting to April, our traditional spot in the calendar, after three years, as if nothing had happened, was unthinkable. We worked on giving shape to the suggestions and visions that have emerged over the last few years, based on a couple of simple questions: what is the new role of the Salone? How and where to start redesigning its evolution? We listened to the needs of those who make and experience the Salone, exhibitors and visitors alike, holding more than 2,300 interviews and themed work groups. This fostered the idea for an exhibition on one single level to facilitate the flows and we took an almost “urbanistic” approach to the internal design of the pavilions. Taking our cue from Euroluce, the biennial devoted to the lighting world – which has changed so markedly over the last few years – we redesigned the path, integrating the spaces for companies with interdisciplinary cultural content connected with the relationship between light, architecture, art and science. A metamorphosis likely to interest the Salone as a whole, geared to helping redesign the trade fair model.”

Overall, the 2023 events will bring together 1962 exhibitors, including more than 550 young talents under 35 and 27 design schools. The Salone will create different worlds − the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, the International Furnishing Accessories Exhibition, Workplace3.0, S.Project, Euroluce, and SaloneSatellite −, will administer the rules – distribution and layout on a single level, aesthetic and cultural paths, experiential spaces and rest and relaxation areas −, suggest calls to action − (take part in) conferences, vertical workshops, (visit) thematic exhibitions, bookshops and (experience) site-specific installations − to allow visitors the possibility of an exciting, subjective, memorable exploration, the only one capable of creating long-term connections (business included).

This April edition sees the return of the lighting biennial (Euroluce, Pavilions 9-11 and 13- 15), now in its 31st edition, its exhibition layout rethought by the Lombardini22 studio, so as to guarantee better connections between the four pavilions, simplify the visitor path into an irregular loop, inspired by the street plans of traditional Italian towns – and, equally, to increase exhibitor visibility, ensuring that they each have a decent amount of space. The City of Lights will be the concept and the common thread running through the exhibition. Power of imagination and concrete vision will characterise the interdisciplinary cultural content curated by Beppe Finessi, turning Euroluce into a positive hub of emotions and knowledge. Thanks to Formafantasma’s precise and intelligent intervention, the heart of the biennial will be Aurore, a large plaza and arena for immersive and reflective experiences and the venue for a number of talks. The studio was also responsible for the project for twelve Constellations, architectural ‘intermezzos’ that will host exhibitions within the exhibition curated by Finessi, lining the entire exhibition path. The following are the main exhibitions: Massimo Curzi will curate and install the solo show of one of the most important contemporary photographers, Hélène Binet, featuring an original selection of images that will show how her work explores the relationship between natural light and architecture. Martina Sanzarello will curate and install an exhibition that pays homage to the classic incandescent light bulb, a contemporary story built on art and design, in the form of a sequence of light bulbs that are transformed from their primary and pragmatic function into unsettling objects and small experimental installations. Matteo Pirola has created a display of “artificial stars” the luminous devices that the “astronomer-designers” are examining, coming up with objects that show luminous happenings, orbiting spheres, reflective surfaces, blinding eclipses and coloured auroras, set up by the From outer Space studio. Michele Cazavara will be curating a collection of architectural images of interiors in which artificial light is the protagonist: a layout populated with accents and light points, in which a light source can be discerned, which inhabits and transforms the space in a speical way; the installation of this exhibition, devised by Berfu Bengisu Goren, makes for a hybrid experience, since the actual exhibition space is an area dedicated to workshops and professional meetings, technical and technological demonstrations. Lastly, Maurizio Nannucci, one of the most powerful interpreters of artificial light in contemporary art, will create a site-specific installation, a long luminous neon phrase: ‘YOU CAN IMAGINE THE OPPOSITE’ which exhorts the viewer to feel free to take a creative, curious and virtuous approach. Another important space, and a veritable “cultural garrison” will consist of the specialist design, art and illustration bookshop, which will also stock literary tomes that explore the theme of light in different ways. The space will be curated by Corraini Editori, and the project was devised by the studio Formafantasma as an intimate, warm and welcoming space. The Euroluce pavilions will also contain a bistro and a fine dining restaurant, designed by Piero Lissoni, to chime with the concept of space at the biennial.

More than 550 aspiring designers will be taking part in the 24th SaloneSatellite, in its new but entirely natural location inside the Euroluce pavilions (Pavs. 13-15), given that it represents the future of design par excellence. The 2023 edition will devote a particular focus to design schools and universities with the theme Design Schools – Universities / BUILDING THE (IM)POSSIBLE. Process, Progress, Practice. By putting the spotlight on them, SaloneSatellite wants to underscore the deep-rooted contribution they have made and continue to make to the training of young designers and to the advancement of design. Accordingly, the arrangement of exhibition spaces has been rethought, with the 27 participating schools and universities arranged in an outer ring encompassing the individual designers. The installation, is inspired by natural light and what it represents. The SaloneSatellite Award areas will be distinguished by the presence of the sun and the moon, elements that will dictate the look of the entire event. A special installation equipped with telescopes will be set up in each of the two squares, for viewing an imaginary sky reflecting the present and the future of design. The scenography and the graphic design for the display as a whole will rely on plays of light and shadow and the colour variations that light conveys from dawn till dusk.

Lastly, SaloneSatellite will pay tribute to Euroluce with the special Sate- Light. 1998-2022 SaloneSatellite Young Designers exhibition: set up symbolically on the boundary between the two areas – which will be highlighted by luminous projections showcasing most of the lamps by young designers who have taken part in the various editions over the years that have gone into production thanks to collaborations with companies that put their faith in the promising young talents. Last but not least, the guest SaloneSatellite intervention of the master Gaetano Pesce is keenly awaited. He has been invited not just to discuss the fundamental steps in his lengthy career and his interdisciplinary contribution to the design world, but also to trigger inspiration, energy and passion amongst the talented young designers listening to him.

A fresh programme of Talks, curated by Annalisa Rosso, with a particular focus on lighting, technology and sustainability, will be held in Aurore, the Euroluce arena (Pav. 13), enriching the fair with conversations and debates held by some of the most brilliant figures on the contemporary lighting project scene. A genuine invitation to reflect and share constructive thoughts on urgent contemporary matters that affect us all, such as ecological transition and the role of technology in the near future. Shigeru Ban, Kjetil Trædal Thorsen and Marius Myking of Snøhetta, Nao Tamura and Andrea D’Antrassi of MAD will be questioned by an equal number of international journalists on how innovation in the lighting field can improve our future lives. The debates will show just how projects, design and architecture can embrace the present and imagine the future, open up new avenues, come up with solutions and explore the realms of the “possible,” triggering insight and imagination

Environmental, economic and social responsibility will also be a priority at the 2023 edition of the Salone del Mobile.Milano, which has embarked on the path that will lead it, at the end of the event, to achieve ISO 20121 certification for sustainable events management. The verification process, which has so far led to certification for sustainable events organisation, was undertaken by the multinational certification company RINA.

“Following the 2022 edition, which had sustainability at its heart with the large installation by Mario Cuccinella, we decided to embark on the process for ISO 20121 certification, believing it crucial to continue along our path towards sustainability, whilst taking careful note of our progress. This also informed our decision to join the Global Compact. The certification process is helping us to acquire greater skills internally and also with regard to constructive dialogue with all the stakeholders involved. We are a global event, as organisers we are aware of just how important it is to share this ethical and responsible course of action with all the exhibiting companies, the fitters, the visitors and the entire design ecosystem,” said Maria Porro, President of the Salone del Mobile.Milano.

In this regard, the Salone is concerned about the potential impact of building temporary spaces, and has worked with Formafantasma and Lombardini22 to build modular structures for Euroluce to ensure the continuity of the installation project, if not as part of the fair, then in other places, which was the case with Mario Cucinella’s Design with Nature.

Furthermore, the Salone making efforts to identify suppliers of recycled, recyclable and/or reusable materials for building the common parts, and will endeavour to regenerate the resources consumed and absorb the waste produced, choosing institutional partners whose strategies are built around genuine concern for people and the planet, and fleshing out the guidelines for sustainable trade fair installations circulated amongst the exhibiting companies last year.

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Testament to its commitment and to the importance of increasingly incorporating sustainability into its strategic choices, the Salone has been a member of the United Nations Global Compact – the leading global business sustainability initiative – since 2022.

“The Salone del Mobile.Milano’s ability to experiment, innovate and interpret changes reflects a dynamism and willingness to do increasingly more and better for the wood- furnishing companies that have seen Italian design become the design par excellence at global level. The 61st edition, along with the biennial Euroluce exhibition, will unleash the energy that our companies, large and small, harnessed to bring the supply chain to a production turnover of almost 57 billion euros in 2022, up 12.7% compared to 2021 (FederlegnoArredo Study Centre Preliminary Data), accounting for a 11.1% rise in the Furnishing Macrosystem, a 14.3% rise in the Wood Macrosystem and a 15% rise in the timber trade. The Italian market has risen 12.3%, thanks particularly to the positive contribution of some segments, including that of building industry finishings (doors, windows, wood flooring), while exports, which make up 37% of the sector, are estimated o have grown 13.3%, driven in particular by the United States (the third destination market after France and not far behind Germany). Several different factors contributed to these results, from the effectiveness of the building incentives, to the renewed centrality of the home during the pandemic, the recognition – also in the emerging markets ‒of the undisputed quality and excellence of our products, and our companies’ determination to keep on investing. This success is a reward for the constant research and innovation work being carried out by our companies in the field of product durability, the use of secondary raw materials, energy saving and the training of human resources. The sustainability of products, processes and social sustainability, in a word. It is precisely this concept of sustainability that FederlegnoArredo has been promoting for some years now, embarking with its associates on a path that will see us become the undisputed leaders in a field in which we already excel, as demonstrated also by the recent recognition by the UN as the first wood-furniture supply chain in the world to become a member of the Global Compact. The Federation, entrepreneurs and the Salone del Mobile are forging a path together towards a common goal that encapsulates the highest value of doing business: responsibility towards the future,” said Claudio Feltrin, President of FederlegnoArredo.

One of the keys to the upcoming edition will be a perfect combination of digital and real, which will serve to exponentially enhance the experiences, the narrations and the content on a daily basis. This means the digital platform will become much busier before, during and after the event, not least thanks to our collaboration with the national and international sectoral press and with YesMilano, the city of Milan’s official promotion agency. New editorial and service projects will be activated on the different touch points – website, newsletter, app, and social networks. These will include Unboxing, a format dedicated to previews of products from the exhibiting companies and White Paper, a series of in-depth articles by leading international journalists, as well as the daily reports from the fair and post-event analyses.

A new series of podcasts will narrate the protagonists of the event and all the latest product- wise; the official Salone del Mobile.Milano app will be updated with new functions and services, including augmented reality and wayfinding. Once again, it will be possible to purchase tickets, access details of the products on exhibit and scan the relative QR Codes to find out all the technical details. Sectoral professionals will be able to make appointments with the companies in order to meet the interlocutors that interest them in person, while it matchmaking will make it easier for the brands to make contact with visitors to their stands. In terms of results, 80 million social network accounts were accessed, while the digital platform racked up 14 million views over the last year. The official Salone del Mobile.Milano 2023 hashtags will be #Salonedelmobile2023 and #Euroluce2023.

Testament to the Salone del Mobile.Milano’s ongoing commitment to inclusion, service and training, and as confirmation of its international role, the Welcome Project will be running for the eighth year. It is an upshot of the collaboration with the Municipality of Milan, the Fondazione Fiera Milano and the city’s leading design schools ‒ NABA, New Academy of Fine Arts, IED European Institute of Design, the Polytechnic University of Milan/Design School and Domus Academy –, representing the excellence of education in the field of design and architecture. This collaboration is the cornerstone of a process of rapprochement between the worlds of school and work that is based on dialogue and the sharing of experiences and opportunities for growth. The Salone will be organising welcome points at focal points throughout the city, manned by a hundred or so students, on hand to provide the public with information on navigating the city, on the fair itself and on the main events that will take place in Milan during the week. The young people will have an opportunity to dialogue with design industry professionals, find out about the dynamics and mechanisms involved with organising an event such as the Salone, and take part in dedicated open lessons and in all the multidisciplinary cultural events being held this year. They will also have the opportunity to make use of an exhibition space within the SaloneSatellite plaza.

In the spirit of increasing openness to the exchange and circulation of ideas, culture and creativity, and to underscore the strength and importance of the Salone’s powerful ties with the city of Milan, the collaboration with the Teatro alla Scala Foundation is being renewed for the third year running. It is a partnership born of the desire to marry common values, as well as to promote and valorise the talent of its Philharmonic Orchestra and, equally, to give the design community an opportunity to experience a unique occasion. This year, the inspiration for both the music programme and the ballet will be light, which will also form the leitmotiv. In particular, the ballet Light will be making its world première, with original choreography designed and created ad hoc for the Salone and its biennial exhibition. Light and 20th century America will form the theme of the second half, with a programme performed by the Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Carlo Boccadoro, one of the most renowned Italian contemporary composers, and featuring the soprano Lauren Michelle.

Giuseppe Sala, Mayor of Milan, had this to say: “We are delighted that the Salone del Mobile.Milano is reclaiming its traditional spot in the calendar of city appointments with a new formula. What we have gone through over the last few years has changed our society and the Salone, which has always been an interpreter of contemporaneity and the challenges of the present and future through the conception of cutting-edge furnishings and furnishing accessories, was the obvious advocate for the search for a new normality. The fluidity of the exhibition paths, the reflections, the debates and the opportunities for interface around the themes of sustainability and financial and social responsibility of the businesses operating within the sector will help to make the Salone visitor experience even more engaging. Milan is ready to welcome designers, planners, architects and producers, as well as design-loving visitors and tourists who are also keen to see the innovative developments that the Salone has in store for them, both inside and outside the fairgrounds”.

Following in the footsteps of Emiliano Ponzi, the Salone del Mobile.Milano entrusted the communication campaign images for the 2023 edition to Leftloft, a Milanese design communication studio, and Gio Pastori, a highly-renowned illustrator and collagist on the Milan Millennial arts scene. In order to build a contemporary and, especially, an immediate and universal lexicon, they went back to the beginnings. This spawned the idea for a new ABC of design, with archetypes and icons narrating the protagonists of the Salone, around whom the Milanese design system revolves. The communication campaign features 26 posters, one for each letter of the alphabet, each accompanied by an object or furnishing piece, the campaign headline Do you speak design? directly interrogating the observer. As the visuals and lettering roll on − A is for armchair, B is for bookcase, C is for chair … − the answer bursts out loud and clear. These are complemented by the powerfully evocative poster for Euroluce: the biennial is depicted as a magical space from which a brilliant luminosity erupts, piercing the intense hues that surround it.

The institutional partnership between Intesa Sanpaolo and the Salone which began in 2017 continues, following a long-standing affiliation that has seen the bank committed to sectors such as design and furniture, the jewels in the crown of Made in Italy. Intesa Sanpaolo, Italy’s leading bank, is thus renewing its support for the Italian furniture, furnishings and design sector, with the aim of supporting companies in their efforts to reduce their environmental impact and develop their activities abroad.

Our partnership with Radio Deejay, Radio Capital and Radio m2o continues, providing the soundtrack – amongst other things – to the 61st edition of the Salone del Mobile, Milano. The radio truck will be parked in Corso Italia, outside Pavilion 22 at Fiera Milano Rho every day throughout the event, playing host to and broadcasting live some of the programmes in the palimpsest: music, entertainment, and information will alternate with the many voices of brands, designers, architects and visitors that the DJs and hosts will bring in to provide a live narration of what’s happening and how things are at the Salone.

Gaetano Pesce_Photo_Gabriele Zanon

The Salone del Mobile.Milano sees Federlegno Arredo Eventi and the Italian Trade Agency ICE the government body that underpins the economic and commercial development of Italian businesses abroad and works to attract foreign investment in Italy ‒ working closely together to devise a raft of strategic activities designed to pique the interest and encourage the participation of foreign professionals, buyers, architects, interior designers and journalists in the various editions of the Salone in particular. Again this year, ICE has lent invaluable and greatly-appreciated support to the Salone del Mobile.Milano, with a view to bringing as many skilled foreign professionals as possible to Milan, as a testament to the country’s ability to build a system that benefits businesses and regions alike.

Annalisa Rosso_curatrice_curator | Sigheru Ban_Shigeru Ban Architects | Kjetil Thorsen_Snøhetta | Marius Myking_Snøhetta | Nao Tamura | Andrea D’Antrassi_MAD

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