Strange things happen in Turin.
Giorgio de Chirico’s canvasses were haunted by the “nostalgia of the infinite” he sensed in the piazzas of this neo-classical northern Italian city; it’s also where Nietzsche went nuts and supposedly boasts the Gates of Hell among its landmarks. There have been a remarkable number of ghostly sightings and other paranormal activity in the city, and occult lore holds that it is located at the meeting point of the world’s axes of white and black magic. All of this makes Turin not just a magnet for devotees of medieval manchester but also a popular destination for devil worshippers.
Turin was also the hometown of architect, designer, photographer, race car driver, pilot and competitive skier Carlo Mollino, an extraordinary, larger-than-life character who was in thrall to the city’s supernatural allure. Born on this day in 1905, Mollino chose to remain in Turin rather than follow his career to Milan or any of the other more obvious design centres. He pursued a rigorous perfectionism, concentrating on one-off pieces and although recognisably Modernist, his vision is also indebted to Surrealism, which he described as his escape from “the cul-de-sac of rationalism”. The originality, rarity and meticulous construction of his work ensures that it has outstripped even the inordinate prices paid for mid-century design over the last decade; a Mollino table dating from 1949 was sold in 2005 for USD 3.8 million, a record for 20th century furniture.
Mollino was drawn to the occult and believed that, like a pharaoh, he could determine in this life what would accompany him to the next. To this end, from 1960 onwards he maintained an apartment on the river Po which he never lived in but rather painstakingly furnished and decorated like his own personal pyramid. The resulting arrangement of furniture, artworks and decorative elements from a wide range of styles and epochs looks amazingly contemporary and ranks as one of his greatest projects (click through for Johannes Kersting’s excellent photos of the apartment).
If those images prompt you to wonder why there is a bed in a home he never slept in, that can be explained by the play dates Mollino had there throughout the 1960s and early ’70s. And the reason we know this is a stack of some 2500 Polaroids which documented each of his female guests, many of them prostitutes, often fully or partially nude but never overtly pornographic (click through for images; mild, but still probably NSFW). The airless, obsessive quality of these carefully staged images brings to mind a soft porn Pierre Molinier. This private gallery from Mollino’s pharaonic love shack remained secret until the designer’s death in 1973, and was released in book form in 2002.