Time for New Ideas

In his first major exhibition, designer Vito Noto asks visitors to take their time to think.

Vito Noto, Study sketches Day/Night 24-hour wall clock Perditempo 1989. Collection of art m.a.x. museum, Chiasso Photography. Carlo Pedroli

What lies behind ideas? Discovery, process, meticulous attention, time, and an original point of view are just some of the elements behind visions that unfold from multiple perspectives.

Designer Vito Noto has dedicated his career to research and “a continuous questioning to find innovative answers applied to design in the world of ideas,” said Nicoletta Ossanna Cavadini who, together with Mario Piazza, curated the first anthological exhibition of the Italian designer.

The m.a.x. museum in Chiasso, at the southern tip of Switzerland and only one hour by train away from Milan, has brought together two hundred objects covering more than forty years of his career.

The exhibition, titled “Vito Noto. Forty years of graphic and design. The meaning of ideas,” retraces the designer’s creative and professional achievements since his education at Milan Politecnico where he met, among others, Max Huber, Achille Castiglioni, and Bruno Munari.

Discipline and the rational organization of obstacles are the main characteristics of his work that emerge from the many design objects, prototypes, technical drawings, logotype studies, stamps, and industrial machinery featured in the show.

The exhibition’s title reflects the importance of ideas in relation to time punctuating the reality in which we live and think. For Noto, deconstructing the meaning of ideas means rethinking how to do something in order to reconstruct what we should do.

The exhibition welcomes the visitors with a wall of nine non-canonical clocks, one of them (Mega Tac Tic, 1989) tells the time counterclockwise but it’s impossible to notice it until we spend more than one second looking at it. Usually, people look at clocks through a coded system learned at school and internalized a method taken for granted.

Vito Noto wants to reverse the canonic method in order to dedicate more time to reflecting when we look at everyday objects.

In Vito Noto’s poetic, looking at the wall with non-ordinary clocks, a gesture that usually required a fraction of a second, demands more attention.

Noto conceives home design objects by paying attention to the crucial aspects of formality and functionality like in the best-known Centerpiece Cone for WMF. Starting from the archetypal shapes of circle, sphere and cone, the designer developed a system for conviviality, as the centrepiece becomes a platter by lifting the circular portion.

Vito Noto, WMF Wüttembergische Metallwaren Fabrik GmbH 1985. Private collection Vito Noto, Cadro. Photo by Carlo Pedroli.

The long process behind his numerous creation is presented through sketches, drawings and prototypes of the domestic interior section.

Other Noto’s home design works comprehend thermal containers for bottles and a series of glasses, interesting solutions for a table-top and room stove, called “Piro,” which has the form of an Olympic brazier; and then Neapolitan coffee makers, jugs, vases and studies for trays, cutlery and pepper pots.

Alongside home design, the exhibition focuses on industrial design presenting a series of projects and products aimed at the cleanliness of lines avoiding redundant frills. He investigates the functional side of industrial aesthetics to make the machines user-friendly for the workers, also using colour coding. This research, combined with the design process, leads to great formal beauty even if we are talking about large machineries, like the ones used in the textile industry.

Among the most recent works on display: Noto’s stamps for the Swiss Touring Club and new coins commissioned by the Swiss mint.

If you are visiting the exhibition in the morning, indulge in a special lunch at Trattoria della Zocca (Corso S. Gottardo 103), not far from the museum. The “Lunch with Vito Noto” menu mixes the designer’s poetics and his attachment to Switzerland with his Sicilian origins. (Noto was born in Ragusa).

The menu includes Risotto with citrus and chocolate from Modica which is arranged following the practice of Vito Noto according to which geometric shapes, such as the square, have a fundamental role in the design of new ideas. The lunch continues with Swordfish rolls au gratin and eggplant caponata and Bisbino gin sauce.

“Vito Noto. Forty years of graphic and design. The meaning of ideas” is on view until 11 September at the m.a.x museum, in Chiasso, Switzerland.

Jessica Capretti is a frequent contributor to Milano Art Guide since 2021. She graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Milan and has worked on several projects including “L’Arc de Triomphe Wrapped” by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, in Paris. She lives and works in Milan.