“An archive of archives” is the description that has been given to the collection. Over the years, Alessi’s constant product development work has generated an extensive and fascinating series of prototypes, and these, along with the company’s historical products and a wide range of objects collected from all over the world over the decades, offer a valuable overview of the history of design.
The Alessi Museum was founded in spring 1998 to a design by Alessandro Mendini, with the objective of transforming this historical heritage into an archive, expanding it constantly by acquiring all those objects, drawings, images and documents of whatever kind, that are relevant to the history of Alessi, and more in general to the overall history of domestic utensils and appliances.
The museum is in a building at the factory premises in Crusinallo di Omegna (Verbania). It presents a collection of prototypes, products that are no longer in production, printed material, design work and drawings. There are also many prints, designer layouts, historical images, books, magazines and catalogues. It is thus a specialist 20th century applied arts collection, including many pieces that are now very rare, and it is also an archive documenting Alessi’s cultural identity.
The collection includes many highly successful products: the “Bombè” teapot designed by Carlo Alessi in 1945; the “9090” espresso coffee maker designed by Richard Sapper (the first company piece to be included in the New York MoMA’s permanent collection); the fruitbowl-colander by Achille Castiglioni; the “Diabolix” bottle opener by Biagio Cisotti; the “Kalistò” containers in stainless steel with aluminium handle, by Clare Brass; and the citrus fruit stands, in stainless steel, by Cecilia Cassina. Also noteworthy are the cabinets and the 17,000 objects that they contain, along with 14,000 drawings and 20,000 photographs.
Anecdotes and curiosities
The collection is an archive in which each designer object is accompanied by a series of documents of varying nature, produced during the design process and following its launch on the market and into society.
Like most company museums, the Alessi museum is in an ideal situation to collect “the design process,” in other words not just the finished product, but also the vast number of documents generated during its development, including factors such as the decision to create the product, the changes made necessary by the procedures linked to industrialization, and the innumerable forms of interchange, relation and discovery involved in creating an industrial product, including the inevitable chance events.