Kartell, an historic Milanese company in the field of design, opened this museum space fifteen years ago to make available for public viewing a range of products and historical documents.
The exhibition area, along with the Kartell headquarters and factory, is located in the town of Noviglio, about fifteen kilometers from the center of Milan. It can be reached by car on the highway for Genoa, or by bicycle on the path that runs along the Naviglio Pavese from Porta Ticinese to Binasco. On this route, which runs between the two Milanese canals, the urban sprawl has left space to the traditional rural landscape of the irrigated plain and to the agricultural use of the land.
The Museum was founded in 1999 to celebrate the company’s fifty years in business, and in the year 2000 it was the winner of the Guggenheim award for the best corporate museum in Italy. The exhibition itinerary covers an area of 2,500 sq.m., and over 1000 iconic objects that have been produced since 1949 are on display. Together with the products (which include automobile accessories, furniture and household goods), there are documents, drawings and images from the corporate archives.
The promotion of Kartell’s history and products is certainly not the sole purpose of the museum; indeed, it also serves as a center for the dissemination of the Italian design culture, of which the company is an excellent representative.
The company was founded in 1949 by Giulio Castelli, chemical engineer and pioneer in the industrial use of plastic materials. At first, production focused on automobile accessories, but within just a few years it expanded to include household accessories, key to the success of the business in the sixties and seventies. In those years, Castelli cultivated ties with numerous architects and designers who contributed to making Kartell a brand known worldwide for the aesthetic refinement of its products. Among the best known collaborators were the founder’s wife, Anna Castelli Ferrieri, Gae Aulenti, Ettore Sottsass, and Marco Zanuso. The crowning success of Kartell came in 1972, with its participation in the New York MOMA exhibition on Italian interior design.
Over the years, Kartell also developed partnerships in the field of materials research with big companies operating in the rubber and plastics sectors, such as Pirelli and Montedison.
In 2000, just one year after the inauguration of its own museum, the company’s historic output was featured in the Centre Pompidou show La Donation Kartell, un environment plastique in Paris.
The “Brevetto Pirelli” car-roof ski-holder was the first product manufactured by Kartell in the early 1950s, and it is also the first object that visitors see in the Museum.
Famous designer Philippe Starck has made an important contribution to Kartell’s development, creating many furnishing objects.
The electronic catalogue can be consulted at the museum and on-line. It has data sheets on Kartell products from 1949 up until today, along with information on manufacturing technology, the materials used, and the designers who have worked with the company.