Gaetano Pesce Says Miami Has Buildings, Not “Architecture”
Pioneering designer, artist, and architect Gaetano Pesce captures his personal philosophy with one simple statement: “we are all different.” So it’s only fitting that his collaboration with Creative Director Matthieu Blazy of Bottega Veneta would embrace this same guiding principle. Blazy commissioned Pesce to create a set of 400 unique chairs for their S/S 2023 Milan runway show—each a playful resin-dipped cotton sculpture dripping in candy-colored hues. Now, Bottega has built their Design Miami exhibition around this collaboration, minting “Come Stai?” a limited edition art book documenting the creation of the iconic chairs. After the fair, where Pesce was in conversation with curatorial director Maria Cristina Didero, our senior editor Taylore Scarabelli tracked down the now 83-year-old luminary at The Ritz-Carlton to ask him about Miami architecture, his love of resin, and the future of design.—CAITLIN LENT
TAYLORE SCARABELLI: I’m gonna start recording, because we like to keep it casual at Interview.
GAETANO PESCE: You made it with this horrible weather.
SCARABELLI: Yes, I made it. Yesterday I got rear ended in an Uber but today I’m safe. How are you liking Miami?
PESCE: It would be better if it was not raining, but it’s okay. So what questions do you have? This is for Interview?
SCARABELLI: Yeah, for Interview.
PESCE: I knew the editor of the company a long time ago, a lady. What was the name?
SCARABELLI: Ingrid Sischy? She was fantastic. She passed away.
SCARABELLI: A few years ago. She was very talented.
PESCE: She was. She was a founder of the magazine, no?
SCARABELLI: No, Andy Warhol was. But she was there for a long time.
PESCE: So first question—
SCARABELLI: How do you feel about the architecture in Miami?
PESCE: Like in New York, Miami is full of buildings, but there is no architecture. A building is a product that we need for living, for working, where we do different kinds of activities. But architecture is something else. Architecture is a kind of art. I’ll give you an example. The only building which is art in Manhattan is the Frank Lloyd Wright museum, the Guggenheim. The Guggenheim expresses a very particular time in the last century, when they discovered the elevator. So Frank Lloyd Wright had the idea to allow people to take the elevator to go up and then with the spiral to come down. He aspires to this kind of volume that is opposite to the rectilinear structure of Manhattan. Very orthogonal. Architecture is something that expresses a concept. Though it is not necessary if architecture is built. Because there are examples in history of fantastic architects who never built anything.
PESCE: This is the problem. All these buildings, they are buildings, but nothing more than that. They are usable. They serve to live, they serve to work, they serve to pray if it is a church, et cetera. But there is nothing to do with architecture.
SCARABELLI: Nothing in Miami inspires you?
PESCE: Maybe the theater.
SCARABELLI: The Faena Forum?
PESCE: It is fantastic. So there is a case.
SCARABELLI: It is. So you’re doing this collaboration with Bottega. I’m wondering how you feel about fashion, is that something that interests you?
PESCE: It is interesting, because in the old times fashion was something very superficial. But slowly, the superficial has become very deep, and a bastion of culture. We say our culture is something that is seen in museums, or in galleries. But slowly the fashion companies started to finance art. In this case with Bottega, we did something together that is very strong politically. The message that they allowed me to express with the work we did in Milan was very strong, because he was talking about the diversity of people, the diversity of reality, diversity of values. And that is a political statement. So, this is not done by a museum, it is not done by a gallery. It is done by fashion companies, who decide to invest the money, not in something superficial, but in something that is culturally alive and culturally valued.
SCARABELLI: And then you have Kate Moss naked in your chair.
PESCE: I saw that. But that is also inspirational because I did 400 copies, but they are 400 different chairs, so they are original, like we are different. If you look at the people here, each one is different, similar one to another, but not the same. So that is very important too. Democracy today says everybody is the same. I believe that democracy of the future will protect diversity. So if someone is different, they protect the difference. And politically it is very important.
SCARABELLI: I wanted to ask you about the materials you use, and whether longevity is important to you.
PESCE: I’ve used certain materials more or less since I was 18 years old. So it’s a long time ago, 60 years. They didn’t change. Now, I have a Milan exhibition about what I call skin. They are drawings done with resin. Some are very old. And they are very perfect. They didn’t change, because the material is resistant to light. So I am absolutely satisfied with the material I use. It’s material from my time. So they are a document of my life today.
SCARABELLI: Is there any new material that you’re interested in exploring?
PESCE: There is, but I remember years ago, there was a very interesting new material, a kind of foam. But it was very fragile, and you cannot use something that will break. But maybe in the future there are materials to discover. But the material I use is not only resin. There is foam, silicone, there is a huge family of contemporary material. Most of what we call art doesn’t pay attention to material time. And culturally, this is a mistake because as we use a contemporary language, we have to use a contemporary material. So in 300 years, when they study our time, they will study our time with the material of our time. Because if we work with stone, they will believe that the stone we do today was done in the past. So it’s not very interesting.
SCARABELLI: I think it’s really interesting what you said about people looking to the past, because you’ve been making work for over 50 years. And right now, millennials and Gen Z are very obsessed with your older work. You’re having a major moment.
PESCE: They discovered some work I did 50 or 60 years ago. It is important that young people discover the possibilities they have in terms of language. Second, in terms of material, in terms of technology. The schools have to teach not only traditional things like history, but what happens today.
SCARABELLI: I wanted to ask you if you got a chance to walk around Design Miami and if you saw anything that you felt was radical or interesting.
PESCE: I went to both Design Miami and Art Basel. When I went to Basel, I saw a lot of fashionable things, a lot of cosmetic things, a lot of repetition. So, I was not very touched. And when I went to [Design Miami], there was a much more alive atmosphere. Design, instead of being an object, instead of being functional and practical, is art. That is the future of design, which is what I am doing. And that vitality that I saw yesterday in the design section is because everyone is feeling that design is changing and becoming art. The sculpture becomes a piece of furniture.
SCARABELLI: I agree. I feel like especially after a pandemic when everyone was inside, people have a new appreciation for design.
PESCE: Where do you live? Where do you work?
SCARABELLI: New York.
PESCE: You should come and visit us in New York.
SCARABELLI: I’d love to.