Manchester Art Gallery

Joe Colombo: Inventing the Future

The first international retrospective of Joe Colombo's influential work.

Manchester Art Gallery
Saturday 2 December 2006–Sunday 25 February 2007


Televisions that retract into the ceiling, pivoting walls with a built-in mini bar, underground ‘nuclear cities’ – the work of the 1960s Italian designer Joe Colombo could easily have emerged from the set of a contemporary James Bond film.

Colombo’s designs exude the spirit of the swinging sixties yet also impress with their functionality and striking forms. In his short life,  Colombo produced design classics such as the Elda armchair, the Universale chair and the lamp Alogena.

The exhibition included early original objects and prototypes from Colombo’s most important furniture designs as well as original sketches, plans, brochures, architectural models, several films and contemporary photos. Arranged in four groups, the exhibition traced the rapid development of Colombo’s brief career and conveys a lively impression of the designer’s tremendous productivity that fascinated contemporaries even during his lifetime.

Colombo was not only one of the most important designers of his time, but also a gifted communicator and self-promoter. Always elegantly dressed and never without a pipe in his mouth, Colombo cultivated a fitting image to accompany his designs: that of a designer dandy who was fascinated by the possibilities of new technologies and improving everyday life. He was both one of the great design visionaries of the 20th century and a pragmatist for whom the future began with the little everyday things of life.

Manchester Art Gallery was the only UK venue to show this exhibition.