‘Italian Creativity—Future Perfect’ Panel

According to a hand out from Federlegno-Arredo, the furniture arm of the Italian Trade Commission, the question before the distinguished speakers on Sunday’s “Italian Creativity—Future Perfect” panel was: “Who will be the next Achille Castiglioni, Emilio Pucci, Carlo Scarpa, and Federico Fellini?” But the real question was: What is Italian Design, and why is it so good?

American architect Michael Gabellini, who has studied and worked extensively in Italy, praised the “common language of design” spoken there. Thomas Krens, director of the Guggenheim Foundation, talked about style’s enduring power and pull—even in the face of globalization. The panel’s two Italians—Marva Griffin, the marketing force behind the SaloneSatellite, and Patrizia Scarzella, an industrial design professor at the Architecture Academy in Rome—proudly waved their country’s cultural banner.

But an interesting question was raised about the future: Can Italy, known for luxury products, learn to compete with China for lower and moderately priced furniture? For the Italians, it’s clear that their future growth in the U.S. market (which in the last 12 years, has more than quadrupled) will still depend on high-end furniture. But in the decades to come, that might have to change, as the rest of the world struggles to close the gap between them and what Gabellini called “the Italian Model.”

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