Under the watchful eye of Puccini, Mascagni, Giordano, and Toscanini, whose busts decorate the precious Ridotto Foyer of La Scala Opera House in Milan, Louis Ghost took the stage. A transparent chair that symbolizes a revolution in style, design, and technological innovation made by French architect and designer Philippe Starck for Kartell, which celebrated its first 20 years with a special and unusual event at the Piermarini, featuring music, a ballet duo, and videos. Mag was there, part of the three hundred lucky guests.
No sheet music on music stands, but photos of the chair’s memorable moments; successes, museum exhibitions, quotations, movie and theater appearances, and welcoming major celebrities such as Pope Benedict XVI and Queen Elizabeth. Over time, it has been painted, sculpted, miniaturized, and interpreted by artists, stylists, and designers all over the world, intermixing and mutating again and again. Here in the Foyer is Bob Wilson’s version sculpted with words, along with the version of Antonio Marras, who gave it wings.
Piero Lissoni illuminated it with neon, Philippe Starck transformed it into a city map of Milan, the artist Nuku tattooed it in the typical Maori style, while Christian Lacroix dressed it up in silk and ethereal voile. There are many other versions, such as the limited edition 'chairs' made for charity auctions, like the one for Barbie, whose proceeds went to Save the Children. The chair’s creator, Philippe Starck, expressed with irony his surprise that "elegant and intelligent people" would pay so much attention to what is ultimately just a chair.
All joking aside, the Louis Ghost is not really that simple. As Kartell’s owner Claudio Luti told us, “It was created in 2003 with a completely new material. We used resistant polycarbonate, the same material used to make the shields of American police. However, we worked on making it transparent. We managed to make a purer material and inject it into a chair.” The product has been getting ever greener: "company patented polycarbonate 2.0."
“This chair is an important part of our history. Around the world, Kartell meant the combination of transparency due to Louis Ghost. Since then, transparency is Kartell and Kartell is transparency,” Mr. Luti added. Starck thinks of it as a sort of invisible and discreet specter, like that of King Louis XV of France, after whom the chair is named. “Louis Ghost is democratic design 2.0 with the highest technology and sustainable minimal material," he explains. Italian Design Museum Director Marco Sammicheli calls it “a watershed product representing a leap forward” and Starck "an aesthetic surgeon, a skilled croupier that shuffles the deck of tradition”.
The debonair starchitect shared with us that his goal at the time was to make an allegory and a metaphor on dematerialization and invisibility" with an "interesting design precisely because it is long-lived." You can’t argue with that. 20 years and still kicking: “this product is still young; it is in such demand that we had to make two molds. With over 3 million units produced. it can be considered as the world’s best-selling chair,” Mr. Luti said. Therefore, proper celebrations were due.
At the Toscanini Foyer, a gallery of Louis Ghost images and videos provided the background for the performance of the Maria Celeste Losa and Gabriele Corrado ballet duo of La Scala, lightly whirling around the ghost chairs in a pas de deux specially made by choreographer Patrick de Bana and inspired by his own ballet Marie Antoniette. The short "Louis Ghost on stage" by director Aksinja Bellone was shown after the dance. In conclusion, actress Matilde Gioli delivered the monologue "I am Louis Ghost" in which the chair speaks about itself, from a text by Lidia Labianca.
“I'm a chair and I'm 20” begins the monologue. “I've been to so many places and met so many people that, if I felt like writing my biography, I could fill volumes. I have traveled from the Great Wall of China to the cliffs of Cape Town; I was in London and Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, Greece, and Venice, feeling right at home everywhere.” "In these 20 years, I have developed my green conscience. Thanks to my makers. I am mostly made from completely recyclable cellulose waste materials, in harmony with the environment and the planet." The chair’s last words are: "I'm unique but repeatable. I can be alone, but I love company. I'm transparent but I don't mind being looked at."
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