While Murano, is Italy’s most well known glass making center, nearby Milan, (Fontana Arte) and Turin, (Cristal Art) had their own important glass making companies. Between the 1950’s and 1980’s Fontana Arte and Cristal Art were competitors. In Good Design’s inventory, I‘ve two very special Cristal Art mirrors. Their manufacture was both labor intensive and time consuming. Each was produced using an exclusive patented process, in which running water continuously cooled a grinding wheel, while the glass worker engraved patterns into the glass. After the detailed engraving was completed the design was then gilded. Up until now Fontana Arte has been very well known, while Cristal Art was not. That is about to change.
My colleague, Davide Alaimo, of Turin, who’s finishing a book on Cristal Art, has generously shared a brief history of the company with us.
Formed in Turin, by Giuseppe and Giovanni Donna, during WWII, Cristal Art was the successor to an established glass works, begun in the late 1800’s; Albano Marcario. Marcario, known for its decorative windows, produced high quality artistic glass.
From its inception in 1944 until 1970, the painter, Piero Monti was Cristal Art’s artistic director. Sending workers to Murano to learn traditional glass making, he based his designs on those techniques. Cristal Art’s reputation for producing high quality silvered mirrors and stylish designs, grew under his leadership.
Between 1970 and 1980 Giuseppe Raimondi was the Cristal Art artistic director. Under his leadership and that of founder Giovanni Donna, the company was transformed. New designs, logo, and catalogs were made.
Inspiration for products was drawn from industrial design and contemporary art, yet again, raising Cristal Art’s international profile. In 1980, the founder, Giovanni Donna passed away. The company continued operations, under the guidance of his wife Gloria, until 1996, when it closed.
I can’t wait to read the rest of the Cristal Art story in Davide’s new book! It’s going to transform our understanding of the work from Cristal Art and likely it’s market as well.