Lygon St Carlton, Melbourne
Image supplied by City of Melbourne

Melbourne, an Australian city of cultural ideas, emerging artists and designers, gallery spaces that are shops, boutique cafes that serve strong coffee, bars that are late closing and early opening, laneways filled with illustrations that crossover between fantasy and social commentary, art in nooks and crannies, so many festivals and events. Melbourne is equally well known in Australia as a hotbed of artistic or design pursuits and for its love of food, wine and dining. Melbourne, where a river runs through it and botanical gardens fringe it, the greatest discoveries in Melbourne are the diversity of its details. It is all these elements that have constructed the dynamic personality of the city.

Melbourne reaps the benefits of its farsighted founders that planned its countless parks, wide streets and expansive boulevards that are as valuable for their form as they are for their function. Adding to this is the city’s architectural diversity sprung from gothic origins. Today the spectacular and sleek forms of its growing contemporary architecture stand testament to its ever evolving nature and development. Equally a city of excitement and intrigue by night, this darker aspect of Melbourne is also reflected in its fashion palette; black is worn consistently every season. Its darker, night time identity is also punctuated with experimental bars, restaurants and live music venues where anything goes any night of the week.

Melbournians not only indulge in Italian and other Mediterranean and European cuisines’ but are subjected to a diversity of Asian flavours and an ever growing number of ‘fusion’ culinary mash up’s where flavour is key and the reference to the dish’s country of origin could be numerous. The diversity of style and passion for food, art and culture is always expanding for and by, its ever growing population. Whilst there may not be as many galleries to equal the number of restaurants, if a count was done of all of Melbourne’s artistic activities to that of the number of places and types of food to eat, one may find they were of equal number… Melbourne is indeed so so buono!

So Buono! A cultural design feast as an exhibition has singled out the reference to Melbourne’s Italian heritage and the Melbourne-Milan sister city relationship, established in 2004. It is a relationship that acknowledges the vibrant Italian community in Melbourne and the many similarities between Melbourne and Milan. Design and food for example, are quintessential elements to both cities’ identities. Immigration from Italy to Australia stretches back more than 150 years, and the city now has 300,000 Italian speakers! As a result the Italian community has contributed greatly to the development of the city’s food, fashion, education, art and culture, business and commerce, as well as industry and social policy. Since the 20’s Melbourne’s cosmopolitan fabric began to lose its English reserve, embracing the aroma of espresso and growing availability of continental market goods. Melbourne’s Milan sister city relationship is founded on some basic similarities, recognizable if you know both places; a love for food and dining, fashion and cosmopolitan lifestyle, their trams, our trams, its grid like layout and urban structure, its consummate artistic nature and design focus and its good strong coffee!

So Buono! A cultural design feast is an exhibition featuring emerging contemporary Italian and Australian craft and design, shown in both Milan in April during the 2009 Salone del Mobile and then Melbourne Australia in July as part of the State of Design. As a project of design interchange and exchange the So Buono! exhibition seeks to create a design laden cultural feast, a table for dining in a room where art, craft & design finesse, environmental and sustainable concerns, humour and dining practices draw our attention to the differences and similarities of sister cities Milan and Melbourne and their “stile di vita”; lifestyle. All the works have been curated with the premise of creating a sense of place(s), cultural reflection, ideas, memories and assorted other relevant issues prevalent in design commentary today.

Initiated by Melbourne based curator Marisia Lukaszewski, So Buono! A Cultural design feast will see a morphing of two cities’ design cultures as they come together in a dining room environment. The first presentation of So Buono! in Milan will celebrate the curatorial collaboration between Milan’s Nhow Hotel’s art director Elisabetta Scantamburlo and Marisia Lukaszewski, utilizing the furniture and lighting by emerging Milanese designers to create the furnished installation of a dining room. The accompanying imported Melbourne works in So Buono! will dress the table and comprise of a unique blend of fine craft and designed furnishings and tableware. Selected contributing artists to the Milan exhibition include:

Australian Artists: John Hoogendorn Ruby Studio, Iris Saar Issacs/Jane Barwick InSync Design, Stuart McFarlane, Lisa Oaten/Claire Selby Studio Periscope, Beatrice Schlabowsky, Andrew Simpson Vert Design, Suzie Stanford & Malcolm Thomas.

Italian Artists: Gum Design, Marcello Pozzi, Anna Ramasco & Vibrazioni Art Design.

The Melbourne version of So Buono! A cultural design feast in July 2009 will be a reverse of the Milan enterprise and showcase the contemporary furniture, lighting and visual art of the Melbournian craft/design/art practitioners but will additionally include other Melbourne/Victorian based furniture designers. The selected emerging Milanese designers will supply the tableware and assorted design objects where possible.

By presenting a mix-up of tableware, furniture and lighting, this table and indeed the exhibition, aims to stand as a metaphor for the artistic, cultural and environmental values in current design practice; as well as for the future international artistic and business development aspirations shared by all the participating designers both in Melbourne and Milan. It is hoped that this small cultural event will bring both cities just a little bit closer and that at least, the future exchange of ideas, creation of business and resulting personal relationships will allow these creative enterprises to flourish.

Marisia Lukaszewski © 2009

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