This space opened for Salone di Mobile as a new art space, situated in Milano’s Porta Venezia district, it is the space that first impresses you with the amount of light that is let in through the courtyard and windows, then it is the what fills the space that gets you looking twice. Mixing contemporary design with modern vintage pieces of furniture, Garage Milano is much more than just an exhibition space. Owner Alba Pattori, tells us more.
Alba Pattori, the owner of this magnificent space, is clearly very pleased with how Garage Milano is going and those that are showing their interest in her space. Even as I entered, she was in talks with a bunch of young guys, looking to collaborate with her for a pop-up event this coming Autumn and Alba was more than happy to help out. After a polite hello, we got chatting about her work, the space and what it is that she wants people to think when they stop by to visit. It seems as if Alba is more than ready to let her space be a hub of creative activity; not only does she want to invite art and design lovers to pop in and have a look at what she’s got, she offers workshop space to artisans and artists, letting them display their work, too. With Alba saying that people are queuing up for the chance to use the space.
One of the studios
It is multi-functioning with two studios, one that is currently in use by the resident carpenter and furniture renovator, Alessandro Alberti, and then a studio on the first floor that is currently in use by italian artisan Giuseppe Bifulco.
Alba explains that, ‘Before Garage Milano I had a small shop where I used to sell modern antiques of the 50s, 60s and 80s furniture and when I found this space and I loved it immediately and so I thought to change life a little. Always to do with modern antiques, but mixing it in with pieces of contemporary design. For example, Maurizio Navone’s new concept for Restart, using the foot stool of Max Bill, was presented at Salone del Mobile’12 and has been housed here since. He developed the concept from one piece and expanded upon it, creating what you see before you.’
So, the idea behind garage Milano, where did it come from?
I was looking for a space that was, to say, bigger than the shop that I was working in at the time and I found this space and I fell in love with it. I thought to myself, ‘here, inside, I can do a bit of everything’. So, I started to think about the concept and what it is that I should do... Garage Milano opened during Salone del Mobile with an exhibition of design, art and some vintage pieces. When the exhibition had finished we added some more vintage pieces and also young designers who have just started out or have just started building a reputation. The idea was to place young/new designers next to those that are established, and that is exactly what we are doing. It’s simple. For people that have a passion for design, it’s important to let them be seen… within reason of course.
The studio on the first floor with work in progress by Giuseppe Bifulco
Art work by Giuseppe Bifulco
For example, Giuseppe Bifulco, he works with us. He is an artisan who re-imagines tables using heavy paints, finishing them off in resin. He’s taking old tables and combining past and present. This table is from the 80s and he changed the wooden table surface and then applied the paint and resin. We also have another resident, Alessandro Alberti, who is both a carpenter and renovator. He works in the studio on the ground level.
Your reputation is already growing and you have collaborated with some interesting artists. What is it that you want people to think when considering Garage Milano?
I would like that there is always a reason for people to pass by, a curiosity that makes them think ‘ohh, Look, Garage Milano are showing this or that person’. So, I want people to know that there is always something new here and that we always have an exhibition on display but that things change. In fact, there will be other events that are not only regarding design that you see here today; there will be food design and fashion. In September, during the fashion weeks, this space will be used for fashion shows.
Electra Wood by Studio Elisha Bergher
So Fashion is another passion of yours?
Yes. I was thinking that, immediately after the fashion week, I will do a vintage fair of elegant pieces, collaborating with someone who handles vintage fashion directly.
You’ve used the word vintage many times. Is this where you passion lies?
It’s difficult to explain because, normally, I look for things that look very classic and that are easy to see are more classic in their design and nature. The designer is interesting, obviously, but the aesthetic is very important… If I like it, I take it. This (the chair) doesn’t have a name but I saw it and wanted it, and here it is.
Alba Pattori the owner of Garage Milano
Do you know him? (She indicates to a walk-in, side room, decorated with coloured, mock wooden panelling) It’s a room designed with the work of Richard Woods. We also have ‘This is Like a Tree’, a series of three artworks. Some pieces are interactive but, at times, they can become victims of children, so I have to be careful.
You mentioned children, you do classes with young ones, don’t you?
Yes, we had lessons for children, where they did contemporary arts, here in the space, and then were exhibited. That finished in May. The way we work is to have the children explore contemporary art, inspired by the work of an artist, without having met them beforehand and then, when the work is done, they meet the artist and see how they (the artist) works. It’s an innovative idea to do something like this in a space like this, here in Milano. We will do programmes of work with children throughout the year… except Winter, during the Winter months it is far too cold here.
Next to the space for children we have an area that is dedicated to the art of glass making and blowing that is in constant rotation, before there was Ugo Nespolo and now there is a Japanese collection ranging from the 30s up to today. This is the only space that is used for a specific function.
How was the space when you first found it?
A complete mess. It was an old garage but, I thought wow, I can do what I want here and put what I want here without the sense of claustrophobia that the shop I owned was starting to acquire. Also, it is the light here that sold it to me; the light from the windows, the panelled doors, the courtyard, the light is stupendous. It still has lots of character from when it was a garage; fixtures and even grease (laughing)… maybe a bit too much. At first it was difficult to image the finished product of what my vision originally was but then the idea and those that worked on it made it happen and here we are.
One of the original ideas that turned out to be successful was to offer space to external artisans and artists. We have the two studios, one which is used for restoring furniture for myself and also clients and then on the first floor there is another studio, in use by Giuseppe Bifulco. The future will see things grow and new, young designers passing through. That’s what I want to see happen.
Garage Milano is waiting for you to discover why it is fast becoming one of Milan's latest must-see locations. For more information, check out the website by clicking below;
Written by Ben Taylor
Photography by Ben Taylor