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Plastics have enabled designers to take an interest in everyday objects

An interview with Italy’s Maria Pia Incutti, President of the Plart Foundation.
Plastics have enabled designers to take an interest in everyday objects
Plastics have enabled designers to take an interest in everyday objects

Can you tell us a bit about your foundation?

The Plart Foundation aims to illustrate our recent history through the prism of contemporary objects that have revolutionised the habits and traditions of our society. Many of them are made of plastic! We emphasise plastics’ historical role and highlight the importance of using them in a reasonable way to respect the environment. In short, we have an educational, even didactic, purpose.
The historical nature of this original collection of plastic objects is one of the reasons why we wanted to make it accessible to a wide audience. Our intention is also to preserve pieces that are often mass-produced using a synthetic material that are interesting from a design standpoint. For all these reasons, the Foundation was recognised as a museum of regional interest in 2009 by the Campania region.



 You define it as an "interactive hub in which the most diverse forms of creativity converge". Can you tell us more?

The underlying idea is quite simple. We seek to erase any dividing lines between the arts, promoting instead their hybridisation and mutualism and dialogue. We consider this important in order to better understand the complexity of the present. It is with this vision that, since 2008, we have managed to broaden and diversify our cultural offering by combining exhibitions, training sessions, research on eco-design and of course allowing all audiences to discover our exhibition. All these points mean that we tend to consider that we run our foundation like a museum that hosts many visiting researchers.



You and Salvatore Paliotto are the two founders of the Foundation. Can you tell us a bit more about yourselves?

We are two entrepreneurs with a passion for art. We were interested in contemporary art from a young age and started to build up a collection a long time ago. I think I have broadened our vision by collecting often commonplace objects made of plastic whose design I found interesting. I am attracted to these objects because I see them as a marker of time, they suggest a certain idea of change or evolution in our way of life, which is why I consider them to belong to the community. Today, we have over 2,000 items that are all "pieces" of art and design. Whether jewellery, furniture, accessories, electrical appliances, or others, they can have been very popular and have been made in thousands of copies or more bespoke, or even handmade, but they all illustrate the history of the material plastic.
The properties of plastics mean that each object has its own shape, its own colours. They all tell a story. I have very rarely found them in galleries or auction rooms. Most of them come from flea markets, second-hand shops, etc. This collection has therefore been built piece by piece, over time, sometimes by chance.



Is the Plart collection intended to create a link between polymers and design?

Famous Italian philosopher and art critic Gillo Dörfles (1910-2018) held that the emergence of design for consumer objects shows that the age is becoming one focused on aesthetics. He experienced the rise of plastics and saw their evolution throughout his lifetime.



The PLART collection reflects this deep connection between the first handmade plastic objects and those industrially designed starting in the first decades of the 20th century. Plastics have made a major contribution to design because they are materials capable of many things both in terms of their plasticity and their intrinsic properties.

They have the power to stimulate designers' creativity. Without polymers, it would be very difficult to give innovative and surprising forms to many everyday objects such as household items. They have helped to change the way we look at ordinary everyday objects.

What are the current design trends?

All designers are currently very interested in eco-design. Protecting the environment has almost become a matter of ethics, even a standard for them. It's very interesting because we now have to create a world in which technology is increasingly important compatible with acts of commitment to saving the planet.
Plastics remain relevant because their ability to revolutionise the world of design is no longer in question. Thanks to them, design has evolved and so has the way we think about beauty. That said, I think they will certainly be used differently or at least in other forms such as recycled plastics or bioplastics. Artificial intelligence could help us to design and produce objects by optimising resources. For the Foundation, this is obviously an important subject and we have already organised various conferences on the topic. For example, many designers have visited us to explain how they combine their research with that of biologists to explore the potential of biosourced plastics, for example.

To conclude, I would say that the Plart collection, by giving value to many everyday objects, has certainly saved a large number of them whose inexorable destiny was to end up as waste. It is a way of taking a new look at these not-so-insignificant objects.



The Plart Foundation is located in the Chiaia district of Naples, Italy. The collection is made up of almost 2,000 objects gathered over the last 30 years. It includes design objects and fashion accessories, bags and jewellery, toys, electronic devices made of various plastic materials such as celluloid, Bakelite, PVC, and polystyrene. The Foundation also holds prototypes of objects that have marked the history of design, such as the Cactus coat rack by Guido Drocco and Franco Mello, the Pratone chair by Giorgio Ceretti, Pietro Derossi and Riccardo Rosso, the Erba table and the sculptural seat Incastro by Mello.
In addition to exhibiting the permanent collection, the Foundation also puts on many temporary exhibitions.

Do not miss: Plart's last video (in Italian). It’s named PLASTIC… FREE KITCHEN to illustrate the essential role that plastics have played in the evolution of the kitchen from the 1950s to the present day, with the testimonies of Giulio Castelli, founder of Kartell, Ferruccio Laviani, architect and collaborator of Kartell for many years and Alberto Alessi Anghini, president of the famous Italian design brand.

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