Gaetano Pesce is one of the most important designers of the 20th and 21st century. His designs are unparalleled in their exploration of color, material and form. His mind is innovative and iconoclastic and his work falls into a multitude of categories: Architecture, urban planning, industrial design, furniture design and art. Stepping into his stimulating studio on Broadway in New York City, one is struck by the vibrancy of color, the variety of shape, the prototypes that represent a relentless curiosity and bravery in thought and process. His work is unmistakeable because of how truly innovative it is and he, as a person, is such a delight, true to himself, full of life and eternally curious. We spoke with Gaetano in his studio in NY. This is part two of a two part interview. 

Gaetano Pesce:
I have only what I need. Because I consider, in my place where I live, I consider most valuable thing is the space. And so the space is free for me to move around easily. There are not a lot of objects. Always I was living in places in contact with the world, visibly.

First of all, there is the energy from the world coming. Second the movement, constantly movement give you the idea that static is no good. You have to move. So that helped me a lot. When I wake up in the morning, all my window are on east side, and the sun come in when is the sunny day. The reflection on the water of the river is fantastic. It help to give me a very positive mood. And when I work there, because in the morning I work there, that help me a lot.

Arkitektura:
My studio in San Francisco is on the water. Right on the water. And every day the water is different. I love that.

Gaetano Pesce:
Not every day. Also every hour is always the movement.

Arkitektura:
The light. Sometimes there are creatures that come.

Gaetano Pesce:
Yes, yes.

Arkitektura:
There’s boats. The sounds. It’s so inspiring.

Gaetano Pesce:
I hear very strong sound from police boat. So I look, and there is a huge whale in front of my window.

Arkitektura:
That’s right. I heard about that whale. Unbelievable.

Gaetano Pesce:
It was very nice to see the police boat just pushing the whale back in the direction of the sea. And they did it. But to see from the window, you see a whale. It was quite dis-ordinary.

Surprise. Surprise is very important. You have a routine, and the surprise break the routine and keep your attention to be new again.

Arkitektura:
Which I think is the magic of New York.

Gaetano Pesce:
New York is a little like that.

Arkitektura:
Which you know, I was … Because we made the interview later, I said, “Oh, well I could work, or I go to Whitney. I’ll go to the Whitney and I’ll see some work, be inspired, prepare for the interview, come.” And on my way to the train, I walked on 28th Street. Because I did an interview this morning. And the block that I was walking on was all these plant stores and flowers. So you could go inside and all of a sudden it smells like California and so fresh.

And I said, “This is New York. You don’t expect this. You walk, you find something magic.”

Gaetano Pesce:
New York has a quite important, very important quality. It’s a city based on difference. There are a lot of minorities who have the possibility to keep their identity. And the contrast between one identity and another creates energy. And this is what I enjoyed in New York better than other cities. If I talk about Paris, someone different coming and living in Paris, in a very short time, is obliged to change this way to be.

In New York, this is not like this. New York, each person can keep their tradition, their identity. And it’s very important. It’s a unique city for that reason.

Arkitektura:
So Leo Castelli, when he came across your work, he said … He wanted you to work with him, but he said you’d have to do the same thing.

Gaetano Pesce:
So that, the story is this. When I did the show, very important, in the MOMA, the title was Italy: The New Domestic Landscape. Castelli came to the opening and he saw my work. And he ask to see me. I went to see his gallery. And he said, “Where is your place where I can see …”

At that time it was June, I remember. And I said, “I am going to Venice where I have a little space where you can see my work.” He gave me an appointment in July, I don’t know what day, at 5:00. He said, “I wait for you in a café in Piazza San Marco, San Marco Square, 5:00.”

Me, the time goes by, and I arrive a little late. Because I was unsure if he was there. In reality, he was there waiting. So we went to the space. We walk in Venice together. And when he saw my work, he said, “Look, you know, I would like to tell you what the gallery’s work does. The gallery’s work makes a person’s work known. And when it’s known, he can sell. But if you tell me that you can keep this as a production every … for the future … every day,” he said, “then we can work together. But if you change, I cannot work for you. Because if you change, that means that I have to repeat the work I do about you making you known.”

And so me, I said, “Look, I cannot repeat. I cannot keep … I cannot assure you that I am still the same, always the same.” And he said, “Okay. I respect your position.”

Arkitektura:
But you remained friends. And then he was on a private airplane with you.

Gaetano Pesce:
Yes. When we were going to [inaudible 00:09:02] he was always remembering and questioning “What you are doing now?”

Arkitektura:
I’m sure. Because he missed … I mean, it allowed him to say to himself what could have been. You know?

Gaetano Pesce:
Yes. But I think today I understand why he was saying that. Because most of the galleries, they invest time and money to make someone known. And this work, it is changing all the time, is a problem. Days ago, I as making new jewelry. It was Labor Day. I was there making jewelry.

Arkitektura:
So what happens. I mean, I never like this question of process.

Gaetano Pesce:
No tell me.

Arkitektura:
How did it come about? It’s interesting to hear these stories because here you’re walking and you see the material. So let’s say for jewelry that day, you woke up Labor Day weekend and an idea came to you. And you went into the studio and said, “Let me experiment.”

Gaetano Pesce:
Yes. The night before, I was thinking about making a new kind of bracelet. And so I call. I call up [inaudible 00:10:23] to see if he was allowed to help me. ‘Cause I need someone to … When I do manipulation of material. The other time, I have to do things very fast and I need someone helping me. And that thing was possible.

So I went and I did it and it came out something interesting.

Arkitektura:
Did it?

Gaetano Pesce:
Yes.

Arkitektura:
That’s exciting.

Gaetano Pesce:
Exciting yes. It’s exciting in the sense that it’s good to see that until today, I have new ideas and the result is interesting.

Arkitektura:
Yeah. I mean, it’s not something you can generate or control. It’s something that you guys have to be open to and allow for, I guess.

Gaetano Pesce:
Not only, but me, I want surprises from the material. So I use material that are liquid like our time. And then material when they’re liquid, and then they become solid. But in the moment between the liquid and the solid, there are other moments. The material does incredible things that me, I am not able to think with. And I am observing certain situation that are fantastic.

If I impose my will 100% to the material, I do objects that are not so interesting. But allowing the material to be free, I could be more creative. Yes.

Arkitektura:
In a much more simplistic way, it’s like watercolors.

Gaetano Pesce:
Well the color, when you do with the water, there are several moments when the water dry, there are certain solutions of color that are fantastic.

Arkitektura:
I mean, it’s like giving yourself to what the material … It’s having a dance with the material in a way.

Gaetano Pesce:
Absolutely. The liquid look alive to start in something liquid.

Arkitektura:
Yeah. A baby swims in amniotic fluid.

Gaetano Pesce:
And the human being came from water. So in the liquidity, there’s a lot to discover. A lot.

Arkitektura:
When you go now to, say, Salone, do you feel inspired?

Gaetano Pesce:
I don’t know. I usually am.

Arkitektura:
Oh, you don’t know. That I didn’t expect. [crosstalk 00:13:02]

Gaetano Pesce:
The last, we did, it was very successful. Do you know what we did?

Arkitektura:
At the last Salone? No.

Gaetano Pesce:
We have a picture of the carpet with the women. So I did the carpet in the gallery. A carpet divide in square of this big. Each square was a portrait of a woman. The day of the opening, the people were invited to buy one portrait for $1000. The portrait was sold in three hours. And the money went to an organization in Italy who help women with problem. This is one thing I make.

The second thing I made was in front of the number one … on the street.

Arkitektura:
When was this? What year was this?

Gaetano Pesce:
Last year. No, this year.

The second thing was in front of a very important museum, [Brera 00:14:11], very important museum in Milan. We put the chair out [inaudible 00:14:18]. Called the Portrait Chair. It was like, I don’t know, four meters. A gigantic chair. And it was also very successful.

That chair went to Basel. And we sold the chair. So I imagine people … Someone enjoyed the chair.

Arkitektura:
Also, what I think is great about that story is that you have a piece at Salone, which is furniture and design. And then that same piece goes to Art Basel which is, you know, one of the biggest art fairs.

Gaetano Pesce:
Yes.

Arkitektura:
So really, you’re in all those worlds.

Gaetano Pesce:
Also, yeah, regarding working in this kind of thing, [Basel 00:15:02], they represent me. So it’s okay.

Arkitektura:
So, since you don’t necessarily, I was going to say, “mix with the proletariat,” but I don’t mean that. Since you don’t necessarily spend time with new designers and seeing what they’re doing … If you were to think of what we need now, and we’re in a very particular time.

Gaetano Pesce:
We need the … If we talk about design, we need something more human. The production of something they call … How they call the very banal design today minimal design. If I see what they do, it’s not communicative. It’s not happy.

So design today is a much more complex of what they can make us or they want us to think. It’s not true. Design is a very complex art who can express very complex subject. And for what I know, I don’t know. Until today, nobody is doing that experience. But they will. Because that is the story. There are no other ways that design …

Interesting is a company like Ikea. I don’t know them. They asked me to meet me. Maybe the director, maybe they know that they can receive some people what they do. No.

Arkitektura:
Why do you love women so much?

Gaetano Pesce:
Look, I think the reason I am really convinced that the time of man is over. Not because they are going to disappear, but they need to change. The arrogance, their rigidity, their conservativism … also where they are open mind, I find them very boring. Honestly.

Most of my friends are female. So starting from that, I discovered … Look. Lula, president of Brazil, is a disaster. Abe, president of Japan, was a disaster. In Italy, we have a lot of disaster. Italy is a fantastic country destroyed by politician, man. In France, we had a guy who was going in a bike to meet the lover. Now in England, fortunately, they have a woman.

Arkitektura:
Well, here it’s a disaster.

Gaetano Pesce:
Here, I don’t know what is going to happen in America, honestly.

So, also, observing that. Then I saw the contact with women I met, is that show me personality, very committed. Men usually don’t care. They do their interest and that’s it. And so that made me thinking that the future is feminine.

But then I look in the reality and I see women are mistreated with violence against them. Certain religion impose to cover their body. It’s there to show their body. Because sometime it’s good for them to show their qualities, you know? Also physical quality. And so all this together said, me, I have to, if I can on my little side, to help a little bit this cause. Just that.

Arkitektura:
I love that.

And it’s not like you’re going to … I was going to say, it’s not like you’re going to retire. Because there’s no … it’s not working, it’s creating. Right?

Gaetano Pesce:
Yes. Working for me … When you meet someone and you say, “I was going …” And the guy, you know, if you go, “I have to work.” For me that is not possible. For me, work is a pleasure and I like to do it.

Also, if it is a hot day, going to the workshop and take care of a new idea, I do it with pleasure.

Work is supposed to be like that for everybody. Because it is a quality. Work is something that allows us to live, to survive, to make a new experience. To discover. To meet people. So it is a fantastic something that is not honoring the way you’re supposed to be. This is what I think about work.

Arkitektura:
And when you think about thing that you’re … I wouldn’t say, “most proud of,” but the part of yourself that you feel is the most valuable, let’s say.

Gaetano Pesce:
I am proud of my curiosity. And also, I am proud to discover, myself, that I don’t think that I am tired. When I have something to do, I do it without thinking whether I am tired or not.

Lately, I must say, my physic creates some question to me. But until a few months ago, I was never thinking, “I am tired. I cannot do this. I cannot do that.”

Freud investigated the quality of the human being that is the way you are when you are a child. And in that moment, you are a total free individual. Then, in time, the education starts to change your way to be. And you abandon what you was to become the person that is ready to enter in the rules of the society.

What I understood with my experience is that the people who do something, usually they are still a child. Because they never think, “This is not possible.” For them, everything is possible. When you think in that way, you do things that nobody else does. That is the best. I believe that happened to me in a certain way.

Thank you. I know it was fantastic.

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