Enzo Mari portrait building protptypes

Enzo Mari

Italian modernist artist and furniture designer

Enzo Mari (born in April 27, 1932, in Novara, Italy) is a noted Italian post-Modernist artist and product and furniture designer who incorporates ideas of the arts and crafts practices and of communism as an essential part of his design practice and philosophy.

Enzo Mari’s Formal Education And Early Influences

Mari studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milan, Italy, from 1952 to 1956 and draws inspiration from the idealism of the arts and crafts movement. In the 1950s, he participated in the avant-garde design movements and joined the Kinetic Art group. In this group, he met artist and designer Bruno Munari, whose influence can be seen in Enzo’s carved wooden puzzle work 16 Animals, produced by Danese in 1957.

In the 1960s, Enzo published a series of books, including the acclaimed The Apple and the Butterfly (1969), a book without text in which simple yet striking graphic-style illustrations depict the story of a caterpillar and an apple and the cycle of life. From 1963 to 1966, he taught at the Humanitarian School of Milan, where he did extensive research in the areas of theory of design, graphics, and fittings, for which he was awarded a Compasso d’Oro in 1967. read more

Enzo Mari Furniture and Autoprogettazione

During the 1070s, Enzo Mari created numerous furniture designs and projects. Among these are the Elisa chair and Box chair (1971), and the Sof Sof chair (1972) for Driade; the Delfina chair for Robots (1974); and the Sumatra filing system for Danese (1976). Enzo Mari collaborated with Artemide, AlessiZanotta, Driade, and Muji, among other design and furniture manufacturers.

Of all of the numerous design projects along Mari’s career, Autoprogettazione occupies a special place due to its ability to deliver a message through the creation of an object. In 1974, he published the book Autoprogettazione about building easy-to-assemble/do-it-yourslef furniture using as raw material only rough boards and nails. In the book, Enzo Mari uses the term Autoprogettazione as a concept to bring awareness of the process of “making” and design, and instructs the reader to build practical and useful furniture pieces through very simple techniques; hoping that benefits drawn from this process of “making” would be more valuable than the object being made.

Autoprogettazione table by Enzo Mari
Autoprogettazione table by Enzo Mari (1974)

Design Awards and Academic Involvement

From 1976 to 1979, Enzo Mari was president of the Associazione per il Disegno Industriale  (ADI) and was awarded the Compasso d’Oro in 1979 for the second time for his collaboration in the design of the Delfina chair. During his lifetime, he has been awarded the Compasso d’Oro four times and has taught at University of Parma (Parma), the Accademia Carrara (Carrara), Politecnico di Milano, ISIA (Florence), the Hochschule der Künste (Berlin), and the Hochschule für angewandte Kunst in Vienna.

Enzo Mari’s Important Solo And Group Exhibitions

In 1972, Mari participated in the exhibition “Italy—The New Domestic Landscape” at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. This exhibition included the design objects of many of the important Italian designers of the time, such as Vico MagistrettiEttore Sottsass, Gaetano Pesce, Mario Bellini, and Paolo Lomazzi. In this exhibition, Mari’s work was represented by the Pago-Pago reversible vase (1969), manufactured by Danese. This molded ABS vase could be used straight or upside down, changing its aesthetic appearance.

In 1983, Enzo Mari had an important solo exhibition at the Centro Studi e Archivio della Comunicazione at the University of Parma, for which he donated 8,500 designs and drawings from his archive. His art and design objects are included in the collections of several contemporary art museums, such as MoMA (New York), the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome, and the Triennale di Milano Museum. He had two retrospective shows in Turin, Italy, and an important exhibit of his work in Adhocracy at the first Istanbul Design Biennial in October 2012.

For more information on Enzo Mari, visit the following:
Enzo Mari at Magisdesign

Enzo Mari: A rebel with an obsession for form. New York Tims

Last updated: March 25, 2020

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Books About The Design Work And Design Philosophy Of Enzo Mari

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Enzo Mari


Los Angeles, USA (2008)


Antonio D’Avossa

Enzo Mari: Il Lavoro Al Centro


Milan, Italy (2000)


François Burkhardt

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Istituto Italiano di Culture

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Corraini Edizioni

Mantua, Italy (1974)