Enzo Mari & Murray Moss

Collectors Collect

The first thing Murray Moss says to us as we're taking off our shoes in the foyer of his striking apartment nestled near the top of Olympic Towers in Midtown is that he is not a collector. As we vehemently protest, he insists this is most certainly the case while showing us a large group of vintage designer crystal drinking glasses, and just keeps on insisting in his charming and humorous manner as we look at some highlights of his collection of hundreds of newspaper press photos from the early to mid 20th century which he beautifully frames and displays in clever and witty juxtapositioned vignettes.

(For those of you who don't know who Murray Moss is, he is the grand wizard of all things modern in retail, he has inspired people like me to open galleries and stores all over the world. Often copied, but never topped, his seminal store Moss, which opened in Soho in 1994, is still to this day the benchmark for what a design store is and or should be. Hail Murray!)

So after admiring the “not collections” and the truly stunning views of Manhattan, we take our coffees to the living area and get down to the business at hand: to examine and discuss his very real collection of early and important Enzo Mari objects, a collection that started at the original Danese showroom near Piazza Duomo at 2 Piazza San Fedele in the heart of Milano when Murray was only 23 years old.

Enzo Mari (born 1932) is a master of the “simple”. He takes complex thoughts, theories and thesis and distills them into pure ideas and imagery that anyone can understand. The beauty of his work has resonated with intellectuals, politicians (he is a Communist), children (his toys are some of the best ever designed) and just plain folks on the street. To not love his “Autoprogettazione” furniture, which started and continues to influence the DYI movement, would be not to like an something honed to its essence, a beautifully functional chair anyone can make in 10 minutes with 13 pieces of wood and a handful of nails. Oh yeah, you'll need a hammer too…..

“I purchased this Putrella iron 'tray', a Mari/Danese icon of the designer's explorations and studies of archetypes, nearly 40 years ago, directly from the Danese original shop in Piazza San Fidele, Milano. In my mind, it references Duchamp's repurposed urinal, Fountain, 1917.” - Murray Moss

“These industrial-looking ‘blocks’ of aluminum are indicative of the ‘art’ that resulted from Mari's experiments and research, not unlike the Renaissance master engineer/artist Leonardo da Vinci's complex works which are simultaneously ‘art’ and ‘science’.” - Murray Moss

Quattro Spirali is perhaps my favorite Mari work - a 3-dimensional 'sketch' and experiment in optical perceptions; 4 spirals were hand cut by Mari in the aluminum facade, each a little deeper than the prior cut. I see Lucio Fontana's Spatial Concept slashed paintings - craving for dimension - as possible inspiration.” - Murray Moss

“This Borneo Ashtray, 1967, melamine, is a deceptively simple functional object, and addresses many issues such as eclipse, concentricity, and balance-as-beauty.” - Murray Moss

“This Camicia Vase, 1961, consists of a glass vase inserted into an aluminum sleeve. The 'window' cut-out forces our attention to the stems of the flowers, an oft-forgotten and normally hidden part of the flower which has its own beauty. Mari creates a visual separation between flower and stem, giving us a rare opportunity to appreciate each in their own right.” - Murray Moss

“Enzo famously said 'Form is everything' and I feel that these square 'Cubi' experiments from the 1960s are just that, pure form. These are most people's first introduction to his work, and once you have seen and held them you will never forget them.” - Murray Moss

“The Cubo, 1959/63, in polyester resin (left), as well as the Sfera, 1959/63 (right), are optical studies, again the result of Mari's research into the parameters of human visual perception. To me they are like 3D Victor Vasarely works on paper. These are little treasures to me, worthy of a Wunderkamer. When Cassina purchased Danese many years ago (subsequently they sold it), they contacted me to see if I was interested in any ‘old inventory’! So I went to meet someone on the street in SoHo, and bought these pieces (Spirali, Cubo, and Sfera) right out of the back of his truck!” - Murray Moss

“Pago Pago double vase, 1968, injection molded ABS. Mari sees design to a large extent as 'problem-solving' and uses each new assignment as an opportunity to explore new solutions, new possibilities. In this extraordinarily beautiful masterwork of elegant engineering and mold-making, Mari created a 2-sided vessel: one for a wide display of flora, and the other for a narrow.” - Murray Moss

“This set of four glasses, Conversazione, 1999, produced by Colle, Italy, demonstrates what results from a change in the ‘footprint’ of a structure, as it grows. They remind me of the experiments that Roberto Sambonet made involving shape vs volume in his drinking glasses, Tir Bar, 1971, for Baccarat, France.” - Murray Moss

Patrick Parrish (left) and his wife, Alex Gilbert, sitting with Murray Moss. Make sure to check out the amazing Leo Amino sculpture on the table!

Originally published in Apartamento Magazine, Issue #12 (Autumn/Winter 2013-2014).