Salone del Mobile Looks to the Future

entering salone del mobile 2023

307,418 people visited the 61st edition of Salone del Mobile.Milano.

By and

May 8, 2023

In its 61st edition, Salone del Mobile.Milano finally got back to “normal.” The furniture fair, the largest and most ambitious of its kind, returned to its prepandemic schedule, submerging Milan in a tide of stunning design from around the world—all rippling out from Milan Design Week‘s epicenter at Rho Fiera Milano. Under the guidance of Maria Porro, president of Salone del Mobile.Milano, the show has become more tightly curated, easier to navigate, and has made significant efforts towards sustainability. But most exciting of all were the imaginative exhibits, bringing museum-like experiences to the Salone.

The fair reclaimed its usual springtime slot, welcoming more than 307,000 attendees from April 18-23. This year also saw the return of Euroluce, the biennial lighting fair (on even numbered years, EuroCucina and the International Bathroom Exhibition take place instead).

The La Scala Ballet performed a three-part program inspired by Euroluce to kick off Salone del Mobile at Teatro alla Scala.

The show officially started far from the fairgrounds, downtown at Teatro alla Scala. On the opening night, the Filarmonica della Scala conducted by Carlo Boccadoro performed a special program designed just for Salone del Mobile. The La Scala Ballet performed a three-part program, with one act, Luce, commissioned specifically for the evening. Fittingly for the return of Euroluce, Andrea Crescenzi choreographed the piece to “The Light,” composed by Philip Glass in 1987 for the centenary of the discovery of the speed of light. The program amplified the excitement leading into the fair, which opened its doors the following morning.

After last year’s stifling June fair, attendees were grateful for the cooler spring weather in Milan mid-April. After all, the crowds are oppressive enough without adding summer heat. Navigating the melee can be overwhelming, but this year the fair’s organizers reimagined the show with attendees in mind. The Salone introduced three notable changes: condensing to a single exhibition level for ease of navigation and interaction between brands; a new, loop-shaped path in the Euroluce halls so attendees can see more brands and make fewer navigational decisions; and a smörgåsbord of cultural content—exhibitions, talks, workshops, and site-specific installations—in the biennial space.

Culture on Display at Salone del Mobile 2023

“Hélène Binet: Nature, Time, and Architecture” at Salone del Mobile

Among the cultural exhibitions on view at the fair was a collection work of architectural photographer Hélène Binet, curated and designed by architect Massimo Curzi. The exhibition, “Hélène Binet: Nature, Time, and Architecture,” was expertly curated to show Hélène’s mastery of light and shadow, providing a dialogue between light and art. The photos hung on deep blue acoustic walls, providing a moment of quiet within the bustling fair. Her work encompasses the elevated spirit Salone brings to the broader world of design, drawing a direct line between design and fine art, function and fantasy.

Preparing Salone del Mobile For the Future

porro salone del mobile 2023

Porro at Salone del Mobile

Looking to the future, Salone’s organizers saw the redesign as a necessary action to modernize the fair and prepare it for greater change in coming years. Maria considers it a success: “We have learned several important lessons from this edition: we have learned that it is indeed possible to redesign a huge event like the Salone in order to propel it into the future, that sustainability really is achievable when the entire system pulls together, and that new content can be devised and employed in order to generate knowledge, growth and value.”

Maria somewhat downplays the impact of the changes—she has masterfully managed a group of extremely active exhibitors and guided them into the future, reimagining the fair and moving in a more sustainable direction.

Sustainability, in this case, refers both to the longevity of the fair as a driver of design and cultural innovation, but also to its environmental friendliness. Salone del Mobile aimed to attain ISO 20121 certification for sustainable events management by utilizing modular structures for Euroluce built by Lombardini22, partnering with suppliers of recycled, recyclable or reusable materials in building, and selecting institutional partners whose strategies are built around genuine concern for people and the planet. The Salone joined the United Nations Global Compact in 2022.

Promoting Young Talent at Salone del Mobile

salone satellite winner 2023

Honoka’s TATAMI ReFAB PROJECT won top prize at the SaloneSatellite Awards.

Similarly future-forward, SaloneSatellite brought young talent to the Euroluce pavilions. The program, created and curated by Marva Griffin, is a launchpad for designers under 35 and an opportunity for them to connect with brands.

This year’s showcase marked the 24th SaloneSatellite. 550 emerging talents and 28 design schools and universities participated in the 24th edition under the theme “Design Schools – Universities / BUILDING THE (IM)POSSIBLE. Process, Progress, Practice.” The program included a round table discussion between representatives from the universities and a talk from Gaetano Pesce on Understanding the Future.

Gaetano Pesce talked about his long career in design at SaloneSatellite.

Given its space in the Euroluce pavilion, the SaloneSatellite installations were designed around the concept of natural light, anchored by the sun and moon. The special “SATE… LIGHT. 1998-2022 SaloneSatellite Young Designers” showcased lamps by designers who have taken part in and found brand partnerships through SaloneSatellite in the past. These collaborations, initiated at SaloneSatellite, highlight the event’s purpose: to bring creativity and the business world together.

One way SaloneSatellite identifies new talents is through the SaloneSatellite Award. In its 12th edition, the jury (consisting of notable design professionals including Flos CEO Roberta Silva and designer Francesco Librizzi) selected three winners:

  • First Prize: Japan’s Honoka Design Lab for TATAMI ReFAB, a series of furniture made using reclaimed tatami material and 3D printing
  • Second Prize: the Hong Kong-based Studio Ryte for Triplex Stool, made using flax, a sustainable wood fiber
  • Third Prize: Ahokpe + Chatelin, appearing at SaloneSatellite as Belgium is Design, for the Kudoazò hammock, made from recycled fabric spun in Benin

By the Numbers

Living Divani at Salone del Mobile 2023

Living Divani at Salone del Mobile 2023

More than 2,000 brands exhibited on the grounds this year, roughly a third of which were international. Of the visitors, however, nearly two thirds came from abroad. After a few years break due to the pandemic travel restrictions, China returned as the best-represented country after Italy, followed by Germany, France, the United States, and Spain. The overall attendance was up 15% compared to last year.

salone del mobile 2023 bla station

Swedish brand Blå Station at Salone del Mobile

As the mass of visitors to the fair descended upon Milan, the city rose to the challenge, hosting the fair and accompanying exhibitions and installations throughout the city with enthusiasm. “We invested in quality and demonstrated our desire to carry on producing innovation and ‘telling the stories’ of our companies and our products,” Maria said. “Yet again we have been the engine that has fired up the city.”

The next edition will be held in Milan from April 16-21, 2024.

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