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Inside Bitossi’s Archive Museum: A Treasure Trove of Ceramics

Assembling an archive museum containing over 7000 pieces of ceramic art and artefacts is a task of mammoth proportion. Add a global pandemic into the mix, and that task grows even greater. Nevertheless, in September 2021 The Bitossi Archive Museum opened its doors to the public, chronicling a 100 year history of the Florentine ceramics dynasty.

Bitossi is renowned for its mid-century ceramics work – including vases, jugs, animal figurines, candle sticks, and more – produced under the discerning eyes of Aldo Londi, who was brought on board as the artistic director in 1946. It is also recognised for its collaborations with names such as Piero Fornasetti, Memphis Milano pioneers Ettore Sottsass, Matteo Thun, and Nathalie du Pasquier, plus recent collections made with young artists such as Laura Bethan Wood.

Inside Bitossi's ceramic archive

Bitossi’s headquarters are located at Montelupo Fiorentino, the same place that Guido Bitossi founded its first factory in 1921. In the same renovated factory space, the archive is now displayed, spanning over 1500 square metres and designed by architect Luca Cipelletti to preserve its original industrial structure. Curator of the archives, Marina Vignozzi Paszkowski, then filled it with a treasure trove of objects: from sketches, models, work tools, photographs and written documents, to, of course, the ceramics themselves. Here, she shares with La Catena what to expect when visiting the museum and tells us how Bitossi is sparking the imagination of a whole new generation.

What kind of works can we find in the archive and how far do they date back to?

The archive starts from 1921 and goes all the way up to the present day. We have more than 7,000 pieces collated from over the decades. We present them in a chronological order, and also take into account the colours chromatically. There is a huge focus on particular collections, such as Aldo Londi’s Rimini Blue, from 1959, which is our most famous collection. Or, important collaborations that are part of our story. For example, the works Bitossi made with Ettore Sottsass. Where we don’t have the physical pieces, we have technical sketches and historical sketches. These are very interesting to see, and detail how an object has been developed through the years. All the sketches are shown in the archive museum on the right-hand side, while on the left-hand side we have the ceramics.

Inside Bitossi's ceramic archive

What is the experience of visiting the space like?

Aldo Londi explored how a simple material such as clay can translate into something beautiful – and also how it can be a vehicle for new ideas. This is what we have tried to convey through the archive. The first time you walk into the archive you’re overwhelmed with the amount of work in there; it’s truly a space you have to visit more than once! Each time you discover something new, and get a new perspective. Inside you’ll find your own favourite pieces, and your own perspective. Right now, the production of our ceramics are on the first floor, but before the production was on the second floor, and this is where the archive museum is now. We wanted to bring the ceramics back to their home and the place they were made – I think there’s something really poetic there.

Who are the sorts of people interested in collecting Bitossi?

Many different people. But, a person with a discerning eye and taste. Our ceramics are seen as a work of art, not functional objects. We have a particular interest from the U.S., mainly from people who own art galleries. Right now it’s interesting because many pieces from the 1970s and 1980s are becoming very fashionable again. There are a lot of people who are hugely interested in having their own collection of Bitossi – particularly a new generation of younger collectors. Just recently we’ve had two different schools of design visiting our museum, which is great. The main purpose of the museum is to educate and inspire, and it’s great that we’re speaking to a new generation.

Do you think there has been a resurgence in an interest in ceramics, which is a tactile medium, due to the fact we live in a digital world?

Yes – everything new starts from the old. There’s a huge bridge, and this is very nice. It’s beautiful to create a connection between the old and the new.

What do the archives have planned for the future?

We only opened in September 2021 and we’re glad we had the opportunity to open in this very difficult time in the world. We’re starting to plan projects and collaborations with other art galleries and foundations from all over the world. That will be very interesting to see how it pans out.

Inside Bitossi's ceramic archive