Michele Provinciali


He was an all-round master: art-director, designer, graphic designer, artist, painter and teacher.
In 2008 he won the ADI’s Compasso d’Oro Award for his career. Expressive, poetic, experimental, abnormal and refined in every art, Michele Provinciali represents an alternative trend to the late rationalist approach typical of the post-war period.
His ideas and implementation modes reach “beyond” even today. Born in Parma in 1923 and graduated in 1947 in Urbino, in 1951 he won a study grant at the Institute of Design in Chicago, founded by Moholy-Nagy. In 1955 he returned to Italy, received the first Compasso d’Oro Award -a watch for Solariand committed himself intensively to the artistic direction of leading newspapers and magazines, and of the most active Italian industries in the fertile period of productive reconversion. He formed the CNPT Group with famous graphic designers of the time: Pino Tovaglia, Giulio Confalonieri and Ilo Negri. Meanwhile he collaborated with Michelangelo Antonioni (creating the titles for several movies), Gio Ponti, Vico Magistretti, and the Castiglioni brothers.
It was in this building in Piazza Castello, Milan, where the legendary brothers of Italian design worked, that Provinciali opened his own studio, where Aurelio Zanotta found him in 1964 to commence an ideal and profitable partnership. His unusual project for the corporate catalogue was accepted as the “manifesto” of industrial design. Then he handled Zanotta’s entire artistic direction and coordinated image. Michele Provinciali designed the corporate logo in 1967 when Zanotta opened its store in Monza. It was a free, rigorous sign with a “zed” based on the mirror like symmetry of the curl to merge poetry and design. This commenced a golden period during which the best international designers worked for Zanotta under the guidance of the legendary Provinciali. Graphics however remain Provinciali’s choice mode of expression: the experimental review Imago, Stile Industria and, from 1963, Edilizia Moderna directed by Vittorio Gregotti. Meanwhile, he was professor at the ISIA in Urbino from 1971. His artistic interventions between sculpture and painting are unforgettable and always performed on the quiet. Collage and explorations charged with powerful emotion often concealed findings collected on Adriatic beaches, ranging from pieces of chalk, ice-cream sticks, plastic bottles deformed by the backwash, train tickets and sparkling wine stoppers.
Provinciali composed them into an ongoing dialogue charged with the magic of ‘things’ and a pure style, which reveals poetic guilelessness and communicative power that touch the heart, as in a famous book, whose graphics he designed: New York-arte e persone by Ugo Mulas. Provinciali was also a remarkable traveller: «a track in Persia is named after him», says Francesco Ramberti, who co-authored with Antonio Motolese the last biography-homage to the great master who died aged 88 in March this year. It was published by Gangemi Editore. The cover displays a typical phrase of his: “I collect common things… those which are always seen and never looked at”.