CASVA (Centro di Alti Studi sulle Arti Visive), gli archivi del progetto a Milano

Roberto Sambonet (Vercelli 1924 – Milan 1995) was an internationally renowned painter, graphic artist and designer. He learned his craft in Milan, where he moved to with his family in 1930. He attended evening courses at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts and was part of the Milan artistic scene, taking part in various exhibitions. His considerable background in painting would go on to influence his other work as a graphic artist and designer. From 1948 to 1953 he lived in Brazil, where he immersed himself in the local artistic and cultural scene, which was particularly rich in that period. In 1953, he visited Stockholm where he discovered Swedish design and thanks to his friend, the intellectual and historian Göran Schildt, he met Alvar Aalto, who was to become not only a great friend but also his dear mentor. With Schildt, he started to take long trips to the Mediterranean on board his boat, excursions which continued for over thirty years and would be an inexhaustible source of inspiration for all his work. That same year, after a series of trips in Europe, he returned to Milan, where he discovered an international and cosmopolitan artistic scene. He opened his own graphic art and design studio, and began to work for the family company, Sambonet S.p.A, as an art director, designer and graphic artist, eventually revamping the entire company image.
In 1954, thanks to Max Huber, he began a long and stimulating collaborative partnership of fifteen years with the department store Rinascente, overseeing the window displays and fashion shows, advertising campaigns (including those for daily newspapers and magazines), as well as organising and arranging various product showcases and events, such as “Natale-Idea” (Christmas Ideas) and “Casa” (Home). Together with Giancarlo Ortelli and Gianni Bordoli, he headed the major projects dedicated to India (1959) and the Indigenous People of the Americas (1964). He not only handled the staging of the events and the graphic art for the catalogues, but also visited the different countries to acquire characteristic items to display.
In 1956, he received the Compasso d’Oro design award for “Piatto tondo-ovale” (round-oval plate) of the Sambonet company, the first in a long line of official accolades.

In 2010, part of the artist’s archive material was provided by the family to the Centre for Advanced Visual Arts Studies (CASVA) in Milan, for the purposes of reorganisation, inventory and research.
CASVA, currently located in Castello Sforzesco (Sforza Castle), is a cultural establishment managed by the Municipality of Milan, established in 1999 and operational since 2002.
Over time, it has become an “archive of the archives of architects”, dealing mainly with architects from the Lombardy region from the early twentieth century, transforming into a research facility in the fields of architecture, design, graphic art, figurative arts and visual arts as a whole.
The archive’s pieces were acquired by direct purchase or donation, and (more rarely) as a temporary storage solution. The documents held in the archives have been reorganised, inventoried, catalogued and digitised for appropriate conservation, and to ensure that a non-expert public can see and learn about them more easily. The archives are promoted and enhanced thanks to studies and research projects held in collaboration with other organisations, through the publication of a series of detailed studies, and thanks to national and international exhibitions.
Currently, the art collection consists of 10 professional archives of architects and designers, including the Roberto Sambonet Archive which holds papers, designs and photographs that chiefly reveal the work carried out by the artist in the fields of graphic art and design.

The selection presented here is drawn from the collaborative period of Sambonet and Rinascente, and includes photos of window displays and interior displays for the “Natale-Idea” (Christmas Ideas) event, the “Casa” (Home) event logo of 1959, and some posters and catalogues of the so-called “Grand Events” for India and Thailand, which were overseen by Sambonet.

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