Nanda Vigo: the “light artist”

by Barbara Palladino

Architect, designer and artist Nanda Vigo recently passed away in Milan. An undisputed protagonist of the creative scene in the 1960s and 1970s, she freely moved between different disciplines, making the relationship between light and space the running theme of her research. From the conflict between them, she was able to bring forth the harmony her works highlighted and framed.

After completing her studies abroad with a degree in architecture from the Lausanne Polytechnic University, she was welcomed and quickly rose to fame in Milan. In 1959, she began visiting Lucio Fontana’s atelier, where she grew closer to the Zero movement – for which she eventually created the “Zero House”, a house with frosted glass walls and colorful neon lights inside, which altered the perception of space. She then built relationships with some of the Azimut gallery’s artists: Enrico Castellani and Piero Manzoni, who also became her partner, as well as Giò Ponti and Alessandro Mendini.
Nanda Vigo’s most famous works are the installations that tried to “withhold light” and turn it into matter. Her celebrated 1964 “Chronotopic Manifesto” expressed the theory that space could be altered by changing lighting and by creating sensorial engagement for users of space itself and objects.

As a designer, Vigo created iconic pieces such as the Golden Gate lamp for Arredoluce, the Essential table for Driade and the Top couch for Fai International. Her architectural projects were just as renowned, including the monochrome houses that led her to deep reflection on the concept of contemporary living, within her work for the Zero group.

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1968 Nanda Vigo, "Diaframma", Ponteur tubes with printed glass and neon lights, cm 100 x 100 x 20, photo by Emilio Tremolada

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2017 Nanda Vigo, "Global Chronotopic Experience", Spazio San Celso, Milan, photo by Marco Poma

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2018 "Arch/arcology", dedicated to Paolo Soleri, made in collaboration with Alcantara, Museo MAXXI, Rome

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1964 Cronotopia, photo by Nini and Ugo Mulas

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1969 Nanda Vigo, Cronotopo, aluminum frame, printed glass and neon lights, cm 80x80, photo by Emilio Tremolada

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1993 Nanda Vigo, "Light progressions", homage to Gio Ponti, cm 109x139

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1966 Magazzini Fly, Milan

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1968 Ambiente Cronotopico, Eurodomus, Turin, photo by Ugo Mulas

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2007 Nanda Vigo, "Genesis Light", installation view, Palazzo Crivelli, Galleria Calvi-Volpi, photo by Gabriele Tocchio

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2006 Portrait, photo by Afanador

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