Art critic, designer, and philosopher Gillo Dorfles died 2 March 2018 at age 107, after having worked in fields as diverse as medicine, architecture, music, and fashion.

By Jean Marie Carey

Art critic, designer, and philosopher Gillo Dorfles died 2 March 2018 at age 107, after having worked in fields as diverse as medicine, architecture, music, and fashion. When Dorfles was born in Trieste in 1910, the city was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and in his long life he encountered a wide range of Italy’s most important art figures.

He met Italian writer Italo Svevo when he was working in a paint factory, and was close friends with Italian poet Eugenio Montale as well as Lucio Fontana, who he helped launch his career. He took coffee with Italian poets Cesare Pavese and Salvatore Quasimodo, was a guest of Frank Lloyd Wright, and a personal friend of Renzo Piano.

Dorfles was active until the very end of his life, participating in mid-January of this year at an exhibition of his drawings from 2010-2016 of the character he invented called VITRIOL, at Milan’s Triennale Museum.“Art is the only passion to which I’ve always remained faithful, since the first shocks of abstractionism of Klee and Kandinsky,” he wrote.

 Psychiatry was another of Dorfles’ interests, and Dorfles read from works of Jung and Rudolf Steiner. This theme became a sort of guiding thread running through much of his written work. In 1948, together with Atanasio Soldati, Gianni Monnet and Bruno Munari, he was one of the founders of MAC – the Movement for Concrete Art, and in 1956 he contributed to the creation of aDI, the Association for Industrial Design.

His writing is extensive and spans his many interests, including monographs of artists from Mario Botta to Toti Scialoja, as well as books on architecture, a groundbreaking text on industrial design in 1963, and a cult classic titled Kitsch: An Anthology of Bad Taste in 1969

Reference: “Dorfles, the Italian art critic, 1910–2018.” The Art Review. 2 March 2018.


Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale (50-B.1), 1950Oil on canvas, perforations. Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou; on deposit at Musée d’Art Moderne, Saint-Étienne, France.

Lucio Fontana, Gold of Venice, 1961. McRoberts and Tunnard Gallery, London.

Bruno Munari, Campari, 1965. Offset lithograph. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Nr. 340.1966.

Bruno Munari and manufacturer Danese (Milan), Ashtrays, 1957. Anodized aluminum and melamine.Museum of Modern Art, New York, Nr. 2271.2001.1-2

Text by Gillo Dorfles, Design by Franco Grignani, Alfieri & Lacroix Tipolitozincografica in Milano Propone la Communicazione nell’Induzione Grafica, 1965. Offset lithograph. The Museum of Modern Art New York, Architecture and Design Collection

Renzo Piano, Nemo; view of the long stairway leading to the seating and observation area on top of the building, 1997. Oosterdok 2, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Art on File Collection.

Further Reading: Gillo Dorfles and Jean Baudrillard. The Universitas Project: Solutions for a Post-Technological Society. New York: The Museum of Modern art, 2006 (Reissue 2016). 

Gillo Dorfles. Mario Botta: Architecture and Memory. Milan: Silvana, 2014. 

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