Installation view of “Nanda Vigo. Light Project” (2019) at the Palazzo Reale, Milan. Installation view of “Nanda Vigo. Light Project” (2019) at the Palazzo Reale, Milan. Photo: Marco Poma. Courtesy of the Archivio Nanda Vigo.

Nanda Vigo (1936–2020)

Italian artist, designer, and architect Nanda Vigo, the Italian modern and contemporary art pioneer whose more than six-decade practice inspired generations of cultural producers, has died. She was eighty-three years old. Influenced by Group Zero’s use of light and motion to alter perception, Vigo rose to prominence in the 1960s and quickly earned a reputation for her own interdisciplinary approach to her works, which employ aesthetic principles to exact sensory experiences from viewers, such as in her “Chronotops.” The fluted-glass and aluminum sculptures, often illuminated by diffused neon light, were described by the artist as “destined to express a philosophy rather than a language of forms, even if it alludes to them.”

Born in Milan on November 14, 1936, Vigo had nurtured her passion for art since she was seven years old and witnessed the way light affected the form of Giuseppe Terragni’s Casa del Fascio in Como. She studied architecture at the Institut Polytechnique in Lausanne and went on to hold apprenticeships in San Francisco. She found the design scene in America lacking and returned to Milan, where she befriended Giò Ponti, Lucio Fontana, and Enrico Castellani and Piero Manzoni, the artists behind the experimental, short-lived exhibition space Azimut Gallery. Vigo would eventually live with Manzoni until his death in 1963. She worked as an architect on projects such as the cemetery in Rozzano, where she designed twin, twenty-story skyscrapers capable of holding 14,000 more deceased, and the Zero House in Milan and opened her own atelier in the city in 1959.

Reflecting on this stage of her career, Vigo said: “I was following the vision of the great Giò Ponti; he approached spaces in a global way, from the small spoons to the art. I always saw architecture, design, and art together as one in my projects.” She went on to design lamps—her Golden Gate Floor Lamp, 1969–70, was one of the first halogen lamps in Italy—and furniture for brands such as Arredoluce, Driade, and Glas Italia; residential interiors, including the Casa Museo Remo Brindisi in Lido di Spina and Lo Scarabeo Sotto La Foglia in Malo, the Ponti-designed residence for collector Giobatta Meneguzzo; as well as other monochromatic spaces, such as her own all-black apartment.

Throughout her decades of artmaking, Vigo was featured in at least thirteen Zero exhibitions, including “NUL 65” at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, “Zero: An Exhibition of European Experimental Art” at the Gallery of Modern Art in Washington, DC, and “Zero avant-garde” at Fontana’s Milan studio, which all took place in 1965. She received the New York Award for Industrial Design in 1971, participated in the Fortieth Venice Biennale in 1982 and the Milan Triennale in 2006, and curated the 1997 exhibition “Piero Manzoni—Milano et Mitologia in Palazzo Reale.” The venue also presented the first retrospective of the artist’s work staged by an Italian institution. Curated by Marco Meneguzzo, “Nanda Vigo. Light Project” (2019) featured some eighty projects, sculptures, and installations.