In design: An illuminating experience

Designer Ron Gilad and Italian manufacturer Piero Gandini coalesce to bring style and innovation into the spotlight

Pierro Gandini (photo credit: Courtesy)
Pierro Gandini
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Every artist has his or her muse, this much we know for certain. Whether it is a person, place or object, some outside source often triggers the juices of creativity. And while a muse is essential to productivity, another element of an artist’s life is no less important and frequently overlooked: his or her producer or art dealer.
In Ron Gilad’s case, that person is Piero Gandini, president and CEO of the international lighting design house Flos. Last Wednesday, the Mediatheque of Holon hosted a conference in honor of Italian design. The Italian Embassy hosted three distinguished guests of the conference, Gandini being one of them.
Gandini is a charmer, with an easy-speaking voice and abundant enthusiasm. He has been at the helm of Flos for the past 12 years, a job he inherited from his late father, Sergio Gandini. Since the 1960s, the name Flos has been synonymous with innovation in the design world, a jumping off point for new trends and fresh thinking.
Beginning with famed designer Achille Castiglioni, Flos has sought out and collaborated with the best craftsmen in the field, including Philippe Starck. Since taking over, Piero Gandini has managed to expand upon the already glorious empire of Flos, largely as a result of his keen eye for talent. And as he ushers Flos forward into what he described as “a more competitive era,” these relationships are more vital than ever.
Two years ago, at the urgings of a mutual friend and colleague, Gandini paid a visit to Gilad in his Brooklyn studio. “I knew right away that there was something there,” said Gandini. “Just seeing where he lived and worked… I’m not a technological man and I don’t like to meet people in the office. I like to go to them.”
As they say, it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Sitting together on a gorgeous white leather sofa in the Arik Ben-Simhon studio, Gilad and Gandini painted the perfect picture of artist and producer: Gandini effortlessly suave and buttoned up, Gilad laid back and long-haired.
“Milan’s summer is hotter than Tel Aviv’s,” laughed Gilad, explaining the difference in their personal style. “When it’s hot, I wear shorts, even to meetings with important people. My friend keeps telling me I can’t go to meetings like that, but it’s not my clothes that people are after, it’s my ideas.”
Gandini and Gilad clearly have the utmost respect for each other and share a fluid, relaxed rapport. “It’s people like him, said Gandini, “who make my job fun. He never lets me relax. I ask him for a floor lamp, and he comes back with a chandelier.”
“That’s what’s exciting about this field,” gushed Gandini.
“You are who you are,” said Gilad, who prides himself on his individualistic, if not a tad rebellious, approach to life. Gilad was born and raised in Israel. He has spent the better part of his creative life in New York City. “I am from Israel,” he said. “My work is shaped by genetics, society, culture and education. However, what I make doesn’t belong to Israel.”
Working with light allows both Gandini and Gilad to expand upon two strata of design: the physical and the intangible.
“When we make a lamp,” explained Gandini, pointing to a small table lamp by the Castiglioni brothers for Flos called Snoopy, “we have the lamp – the shape of the lamp, that is; and then we have the light it produces. It’s not like building a table, where you have the body and that’s that.”
The immaterial side of light is capable of creating what Gandini calls an emotional impact. At present, Flos is working on a full integration of light with architecture or, as they call it, “soft architecture.”
“Light makes us feel things,” he said. “Even flying into Israel… as I looked out of the plane’s window, I saw thousands of lights. It looked like lava pouring out of a volcano. Seeing that light made me feel inspired,” he said.
For now, Flos lights are imported to Israel exclusively by Karney Tchelet.
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