GROWING UP IN Florence, Italy, the curator Valentina Guidi Ottobri was surrounded by architectural wonders: Here was the hanging Twelfth-century black-and-white Baptistery of St. John the Baptist; there was the ornate Fifteenth-century Florence Cathedral. She was struck by the endurance, imaginative and prescient and religious devotion it took to erect these bold buildings — tasks that usually took greater than three generations to finish. “I have always loved the idea that patrons like Cosimo de’ Medici invested in work that they knew they would never see in their lifetime,” she says.
Later, as a pupil on the University of Siena, Ottobri studied communications and semiotics with the Italian creator and medievalist Umberto Eco. She earned a masters in model administration and one other in curatorial research, labored at Bottega Veneta in public relations and briefly took a job in India as a style stylist for Marie Claire journal. She returned to Florence in 2012 on the age of 23 and joined the town’s unique idea retailer, Luisa Via Roma, first as an assistant jewellery purchaser and, finally, as director of the boutique’s homewares division. Every six months, she would utterly reimagine the shop’s inside in collaboration with completely different creatives. In 2018, she constructed a home inside the store with the assistance of the Milan-based designer and architect Cristina Celestino; in 2019, she referred to as on the Italian manufacturing designer and artist Sara Ricciardi to rework the house into a modern-day Garden of Eden. “I was never interested in working for money,” Ottobri says. “It was always about how to turn my visual fantasies into something real.”
Today, Ottobri is doing simply that. The 32-year-old has remade a rural Provençal property into each a residence for herself and a show house for her company, VGO Associates. The artwork, craft and design collective makes use of the grounds — with its orchards, olive tree grove, tangled gardens and outbuildings — as a residing gallery house. At the doorway to the property, “The Gate of Light,” by Ricciardi, is a free-standing archway manufactured from aluminum and stained glass and topped with a multicolored eye that’s illuminated within the evenings in order that, as Ottobri says, “it appears to float in the dark at night.” Nearby, a large bronze pod by the Italian artist and leather-based items designer Serena Cancellier dangles from an olive tree department, exploding with streams of crystal seeds that sparkle within the fading afternoon mild. Standing on a patch of grass is a assortment of knee-high ceramic vessels, adorned with the removable sculpted faces of mythic beasts that Ottobri designed with the Pugliese terra-cotta masters Fratelli Colì — a part of a community of expert Italian makers she employs to supply the concepts artists and designers conceive of for VGO Associates. The works are then exhibited on the property and offered on the collective’s web site. “You can use them as a waste bin or take the faces off and hang them as masks on your wall,” she says. “I’m fascinated by talismans and objects that are useful but cross the line of being art.”
OTTOBRI’S HOME, which she shares along with her boyfriend, Lapo Becherini, an athletic efficiency coach, is a modest stone farmhouse inbuilt 1852, with two bedrooms, wood-beam ceilings, terra-cotta tile flooring and whitewashed stucco partitions. There, her imaginative and prescient of integrating the spirit of a rustic property with cutting-edge fashionable artwork, craft and European design comes collectively. The house is crammed with an ever-changing choice of avant-garde furnishings and ornamental objects — a stone-and-Plexiglas aspect desk by the Milan-based designer Thanos Zakopoulos; a glazed ceramic desk lamp that means an alienlike creature by the British artist Hannah Simpson — designed by VGO Associates collaborators. These are tempered by quirky items of her personal making (papier-mâché masks, medieval-inspired ceramic sculptures) and the elegant mainstays of a French nation home: Roche Bobois furnishings, blue-and-white Delftware, sisal rugs, toile wallpaper.
In the lounge, work by latest collaborators is in every single place. An summary six-foot-tall bull-shaped cupboard (the horns double as incense holders) manufactured from blackened ash wooden by the Italian transmedia designer Matteo Cibic sits subsequent to a mirrored glass espresso desk etched with ancient-looking symbols by the Moroccan multimedia artist Mo Baala and a russet-colored leather-based chaise longue embellished with a whole bunch of hand-tied leather-based flowers by the Italian designer Tal Lancman and the couturier Maurizio Galante. Today, they’re inside her home, however subsequent week they is likely to be outdoors, within the artist’s residency or the Chapel of the Moon — an deserted shed that Ottobri transformed into a meditation house painted with stars and goddess figures by the Italian illustrator and designer Ludovica Basso, who goes by the identify Clorophilla. In an period of inconsiderate consumption, Ottobri believes that something that requires the vitality to create ought to serve a couple of objective, difficult us not solely to make use of an object however to ponder its which means as effectively. “The objects in your space should be as purposeful as talismans,” she says. “If we have learned anything over the past year, it is that our homes are our chapels.”