Castiglioni’s RR126 radio-phonograph

Unless you have been living under a rock you will be familiar with the work of the colossus of popular music, David Bowie and that he sadly died in January 2016 after an 18 month long fight with cancer.

In November 2016 Sotheby’s held a two day auction sale entitled “Bowie/Collector” which featured 350 pieces, around 65% of Bowie’s carefully chosen and hugely personal collection.

My wife and I saw the small capsule exhibition of pieces at Sotheby’s Mayfair salesroom some months ago and were struck by the eclectic depth of the collection that included Surrealist, Modern British and African art.

Stand out pieces for us included Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Air Power” – Bowie played Andy Warhol in the 1996 movie “Basquiat” – Damian Hurst’s  “Beautiful, Hallo, Space-Boy” – which Hurst painted for Bowie and Peter Shire’s vibrant “Big Sur”sofa.

The sale was a massive success with many lots tripling – and more – their estimates.

However, it was a radio-phonograph designed by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni (estimated at £800 – £1200 that sold for £257,000) that really caught my eye. Not least as it may have been the real music orientated piece in the sale but it also begged me to know a little more about the designers, although I am passingly familiar with Achille’s work with the Alessi collection – see before our piece on Richard Sapper’s Bollitore kettle.

Pier Giacomo (b.22 April 1913) and Achille’s (b. 16 February 1918) father was a sculptor.

Achille studied arts and architecture in Milan prior to wartime service in Greece but graduated from the Politechnico in 1944.

In 1938, Pier Giacomo and older brother, Livio, had started an architecture practice which Achille joined working on projects such as the reconstruction in 1952-3 of wartime bombed Palazzo della Permanente in Milan which was transformed into new home for the Società per le Belle Arti ed Esposizione Permanente.

Following brother Livio’s departure from the architectural practice until Pier Giacomo’s death in 1968, he and Achille worked as a team.

In 1965 the brothers designed the RR126 radio-phonograph cabinet as a celebration of the beauty of machinery turning a piece of audio equipment into something decorative even sculptural. The RR126 is featured as part of the amazing New York Cooper Hewitt collection of Product Design and Decorative Arts.

The Castiglioni brothers designs radios and televisions were also realised by Brionvega.

Interestingly, Brionvega, now makes the RR226 version which is a faithful reproduction of the original the only changes being an updated technical specification that includes a cd-dvd player.

Do you like the idea of an iconic Italian design gracing your home?


Photo from Sotheby’s

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I am an English trained and experienced lawyer. I have lived with my wife and family for nearly twenty years in the “California of Europe” - at the tip of Southern Europe. I am a proud European and driven to evangelize about the quality of life to be enjoyed here.

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