Design artifacts, signs and icons of the past, citations from the ancient world used by designers as evocative images. To create an aesthetic language that relates to radical movements but embodies the individuality of our age

Reminiscent of ancient ruins. Signs – sometimes interpretations, sometimes obvious quotations – of the classical Greek-Roman iconography or, more broadly, of the culture of the Eastern Roman Empire which has left indelible and shared traces in the entire Mediterranean basin.

Parts of history intertwine in the creative horizons of designers from different backgrounds.

Combined and reworked in a personal way, they become an aesthetic trend and research in design, especially for collection.

We ask the opinion of Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte, co-founder and curator, among other activities in the field of collectible design, of Carwan Gallery in Athens, which recently represented the works of India Mahdavi, Roberto Sironi and Polina Miliou, some of the designers who express this aesthetic language.

"We are in a moment of neo-neoclassicism which is influencing some creatives," explains Bellavance-Lecompte. “I wouldn't say a trend but a form of inspiration: a rediscovery of both the values that influenced the neoclassical movement and the pleasure of reconnecting with history, not just Greco-Roman .

In fact, we are also witnessing the return of 'Egyptomania'.

I believe that all of this stems from a desire to innovate through the roots of Mediterranean culture, which has not been seen since the 1980s. But it's different since then: more personal and less dogmatic, equally sophisticated and even playful".

Starting with Ruins of 2018, Roberto Sironi carries out a methodical and meticulous investigation of archaeological sites; he reinterprets and restructures classic architectural finds with almost an archaeologist's attention.

The latest work, Domus Pompeii, is the result of in situ research, where the designer analyzes the colors of the frescoes to develop five colors 'Pompeian '.

Sironi is fascinated, almost obsessed with history, not only by the classical period, but precisely by the idea of stratification – in fact, he also adds references to the industrial revolution in more contemporary times.

With completely different materials and construction processes, the Spaniard Sergio Roger questions the beliefs and idealized vision of antiquity.

In The Grand Ball of Delphi he twists, bends and twists the columns of a temple, made of linen, silk and velvets that bear the marks of the passage of time, emphasizing the coexistence of satirical and solemn elements.

Classical art and culture are the foundation of his aesthetic expression but, unlike Sironi, he does not take them entirely seriously.

In Achromia, India Mahdavi starts from some of his iconographic pieces to deprive them of color and execute them only in white marble, such as the neoclassical statuary.

The cancellation of color, that 'contemporary error' of art history, becomes the means to pursue a new goal: the idea of capturing light through the clear -dark.

In his pieces he then adds moldings that recall the Doric columns, giving an unprecedented dynamism to the same works.

The fascination of the classical period here becomes an abstract operation.

Another reference to neoclassicism is the work of Fabio Novembre, in particular Venus for Citco and the Miti collection > for Tapis Rouge.

Both projects express the search for the 'ideal beauty': Venus, transposed into a marble bookcase – a material that represents the balance of strength and fragility – creates a bridge with Antonio's sculpture Canova; while Apollo and Aphrodite bring the quintessence of the harmony of proportions to the soft surface of a carpet, in a game of seduction.

The cultural references of other designers are more eclectic.

In Kyklos, Polina Miliou explores the symbolic and formal reference to the circle, present in the statuary of the Cycladic civilization of the Bronze Age. This reference, interpreted in an abstract and personal way, joins the reference to the traditional Greek wicker seats that Miliou sculpts by hand using a mixture of colored paper pulp.

The mixture of different historical periods, of 'high' and pop hints, creates objects of fantasy between cartoon and solemnity.

Memories of ancient times, not expressly mentioned, coexist instead in the collection of textiles and carpets Bisanto by Antonio Aricò for Moooi: "a new imagery capable of taking us to another world full of joy, in an interweaving of infinite tales of distant times that unite the north with the south and the west in the east of Italy”.

They are textile mosaics that become iconic souvenirs from his memories.

Similarly, with Return to Arcadia, a collection of jacquards and prints by Rubelli, British interior designer Luke Edward Hall expresses his passion for mythology and interest in the architecture, art and characters of ancient Greece and Roman civilization.

A classic imagery that here is transformed into a refined and at the same time playful world.

“Everyone's heritage becomes very important”, explains Bellavance-Lecompte: “it dictates the way of creating and interpreting cultural references in a contemporary key. It is the reading key, with a strong personal meaning. Compared to the radical movements of the 1970s and 1980s, this trend does not have the same political value, nor that desire to re-appropriate cultural roots or processes of doing.

It is a form of inspiration linked to individuality, to an intimate 'romantic', sentimental desire.

The driving force is the emotion of rediscovering the genius of the past. This rediscovery guides the way of structuring one's ideas, the method of investigation that leads to a new aesthetic revelation.

In some cases, as it was for Vitruvius or Palladio, the rediscovery of antiquity can lead to a new 'form of order', a methodology that makes the world more organized.

I think this contemporary movement is less dogmatic than its radical predecessors.

It is not a school of thought, but a movement that starts from the single individual: a bit like how social networks work, which reflect the multiple languages through which everyone creates their own reality. For this reason it is interesting to see how the trend will evolve”.