Pirelli Foundation inaugurated and its historic archives open to the city

Milan, 14 April 2010 – Pirelli presented the Pirelli Foundation and opened its Historic Archives, the “heart” of the foundation, to the city of Milan. The presentation took place today in the presence of Pirelli Chairman Marco Tronchetti Provera; Pirelli Deputy Chairman Alberto Pirelli; Honorary Chairwoman of the Foundation Cecilia Pirelli; and Foundation Director Antonio Calabrò.

The Pirelli Foundation was created last year to promote and divulge knowledge of the cultural, historic and documentary patrimony of the Pirelli Group, which is an integral part of the entrepreneurial and social history of Italy as well as the history of ideas, with an international scope. Among the aims of the Foundation is the promotion of cultural initiatives bearing affinity with and relevance to Pirelli’s business culture.

The Historic Archives contain documents, manuscripts, videos, objects, works of art and photographs that recount 138 years of industrial and cultural history of the company, from its founding in 1872 to today. Among the materials are illustrations by Marcello Dudovich from the early nineteen hundreds, and the entire collection of Pirelli magazines from 1948 to 1972 with articles signed by, among others, Eugenio Montale, Alberto Moravia, Umberto Saba, Carlo Emilio Gadda, and Umberto Eco. All the materials kept in the Archives, which since 1972 have been under the protection of the Archival Superintendency due to their historic interest, are now available to students, researches and in general, the public interested in business history and culture.
The Foundation also recently acquired the personal documents of Alberto Pirelli, son of company founder Giovanni Battista Pirelli, and those of his son Leopoldo Pirelli. In the private archives of Alberto Pirelli are documents witnessing to years of service to Italy, as a diplomat as well as an expert of international finance and economics, from participation to negotiations on reparations and damage from World War I to numerous roles held in important organizations in Italy and internationally. Leopoldo Pirelli’s manuscripts reconstruct his activity as chairman of Pirelli from 1965 to 1999, as well as in leading positions in organization representing business owners, such as his leadership of the “Pirelli Commission” for reform of the by-laws of Confindustria.
At the inauguration some of the more important pieces of the Archives were presented, including works of art, design items, documents, images and advertising campaigns. In particular, for the first time the painting entitled “La ricerca scientifica”, or “Scientific Research”, by Renato Guttuso commissioned by Pirelli for the 1961 International Expo of Turin during celebrations for the one hundred year anniversary of the unification of Italy was exhibited to the public. The large painting (three meters by five meters), recently restored, was a reference for the similar mosaic, depicting men and women intent on studying the world, created by the Maestri Mosaicisti dell’Accademia delle Belle Arti di Ravenna (Mosaic Masters of the Arts Academy of Ravenna). Today, both the painting and the mosaic can be admired on the walls of the Pirelli Foundation.
The collection of historic advertising campaigns on display is also particularly noteworthy. Among the works exhibited are sketches in perfect Futurist style elaborated by Ballie in 1913 for the Italian Touring Club magazine, while the sinuous drawings by Giuseppe Riccobaldi – with the acrobat balancing on a tyre – recall the colorful Art Nouveau style of 1917. There are advertising sketches from the 1930s by Salemme, Renzo Bassi, Nino Nanni and Bertoglio for the Pirelli “Stella Bianca” tyre from the late Futurist period, the “giant order” with an exaggerated tyre emerging in the foreground, almost blocking the scenery. Giorgio Tabet (1930) and Jeanne Grignani (1954) put their signatures to the sketches of the Pirelli raincoats, articles from the apparel collection that included rubber boots among the most famed products of the time, now revived and reproposed under the brand name PZero. During the period following the second world war, Armando Testa (1955) lent his genius to another campaign associating the “Stelvio” tyre “clawing the asphalt” to a lion, and the “Atlante” tyre to a surreal elephant. Riccardo Manzi (1960-1961) and Bob Noorda (1957) complete the picture of graphic innovations of the sketches exhibited, emphasizing the technical versatility that animated the new range of “Cinturato” tyres.
The photographic images of the Pirelli factories by Gabriele Basilico, Luca Comerio e Carlo Furgeri Gilbert, add to the drawings, telling the day-to-day story of the workers and the factories in the world of Pirelli.
Photographs by Antonio Brivo at the Monza Gran Prix in 1932, of Alfredo Bovet, winner of the Milan-San Remo cycling race the same year and Juan Manuel Fangio in an automobile race in Argentina (1949), as well as the image of the Pirelli aerostatic ball (1912) and various automobile photos from the 1930s and 1940s with the elongated P on their tyres, all testify to Pirelli’s many victories in sports.
Some children’s toys made over the years by Pirelli welcome visitors to the Foundation. Among these are “Meo the Cat”, designed by Bruno Munari in 1949, which become a cult object in the 1950s, both in its original version and in a reproduction about one meter and a half tall. There is also a monkey called “Zizì”, which won the Golden Compass award in 1954 for its particular design, and “Tentenna the Bear”, a toy made out of rubber manufactured by Pirelli on license from Rempel, from the 1950s. There are items behind glass such as a copy of the first Pirelli Calendar, shot by Robert Freeman for 1964, and various products that make up the industrial history of the Group: a gas mask from 1939, some 1966 tennis balls, a hot water bottle and a diving mask from the 1970s. The red patent leather shoes with spiked heels worn by Carl Lewis in the celebrated Pirelli advertisement “Pirelli is nothing without control” from 1994 can be appreciated alongside the latest innovative Pirelli tyres: Cinturato P7 for automobiles, Diablo Rosso Corsa for motorcycles and Regional tyres for trucks, all created with the latest manufacturing techniques and with particular attention to their “green” characteristics.
On the monitors in the exhibition hall some of the 300 films and old “carosello” cartoons are projected, enriching the video collection of the Pirelli Historic Archives. These range from the caveman cartoon “Mammut Babbut e Figliut”, which became a cult film in the 1960s, to Fangio handling the curves at the Monza racetrack in “Extraordinario!”. In the collection are film footage of a visit by King Victor Emanuel III to the Bicocca factory in 1927, and the movie “La Fabbrica Sospesa” (the Suspended Factory) by Silvio Soldini from 1985.There are also the backstage videos from the latest Pirelli Calendars, showing the particular sets used for production of the most famous calendar in the world.
The Foundation and Historic Archives, more than two and a half kilometers of shelves contained inside cupboards, are housed in Building 134, a two-story building at the entrance of the Pirelli headquarters at Bicocca in Milan. The building, recently restored and modernized, maintains all the fascination of the industrial architecture that connotated one of the most celebrated Milanese factories, the heart of Pirelli since 1908, which rose around the antique residence of Bicocca degli Arcimboldi, still a landmark, a few meters from the Foundation.
An interactive Surface working area with multi-touch screens allowing access to documents, photographs and drawings kept by the Foundation using simple IT paths and tags, is also available to visitors to the exhibition and to the entire Pirelli Historic Archives. The Archives will be open to the public and to researchers from Monday through Friday on appointment, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with access from Viale Sarca 222.
Starting today, the website of the Pirelli Foundation will be online at: www.fondazionepirelli.org, with all information needed for consultation and highlights of materials in the Historic Archives.