For the Milan Design Week 2023, Korea’s Duson Gallery showed works with mother-of-pearl that were middle ground between art and product design

Alessandro Mendini: “Folglia.“Six international creatives designed side tables realized by master craftsmen in the Asian country

Functional Sculptures made of mother-of-pearl were exhibited by the Korean gallery Duson during the Design Week in Milan (April 17 – 23, 2023) in the Triennale there. They were side tables designed by six international designers and finished by two Korean masters of mother-of-pearl. The country has a long tradition of processing these separations in shells of mollusks.

The gallery, based in Seoul, was founded in 1977 and sees its mission primarily in spreading Korean craftsmanship around the world. In this case, it brought together the ancient Permutt tradition with modern product design. The designs were implemented by master craftsmen Deokgun Jang and Gyesoon Kang in the Tongyeong region of Korea

Nacre or mother-of-pearl is a separation in the shell of, for example, seashells. The name comes from the fact that when a grain is placed inside such shells, a pearl can form around it. The material has a fascinating shimmer that results from its structure: it consists of extremely thin layers on which the incident light is reflected many times. Nacre consists of 95% calcium carbonate in the variant Aragonite and has a small amount of organic material. In the shell of a mollusk, it separates the rock-hard shell from the soft creature.

Duson Gallery

Triennale Milan


Alessandro Mendini: “Folglia.““Folglia“ (Leaf) is what Alessandro Mendini called his design (see also photo at the top). The table top is made of black lacquered wood. The base, also wooden, in pink and yellow, has the shape of a star.

Marco Zanuso Jr.: “Soban.“Marco Zanuso Jr.: “Soban.“Marco Zanuso Jr. created the table-tray “Soban“, as it has a long tradition and multiple functions in Korean culture. Here, the walnut top is painted bright red, and the base is made of natural walnut and zebra wood.

Marcel Wanders: “Fossile Flowers.“Marcel Wanders: “Fossile Flowers.“For “Fossile Flowers“ Marcel Wanders resorted to the shape of a black oval. The inlays reveal petals, symbolizing love, trust, and beauty.

Stefano Giovannoni: “Cherry Tree.“Stefano Giovannoni: “Cherry Tree.““Cherry Tree“ by Stefano Giovannoni also made use of the Asian idea of the tree blossom. The base is designed as if it would unfold in the tabletop like a flower.

Elena Salmistraro: “Molan.“Elena Salmistraro: “Molan.“For “Molan,” designer Elena Salmistraro had turned the traditional Korean headdress “Gat“ around and transferred it to her side table. The round shape also picks up on the cyclones there, which elsewhere are called hurricanes or typhoons and which, under normal circumstances, are a kind of natural overpressure valve in the tropics against the summer overheating of the seas.

Younghee Cha: „Ocean“.Younghee Cha: “Ocean.““Ocean“ is what Younghee Cha called the coffee tables in two sizes with different lines: they can be understood as waves or as pieces of the shells from which the mother of pearl was obtained.

Duson Gallery at the Triennale 2023.

(16.06.2023, USA: 06.16.2023)