Salone del Mobile in Milan 2024: trying out what the Trade Fair of the future could look like

Creativity is visible everywhere at the Salone del Mobile. Photo of an armchair by Belgian company <a href=""target="_blank">AP Collection</a> (limited edition).

Under its President Maria Porro, Milan’s major event for the furniture industry is applying the industry mantra of creativity to itself

In the press announcements for the 62nd Salone del Mobile in Milan (April 15 – 21, 2024), there were several obvious indications that this largest and most important furniture trade fair in the world has set off for new shores under its President Maria Porro. A “cultural program beyond furniture“ was announced, as well as “Disseminating information and training are fundamental moments for the growth of its community.“

In other words: Maria Porro, in the highest office of the – in full: Salone del Mobile.Milano – since 2021 and only in her early 40s, sees a contemporary trade fair not only as a marketplace to bring sellers and buyers together, but also as an opportunity for communication of this and that kind, so that the thinking in people’s heads may change direction and new ideas may emerge in the end.

All trade fairs around the world are busy doing this, or at least talking about it. But none of them go as far out on a limb as the Salone. Well, we want to mention it, nothing happens against the business side of things. After all, the exhibitors sit on the trade fair board and approve all the new products.

And: innovations are quasi a mantra of the furniture industry and are comparatively easy for it, because it is extremely creative, not only so that the companies can produce a new collection every year, but also so as not to miss out on a current consumer trend somewhere.

Speaking of sustainability as a megatrend: this time there were strict regulations for the construction of the trade fair stands so that the materials could be reused.

The Salone organizers around Maria Porro, for example, are also thinking about moving away from the rectangle as the preferred basic shape for the layout in the halls.

Last year there was already a kind of “boulevard“ (“See also” at the foot of this webpage).

Maria Porro, Presdent of the fair, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director of the Serpentine Galleries in London. Photo: BBDO / Salone del Mobile.Milano

Maria Porro announced at a dialog event that the experiments in this regard will continue: She wants to achieve that visitors “discover things“ and that, we express it analogously, “there are possibilities for the unexpected and surprises.“ She wants to “move away from the rectangular pattern of the Roman military camps,“ as she put it, “a mixture of paths and squares“ is what she has in mind.

Her partner at this dialog event was Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director of the Serpentine Galleries in London and an important source of inspiration for the art scene from there. He naturally echoed Porro’s ideas, as he advocates walking as a way of discovering interesting things (along the way and in one’s head).

At their dialog event, Porro and Obrist themselves and unconsciously demonstrated the new form that talking to each other at modern trade fairs could take in the future: Maria Porro opened the conversation with a question, but in the end, it was her counterpart Obrist who took on the role of the questioner.

Neither of them seemed to have any problem at all with the fact that they had thrown the traditional hierarchies of host and guest overboard in passing.

As a result, at the end of the event, Maria Porro made an affectionate political statement to the industry when, in response to Obrist’s question about one of her dreams, she enthused: “I wish that design and creativity were taught in every elementary school, that they were a capital ‘D’ in every curriculum for young people.“

The panel discussion on artificial intelligence was similar. For the six panelists in the central seating area and the audience of around 150, there was no question as to whether the topic should appear at a furniture fair.

“Under the Surface.” Photo: Salone del Mobile.Milano“All You Have Ever Wanted to Know About Food Design in Six Performances“. Photo: Diego Ravier / Salone del Mobile.Milano“All You Have Ever Wanted to Know About Food Design in Six Performances“. Photo: Diego Ravier / Salone del Mobile.Milano

More news from Salone 2024:
* some of the halls had been completely swapped, so that companies previously based in the rear halls now found a space closer to the main entrance. Mind you: the occupancy within the halls remained the same, the entire layout had been moved;
* places for relaxation or inspiration were spread throughout the halls, for example, a kind of underwater rock world in blue light on a 20 x 20 m surface (titled “Under the Surface”); a kind of fairground darkroom was announced, for which artist and designer David Lynch promised to “energize“ visitors and thus give them new ideas; there was the show “All You Have Ever Wanted to Know About Food Design in Six Performances“; and more;
* visitors could register for a table tennis tournament at the stand of a company for corresponding products and compete with designers;
* a new feature was a bookshop with recommendations from prominent trade fair participants;
* last but not least: the Salone Satellite, a promotional program and exhibition area for young creatives launched by Marva Griffin Wilshire, celebrated its 25th anniversary, including a look back at the ideas from back then and their path through the market.

Further information can be found on the Events website of the trade fair, which we have linked to below.

Conversations at Drafting Futures: US architect Jeanne Gang. Photo: Romano Dubbini / Salone del Monile.MilanoConversations at Drafting Futures: Francis Kéré, first African architect to be awarded the Pritzker Prize. Photo: Salone del Mobile.Milano

The statistics (final numbers), last but not least: With 370,824 visitors (+20.2 % compared to the previous year), the trade fair set a record. 53.9 % of the visitors came from abroad.

The number of exhibitors reached a record 1,950 (33 % from abroad). They came from 35 countries.

The top 15 market geographies saw China make a great comeback, followed by
Germany, Spain, Brazil, France, the United States, Poland, Russia, Switzerland,
Turkey, India, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Japan, and Austria.

Delegations came from the United States, India, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, France and Saudi Arabia.

As usual, four of the 24 halls were reserved for different themes every two years: this year they were called EuroCucina / FTK Technology For the Kitchen and Bathroom respectively, next year it will be Euroluce.

63. Salone del Mobile.Milano, April 08. – 13.,2025

Events-Webpage of the fair 2024

See also:

(03.05.2024, USA: 05.03.2024)