The Muses, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (the personification of “Memory”) were the protector goddesses of the arts, and their guide was Apollo who was in turn the God of the Arts. It appears that the root of their name meant “those who meditate, who create with imagination”. It also seems that the term mosaic comes precisely from them, meaning “patient work worthy of the Muses”. History, art, and even a bit of mythology come together in this technique which is one of the most ancient in the world, having accompanied humanity on its journey through history, first as a necessity (to waterproof beaten earth floors and make them more useable), and then as something created for the love of beauty.
Used extensively in ancient Greece and Rome and raised to levels of sheer craftsmanship during the Byzantine period, mosaics have suffered a slow decline in the art world, especially for economic reasons tied to the expense of their creation. Despite this, Renato Bisazza established a mosaic manufacturing company in 1956 in Alte (Province of Vicenza) based on a visionary intuition that would lead the company from its origins in a small Italian province to becoming the leader in a difficult sector and would allow mosaics, thanks to him, to become innovative once again. During the construction boom of the 1960’s, the first secret was the development of an industrial production system that allowed glass mosaics to become more durable and thereby more accessible, making them perfect for exterior surfaces as well. The second leap from a necessity to something of beauty was made in the 1990’s when the company began to collaborate with designers and architects, and mosaics secured their place firmly in the pantheon of interior decoration. Shops, cafes, restaurants, hotels, installations with a big impact and decorations, sculptures, and even a “Mini wears Bisazza”, the star of a road show organised in the most important design capitals, allowed the brand to make a name for itself at the international level to become what it is today: a company with six single-brand spaces (London, Los Angeles, Miami, Milan, Paris and New York), 2,800 shops around the world, and new collections that have allowed it, for the first time, to enter similar sectors, like bathroom furnishing and Cementiles.
However, the Muses mediate, create with imagination, inspire the arts, and the company came full circle in 2012 with the creation of Fondazione Bisazza per il Design e l’Architettura Contemporanea (Bisazza Foundation for Design and Contemporary Architecture): a 7,500 m2 area that had previously been reserved for company production, redesigned by architect Carlo Dal Bianco for exhibitions. The extensive collection includes works and installations by designers and contemporary architects who, over the past twenty years, have imagined unique applications for mosaics. The museum also collaborates with prestigious international institutions to host travelling exhibitions and design and architectural projects not necessarily tied to mosaics.
From a necessity to a thing of beauty, from the past to the present, the history of Italian mosaics continues. And the Muses are thankful.
All photos, courtesy of Bisazza / bisazza.com