Nilufar Gallery curator Nina Yashar’s home is a treasure trove of great design, past and present

We talked to the Milanese trendsetter about sustainability and the need for design with a social conscience…

nina yashar house milan, nilufar gallery
Rei Moon

‘Follow your instincts. Instincts minimise failure,’ advises Nina Yashar. Since founding Milan’s Nilufar Gallery in 1979 and vast exhibition space Nilufar Depot in 2015, she has done nothing but trust her gut, utilising her impeccable taste to create what are commonly regarded as the places to see experimental design and art.

Recent exhibitions at Nilufar – named after Nina’s sister and ‘guiding light’ Nilu – have included a look at the work of Brazilian modernist Lina Bo Bardi, an introduction to Pietro Consagra’s ‘Matacubi’ (abstracted sculptures that also function as benches), and a showcase of the work of British designer Bethan Laura Wood, whom Nina championed from the very beginning of her career.

It should be no surprise that the gallerist’s own home in Milan is just as brilliantly curated.

nina yashar house milan, nilufar gallery
Rei Moon

Jewellery designer Giancarlo Montebello was the mastermind behind the property’s renovation, decorating the ceilings and walls like an ancient fresco painting scattered with golden stars. Beneath this constellation, inspired by motifs associated with Nina’s Iranian heritage, she has assembled her most treasured items of collectible furniture and art.

There’s the console by Gio Ponti for the Parco dei Principi Hotel in Sorrento and 12 chairs created by Carlo Mollino for Turin’s Lutrario dance hall in the 1950s (some of the rarest). The latter are still covered in the original red vinyl – an important detail for Nina, for whom authenticity is paramount.

nina yashar house milan, nilufar gallery dining room
Rei Moon

‘Life, collecting and the gallery are all driven by instinct,’ she explains. ‘I throw myself into the places that my instincts take me. I travel a lot. The objects discovered while wandering are the ones I bring into my world. They are the shining stars.’ We met up with Nina to discover a little more about her private universe…

What does home mean to you? Home is the place where I can feel comfortable and at the same time express myself without limits: cosmopolitan and kaleidoscopic, in a very personal way.

Is your home’s collection different from the items that can be found in Nilufar Gallery? No. It is a continuation. I love every piece and the items in my gallery and home constantly interchange.

nina yashar house milan, nilufar gallery
Rei Moon

Do you feel any obligations as a gallerist? I have a personal goal: I want to dig deeply into the history and cultural aspects of my collection through research and exhibitions. When I first opened the gallery, there was no such notion as collectible design.

What are the biggest challenges facing the design world? I think they are undoubtedly related to the concept of sustainability. We need to work on creative reuse or the innovative synthesis of recycled materials. There are also sociological and social issues. We need to be implementing services, systems and infrastructures to face critical situations such as the effects of climate change, natural disasters, wars and the resulting flow of migrants. I consider my work as a curator essential to a more far-sighted vision of design.

bedroom in nina yashar house milan, nilufar gallery
Rei Moon

Do you have a dream for the future? Ultimately, I hope to gather together groups of talented designers and stimulate projects that support contemporary experimentation and ideas informed by relevant historical references. The aim is to trigger innovation, taking from our past and reinventing it.

Can you predict the big trend in design for 2022? My keyword for this year is ‘identity’. Nowadays, designers study technology and the ecosystem to find design solutions for the big socio-political and cultural issues. On top of the beauty of both art and design, they have to demonstrate their value in society. Therefore, the identity of the artist or designer, their ideas and beliefs, should be prominent in the product.

How would you describe the joy of collecting art and design? I think the French novelist Gustave Flaubert said it best: ‘Art, the only true and good thing in life!’

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