Art becomes design
chille Salvagni is essentially an artist on loan to the design world. In fact, it only takes a few minutes of conversation with him to realise why his interiors are so enormously successful in the yacht design world and beyond. The Roman architect is a great lover of beauty in all its forms, is passionate about history and is a connoisseur of design, the people that have made it great and its evolution.
Surprisingly, he keeps a low profile, albeit more by character than calculation. Despite that, however, he has, in the space of just a few short years become one of the go-to names on the world yachting scene. This is due in great part to his natural artistic talents and his highly individual take on design. To Salvagni, design is something that leaves an indelible mark or message on the object and influences people’s lives. “Artistic expression can’t worry about the reaction it will elicit from the viewer. But technical expression is entirely about function. Design, on the other hand, has to take both into account and influences both use and sensual pleasure as well as impacting perceptively on our soul and the quality of our lives. So it’s a big responsibility!” he explains.
The secret of Achille Salvagni’s success lies both in this sense of responsibility towards the people who will be experiencing his creations and also his approach to history. To him interiors are portraits of the people that live in them
filtered through his vision of art and design and based on a principle of identity more than style.
His visions of art and design wouldn’t exactly be bang on trend with the masses right now and definitely do not involve the only occasionally-successful clumping together of designer products. Salvagni does not choose furniture and accessories, he creates them. «When I began getting clients that were asking for authoritative designs I tried to work out how the big American designers operated and I realised that their secret was that they surrounded themselves with unique objects. They didn’t depend on the industrial design market for their projects, but went to artists to create unique experiences,” he continues. “And that was how I discovered how much fun I had creating once-off elements and how gratifying it was. Plus clients liked them more than anything on offer from the industrial design world.”
Achille Salvagni’s works are so unique and diverse that you really could write a book about them. But their beauty is so intrinsic that it will move even people with no background in either art or design which is why they are so popular with a very broad array of clients from big names in the art and finance worlds to megayacht and production yacht owners. Which is down to the myriad cultural references they communicate in some absolutely indefinable way. «That’s one of my favourite games,” Salvagni smiles. “I love codifying a space on the basis of what it is and where it
is but also adding in different references which, depending on the occasion, can range from Italian design of the 1940s and 50s to Scandi, via colonial, Renaissance and even Medieval.” He continues: “It gives me a way of creating extremely intimate spaces so full of flair and softness that they feel like they are the result of the owner’s maturity and personal history.”
Equally important to Salvagni’s work are the antiqued patinas and finishes which not only make objects intriguing and fascinating but also unique. «I gradually and quite by chance met a series of Roman craftspeople that had spent generations restoring the noble palazzos as well as maintaining the Quirinale and the Vatican. That made me think and I realised they had something that deserved rediscovering. So I went to see what they could do and then I created objects around their skills,” the Roman architect explains. “The patinas on my bronzes and woods, the shellac and gilding are exactly the same as are used to restore a piece of 18th century furniture. They are old skills that I rediscovered and put at the centre of my art in a contemporary way.”
He does the same for the limited edition pieces he shows in his Mayfair atelier and Maison Gerard in New York. His works now sell at the world’s leading auction houses, reaching sky-high figures. The Salvagni name has recently been linked with a slew of megayachts but not many people will
be aware his yachting career started a long time ago. He was ushered in the front door of the megayacht world in 2011 when he penned the interiors for the 70-metre Rossinavi Numptia which left her mark on modern yachting. He followed up that triumph with interiors for Aurora and Endeavour II, a 49 and a 50-metre, also for Rossinavi. He is currently crafting the interiors of Azimut’s Grande series and the yard has entrusted him with relaunching not just the range but the whole concept of what a production boat is. Lastly Salvagni did the interiors for two Perini Navis which were never built. A great pity as the sailing world needs his creative flair.
“Uniqueness alone is not enough – you need a sense of authority” «L’unicità da sola non basta, ci vuole anche autorevolezza»
Left and bottom opposite page, the Cocktail Hours and Pompeii installations at the Mayfair Atelier. Opposite page, Achille Salvagni and drawings for the Earring applique.A sinistra e in basso nella pagina a fianco, due installazioni nell’Atelier di Mayfair: Cocktail Hours e Pompeii. Pagina a fianco, Achille Salvagni e i disegni per l’applique Earring.