Philippe Starck was having lunch on the Amalfi coast. As he ordered a plate of calamari he was pondering his latest commission from the Italian design house Alessi. The company, responsible for so many iconic designs over the years, had requested a tray and Starck needed to work out how to bring his unique talents to such a humdrum object. Glancing down at his plate, he realised he had no lemon.
As he beckoned to the waiter, Starck was suddenly seized by an idea. He began scribbling on his paper napkin.
Twenty years on that napkin is now in the Alessi museum. Greasy and lemon-stained it depicts the very first doodles of what would become the now iconic Juicy Salif lemon squeezer.
Alberto Alessi, the founder of the company, recalls: “I received a napkin from Starck. On it, among some incomprehensible marks – tomato sauce in all likelihood – there were some sketches. Sketches of squid. They started on the left and as they worked their way over to the right, they took on the unmistakeable shape of what was to become the juicy salif.
“While eating a dish of squid and squeezing a lemon over it, Starck drew on the napkin his famous squeezer.”
First produced in 1990, this product is as controversial as many of Starck’s other designs. Some say it doesn’t work very well and makes a mess of the worktop. Others celebrate it purely as an example of form over function. Whatever your opinion, it now ranks among the greats of modern design with a place in MoMA in New York, which means that it is officially a work of art in your kitchen.
Michael Czerwinski, responsible for the public art programme at London’s Design Museum, says: “Starck has imbued what was a perfectly adequate kitchen drawer filler with aspirational desirability, indications of intellectual meaning and a mythical lack of juicing prowess.”
First published in The Independent