After graduating from Milan Polytechnic with a degree in architecture, Mario Bellini started working as a designer in 1963 with Olivetti, Cassina, Artemide, B&B Italia, Yamaha, Renualt, Rosenthal and Vitra.
The bulk of his work grew out of the “classical design school,” which was driven by marketability, the possibility of mass industrial production and commercial viability. Thus, his work tends to be rather formal, an attempt to make “good Italian design synonymous with industry and culture.” His lighting designs, like his 1974 “Area” hanging light, often have a more sculptural quality, without compromising the functionality of the design.
Bellini’s early chairs for C & B Italy and for Cassina are elegant examples of the prevailing popularity for heavily cushioned armchairs and sofas. His “Amanta” sectional (1966) is a simple, L-shaped foam cushion over a fiberglass frame. His later “Cab” chair and sofa (1976, 1982) had removable leather coverings that zipped around the frame. His use of clay as the material for his models is evident in the soft, pliable quality of his designs. His series of ergonomic office chairs designed for Vitra were close forefathers to the office chairs mass-produced today. These chairs, put into production in the late 1970’s were: “Figura,” “Persona,” “Imago,” “Onda,” “Summa” and “Forma.”
Bellini has won numerous international awards for his professional work, including seven Compasso d’Oro Awards. Many of his works are in the permanent design collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which in June 1987, dedicated a monographic exhibition to him. Among his most famous works in Italy are the new Portello area of the Milan Trade Fair and the convention center “Villa Erba” in Cernobbio. He won two international competitions, one for the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne and the other for the west-south area of the International Trade Fair in Essen, which was completed in 2001. From 1986 to 1991, he was editor of Domus, a monthly magazine of architecture, design and art.
Bellini is a great lover of arts and has organized countless art exhibitions, including the Treasure of San Marco of Venice at the Grand Palais in Paris (1984-1987), the Italian Art in the 29th Century at the Royal Academy of Arts in London (1989), the Renaissance from Brunelleschi to Michelangelo at Palazzo Grassi in Venice, Paris and Berlin (1994-95), the Triumph of Baroque, Architecture in Europe 1600-1750, in Turin (1999) and the Civic Gallery of Contemporary Art in Trento which dedicated a monographic exhibition to him entitled, “Mario Bellini: a path through architecture, furniture and cars”, which he himself organized.