Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Streamlined Espresso, Modern Art

My brother John Richards has a theory: he thinks the reason Americans have such poor coffee is that their big influx of Italian migrants took place before the invention of the modern espresso machine; while Australia, receiving most of its Italians after World War II, benefited from their technological espresso expertise.

It's a beguiling theory, and one that's currently embodied in physical form at the Museo Italiano in Melbourne, Australia.

Rescued from obscurity and restored by Daniel di Paolo, a selection of fine postwar espresso machines have been impressing visitors for the past few weeks - and you have just a few days to catch the free exhibition before it closes.

It's a remarkable selection with a strongly modernist look - all that streamlined, high-octane, thrusting postwar energy packaged within a device that perfected the way to make good coffee.

Here are a few of the exhibits.

1. A Eureka machine from 1955, seemingly built to resemble a high-powered automobile of the time:


 2. A beautiful Gaggia machine from 1955. I'm fascinated by the streamlined snub-nosed form:


3. The splash guard of this 1952 Faema machine makes it look like a prop from one of the decade's science fiction movies:


4. Whoa... just beautiful. This 1950 La San Marco device was known as the Lollobrigida after the curvy actress Gina Lollobrigida:


5. Another car-like machine, a smooth Gaggia from 1957:


6. This streamlined and rare Rancilio dates from 1955:


7. The 1956 La Pavoni looks like it could double as a prop in an early Doctor Who episode:


8. And finally, one of the first Gaggia models ever made, from 1950. And I think you'll agree, it's a work of espresso-making art:


The espresso machine exhibition runs to Saturday 20 August 2011 at Museo Italiano, 199 Faraday St, Carlton. Open 10am-5pm Tuesday-Friday, 12-5pm Saturday. Admission is free.