Return to Memphis
Polarising critics when they burst onto the design scene in 1981 with their first show at the Milan furniture fair, the Memphis Group’s designs have retained all the busy, eclectic exuberance of the postmodern ‘80s. Having slipped under the radar of all but a few collectors for years, their work is now coming back to the attention of the world again.
It is impossible notto respond to the furniture of the 1980s design collective, the Memphis Group. An encounter with their designs gives the viewer an exciting jolt, and shakes loose all manner of adjectives and descriptions: bold, rule-breaking, energetic, radical, provocative.
It’s not hard to see why critics were divided. Their work was a deliberate break with the calm, understated taste of midcentury designs. Primary colours jostle with neon, pastels, and tangy yellows, oranges and blues; surfaces pulse with bold black and white patterns of squiggles or thick stripes. Armchairs are built up of geometric shapes, including spheres, cylinders; uprights tilt. Plastic laminate was a favoured material among many others which the Group incorporated into their pieces.
Ettore Sottsass by Deyan Sudjic
image source http://uk.phaidon.com/agenda/design/articles/2014/may/16/ettore-sottsass-by-deyan-sudjic/
Founded in 1981, the Milan-based Memphis Group was a collective of young designers from different countries, led by the veteran architect and designer, Ettore Sottsass, and deriving its name from a Bob Dylan song which happened to be playing during an initial meeting. Despite generating large interest from its early years, the collective’s commercial sales were not high. But by the time the Group disbanded in 1988, their influence had permeated popular culture, with their style filtering into set designs for film and TV shows.
image source https://www.we-heart.com/2015/10/20/karl-lagerfelds-memphis-apartment/
Despite the mixed reception, the work of the Memphis Group captured the interest of figures such as David Bowie and Karl Lagerfeld, both of whom collected pieces from the group. And in recent years, as well as gathering new followers, the Memphis Group’s style is coming back to visibility. In 2014, Memphis Group designer Nathalie du Pasquier created graphic prints for American Apparel, featuring bold Memphis-style patterns. In the same year London’s Design Museum featured an exhibition on the work of the Memphis Group, while in 2017 the Met Breuer in New York featured an exhibition on the work of Ettore Sottsass. With the work still appearing bold and able to inspire and provoke after thirty years, this 80s legacy is driven by more than nostalgia.
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please note image source of featured image https://www.we-heart.com/2015/10/20/karl-lagerfelds-memphis Ettore Sottsass, “Suvretta” Bookcase. George James Sowden, “Unknown” Table. Michele De Lucchi, “Riviera” Chairs. Ettore Sottsass, “Treetops” Floor Lamp. Photo © Jacques Schumacher