On December 11, 1980, the young designers Andrea Branzi, Aldo Cibic, Michele De Lucchi, Nathalie Du Pasquier, Barbara Radice and Matteo Thun gathered in the Milan apartment of Ettore Sottsass, then chief designer of Olivetti. It was the birth of a new design movement that rebelled against the dominance of industrial clients, who demanded less objectivity but more emotion: the Memphis group. The design rebellion owes its name to a jump in Bob Dylan's record "Stucco inside a mobile with the Memphis blues". "Memphis" also sounded like Elvis Presley, wild Rock'n'Roll, and the ruling city of Ancient Egypt.
A year later, at the Milan Furniture Fair, the formation presented its first collection of high-pitched furniture, colorful ceramics, atypical clocks and humorous lights. The audience swayed between euphoria and horror - the group had achieved their goal: to evoke strong emotions. Dennis Zanone shows how shrill a room looks like in the complete Memphis look: the living room of the Italian collector is completely filled with design objects of the era.
Economically, Memphis was not exactly a huge success, but glossy magazines, design scenes, and museums pounced; Designers around the world have been influenced by the new design attitude. However, as the popularity grew, so did many bad copies and frustrated the founders. In 1985, Ettore Sottsass retired, four years later, the group broke up completely.
Features of the Memphis style were geometric shapes, stark colors and patterns. Colorful laminated cones, pyramids, spheres and cubes were made into sculptural furniture and accessories whose function was not always recognizable. But other cheeky combinations such as marble on exotic wood or shelves, which did not practically exploit the existing storage space are typical (best known example: Sottsass' colorful shelf "Carlton", which looks like an abstract male). The importance of materials was questioned: Plastic laminate, for example, was worth more than gold in this design understanding.
The picture shows two strictly limited large sculptures, created after a design by Ettore Sottsass: on the left the "Odalisca totem" made of glazed ceramic and a laminated wooden base; right "Burma" made of the same materials.
Incidentally, the "Bacterio" pattern designed by Ettore Sottsass in 1978 is now produced by Abet Laminati as a laminate.
Shortly before his death in 2007 Ettore Sottsass also left the furniture manufacturer Kartell some sketches of vases, stools and lights, which are currently being reissued under the motto "A Tribute to Memphis".
The resurrection of the Memphis movement has been evoked in the design scene for quite some time. Again and again set pieces of the designs appear, colors and patterns have been quoted for a few years, for example in fashion collections by Proenza Schouler (with Krissel shirts and graphic prints). American Apparel even worked with Memphis co-founder Nathalie du Pasquier. Artists and illustrators also repeatedly deal with Memphis, citing shapes and colors, such as Martin Nicolausson, Will Bryant or the painter Hernan Bas with his series "Memphis Living". And of course some furniture manufacturers and interior designers are in the process of revival.
The Danish manufacturer Hay is actually known for its simple furniture and home accessories. However, with the "Wrong for Hay" collection, the brand is showing off its unconventional side. The patterns of "Printed Cushions" were designed by Nathalie Du Pasquier.
The dresser "Rufus Walter" (above) is made of MDF, green marble, leather and steel. The lamp "Little Darling" combines green marble, pink painted steel, leather and glass.
But not only Memphis originals and their special aesthetics, but also their own attitude - the questioning of common taste, the fun of the design, the wink of the eye, the overcoming of pure functionality.
In the eclectic apartment of interior designer Fabrice Ausset are not only some original pieces of the Memphis Group (including in the back of the dining room the Sottsass sculptures shown in Figure 2) - also the expressive wall decoration and the ornamentation of the ceiling of 1700 pieces of wood, which Bacterio pattern "by Sottsass recalls, are a tribute to the movement - the whole apartment a modern variant of the" anti-design ".
The Memphis design, it creeps in different ways and across disciplines in the contemporary aesthetics. Slow but very persistent. How far will it be this time?
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