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BRAVE / PRAXIS: Memphis Group, Milano

Memphis Group, Milano

1 March 2011, 16:34

I was first introduced to Memphis furniture in the early 1980’s at Sakowitz’s “Festival del Disegno italiano”. I was working in the sales promotion department at the upscale department store located downtown on Main Street. Each year the store highlighted a country and brought in designers, artists and dignitaries for the month long event. I remember coming down the escalator and was in awe when I saw an entire department cleared of its dress racks displaying the colorful and crazy shaped furniture—the likes I had never seen before.

Memphis was a Milan-based group of designers and architects lead by Ettore Sottsass. The story goes that Memphis was concocted in Sottsass’s apartment one night in 1980, when the host invited a group of young designers to develop a glassware, ceramics and furniture collection to premier at the 1981 Milan Furniture Fair. It was to be a protest against the drab brown and orange that had dominated the 1970s. They called it “Memphis” because Bob Dylan’s “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” was on the record player and the needle kept sticking on the last three words of the title.

Memphis split the design world and caused a media sensation; either you loved it or hated it. Museums staged exhibits and designer Karl Lagerfeld decorated his entire Monte Carlo apartment with Memphis. This was the early 1980’s during the early days of MTV playing bands like Duran Duran and Culture Club so the furniture fit in perfectly—achieving almost iconic status.

By 1985, Sottsass grew bored of his comic book furniture and he and most of his collaborators quit.

I’ve only seen a few pieces on EBay and never run across it at antique shops. I get the feeling that no one with real furniture know-how was designing it—basically it was plywood covered with leopard print laminate selling for over $5000. I’ve often wondered what happened to all that Memphis furniture….

[above] Left: “First” Michele De Lucchi, 1983; Right: “Bel Air” Peter Shire, 1982

[above] “Casablanca” Ettore Sottsass, 1981

[above] “Carlton” Ettore Sottsass, 1981

Check out the Memphis Group Flickr Stream here or other interesting sites about the group here or here.


#1 · Miked

9 03 2011 - 09:53

I found the official facebook fan page of Memphis Milano

#2 · Memphis

1 05 2011 - 11:57

Here is the facebook page for news on Memphis news and trends worldwide.

#3 · Denis

4 05 2012 - 14:47

I don??™t know If I said it already but this so good stuff keep up the good work. dd1

#4 · Dennis Zanone

12 12 2012 - 13:45

Planning a museum exhibition in 2014 of my collection.