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A collection of objects by Memphis

The Memphis Group was an Italian design and architecture group founded by Ettore Sottsass in 1980 that designed Postmodern furniture, fabrics, ceramics, glass, and metal objects.

The Memphis group's work often incorporated plastic laminate and was characterized by ephemeral design featuring colorful and abstract decoration as well as asymmetrical shapes, sometimes arbitrarily alluding to exotic or earlier styles.



The group was inspired by Pop Art

On December 1, 1980, Ettore Sottsass organised a meeting with designers, and in 1981 formed a design collaborative named Memphis. The name was taken after the Bob Dylan song "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again" which had been played repeatedly throughout the evening's meeting. They drew inspiration from such movements as Art Deco and Pop Art, including styles such as the 1950s Kitsch and futuristic themes.

The result was a highly acclaimed debut at the 1981 Salone del Mobile of Milan, a highly prestigious furniture design fair. The group produced and exhibited furniture and design objects, annually from 1981 until 1988.



The group's colorful furniture has been described as "bizarre", "misunderstood", "loathed", and "a shotgun wedding between Bauhaus and Fisher-Price".[1]

While created in the 1980s, the colourful geometric style became most popular and widely accepted in the 1990s, where it influenced the design of furniture, architecture, and household items.

Memphis designs served as inspiration for the Fall/Winter 2011–2012 Christian Dior haute couture collection fashion show,[2] for the Winter 2015 Missoni collection,[3] and fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld collected Memphis pieces.[4] Musician David Bowie was also a major collector of Memphis; after his death in 2016, his collection was auctioned off at Sotheby's for a total of £1,387,000.[5]


  1. ^ Pellegrin, Bertrand (January 15, 2012). "Collectors give '80s postmodernist design 2nd look". San Francisco Chronicle.
  2. ^ Fox, Imogen (July 4, 2011). "Christian Dior shows first haute couture collection since John Galliano sacking". The Guardian. London.
  3. ^ Blanks, Tim (1 March 2015). "Missoni Fall 2015 Ready-to-Wear Collection". Vogue. Retrieved 10 February 2019.
  4. ^ Glancey, Jonathan (March 22, 2002). "Love it or loathe it?". The Guardian. London.
  5. ^ "Bowie/Collector Part III: Design: Ettore Sottsass and the Memphis Group". Sotheby's. November 11, 2016. Retrieved July 4, 2017.

Further readingEdit

  • Sparke, Penny (1988). Italian Design: 1870 to the Present. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-23531-7
  • Horn, Richard (1985). Memphis: Objects, Furniture, and Patterns. New York: Wuarto Marketing. ISBN 0-89471-307-8

External linksEdit