One of the strangest, but maybe also the most interesting design group of the 20th century was the Memphis Group.
Furniture and design objects in the 1950s and 60s were superb and exclusive, pro-duced by cabi-netmakers who made use of natural materi-als like wood and leather. The 1970s offered more in the way of colour with plastic, clamshells and beer crates. The 1980s broke with earlier times. Tubular steel, neon lighting and leather were all the rage – minimalist, cold and masculine. And then there were the Italians!
It all started in Milan in 1980. One of the main protagonists was Ettore Sottsass (1917-2007). The Italian designer and architect was maybe best known for his orangey-red typewriter Valentine from 1969, designed for Olivetti. He was born in Innsbruck in Austria, but the Italian family moved soon back to Milan where Sottsass grew up, and he later served in the Italian army during the Second World War, during which time he spent a number of years in a concentra-tion camp in former Yugoslavia.
In 1980 Ettore Sottsass met with other, internatio-nal and Italian architects and designers like Michele De Lucchi, Matteo Thun and Marco Zanini for a lively evening and night with plenty of drinking and Bob Dylan’s “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again”. The song inspired the name of their new design group – the Memphis Group.
The group designed and launched furniture, ceramics, lamps and textiles – all in the utterly characteristic, postmodernist style that typified the 1980s. Nevertheless the Memphis Group had a style completely of its own – the furniture and lamps were playful, mischievous, using different materials and odd shapes and forms. Absolutely unique! Once you’ve seen a piece of furniture from the Memphis Group you never forget it. For better or worse – all according to personal taste!
There has been no shortage of criticism directed at Memphis Group creations. And there’s no doubting that things made by the Memphis Group are eccentric, bizarre, perplexing and surprising. But their design is also fantastic, humoristic and itself through and through.
Original design from the Memphis Group, who counted among them names like George J. Sowden (b. 1942), Alessandro Mendini (b. 1931), Shiro Kuramata (1934-91) and Michele de Lucchi (b. 1951), is keenly sought after among the design-aficionado elite, such as trendsetters, interior designers and fashion icons like Karl Lagerfeld (b. 1931), and prices are often sky high. Northern Europeans, though, have yet to open their eyes fully to these playful Italians.
You need to be a bit of an expert to find inexpensive Memphis design at auction, but actually you can be lucky at Lauritz.com. Get lucky here… maybe!