Memphis Group

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A collection of objects by The Memphis Group

The Memphis Group, also known as Memphis Milano, was an Italian design and architecture group founded by Ettore Sottsass. It was active from 1980 to 1988. The group designed Postmodern furniture, lighting, fabrics, carpets, ceramics, glass, and metal objects.

The Memphis group's work often incorporated plastic laminate and terrazzo materials and was characterized by ephemeral design featuring colorful and abstract decoration as well as asymmetrical shapes, sometimes arbitrarily alluding to exotic or earlier styles and designs. [1]


Memphis was born on the evening of December 11, 1980 when Ettore Sottsass invited a group of young designers and architects to discuss the future of design. During that first meeting,Bob Dylan's record "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again" repeated continuously, and inspired the group to name themselves Memphis.[2]

The group disbanded in 1987 because its members found it difficult to sustain their commercial success after the hype of their new movement had faded.


Carlton room divider by Ettore Sottsass for Memphis, 1981.

The group's colorful furniture has been described as "bizarre", "misunderstood", "loathed", and "a shotgun wedding between Bauhaus and Fisher-Price".[3]

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

Memphis designs served as inspiration for the Fall/Winter 2011–2012 Christian Dior haute couture collection fashion show,[4] for the Winter 2015 Missoni collection,[5]

Notable Memphis design collectors include fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld[6] and musician David Bowie. After Bowie's death in 2016, his collection was auctioned off at Sotheby's for a total of £1,387,000.[7]


Memphis included contributions from many international architects and designers.[8]

Notable members include:


  1. ^ Barnes, Sara. “How the Memphis Movement Went Against ‘Good Taste’ to Inspire Designers Today.” My Modern Met, April 27, 2018.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Pellegrin, Bertrand (January 15, 2012). "Collectors give '80s postmodernist design 2nd look". San Francisco Chronicle.
  4. ^ Fox, Imogen (July 4, 2011). "Christian Dior shows first haute couture collection since John Galliano sacking". The Guardian. London.
  5. ^ Blanks, Tim (1 March 2015). "Missoni Fall 2015 Ready-to-Wear Collection". Vogue. Retrieved 10 February 2019.
  6. ^ Glancey, Jonathan (March 22, 2002). "Love it or loathe it?". The Guardian. London.
  7. ^ "Bowie/Collector Part III: Design: Ettore Sottsass and the Memphis Group". Sotheby's. November 11, 2016. Retrieved July 4, 2017.
  8. ^

Further reading[edit]

  • Radice, Barbara (1985). Memphis: Research, Experiences, Failures and Successes of New Design. New York: Rizzoli. ISBN 9780847805693
  • 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 links[edit]