Memphis Group

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A collection of objects by Memphis

The Memphis Group was an Italian design and architecture group founded in Milan by Ettore Sottsass in 1981 which designed Postmodern furniture, fabrics, ceramics, glass and metal objects from 1981 to 1987

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


The group was inspired by Pop Art

On December 11, 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 group produced and exhibited furniture and design objects, annually from 1981 until 1988. The result was a highly acclaimed debut at the 1981 Salone del Mobile of Milan, the world's most prestigious furniture fair.[citation needed]

The group's members included Alessandro Mendini, Martine Bedin, Andrea Branzi, Aldo Cibic, Michele de Lucchi, Nathalie du Pasquier, Hans Hollein, Arata Isozaki, Shiro Kuramata, Matteo Thun, Javier Mariscal, Luciano Paccagnella, Peter Shire, George Sowden, Marco Zanini, Ettore Sottsass, and the journalist Barbara Radice.[2][3] Sottsass left the movement in 1985, and it disbanded in 1991.[2]


The group's colourful furniture has been described as "bizarre", "misunderstood", "loathed", and "a shotgun wedding between Bauhaus and Fisher-Price".[4]

While created in the 1980s, the colourful geometric style became most popular and widely accepted in the 1990s, where it had an impact on 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,[5] for the Winter 2015 Missoni collection,[6] and fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld collected Memphis pieces.[7]


  1. ^ Article: "Has postmodernist design eaten itself ?"
  2. ^ a b "Memphis – Product + Furniture Designers (1981–1985)". Design Museum. 
  3. ^ Möbel, Memphis
  4. ^ Pellegrin, Bertrand (January 15, 2012). "Collectors give '80s postmodernist design 2nd look". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  5. ^ Fox, Imogen (July 4, 2011). "Christian Dior shows first haute couture collection since John Galliano snacking". The Guardian. London. 
  6. ^ "Angela Missoni quotes Memphis as a reference for her jacquards". 
  7. ^ Glancey, Jonathan (March 22, 2002). "Love it or loathe it?". The Guardian. London. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Sparke, Penny (1988). Italian Design: 1870 to the Present. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-23531-7

External links[edit]