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Memphis Group

Italian

To many people, postmodern design is synonymous with the Memphis Group. This Italian collaborative created the most radical and attention-getting designs of the period, upending most of the accepted standards of how furniture should look.

The Memphis story begins in 1980, when Ettore Sottsass, then a beacon of Italian postmodernism, tapped a coterie of younger designers to develop a collection for the Milan Furniture Fair the next year, determined that all the new furniture they were then seeing was boring. Their mission: Boldly reject the stark minimalism of the 1970s and shatter the rules of form and function. (Sottsass’s Ultrafragola mirror, designed in 1970, embodied many of what would become the collective’s postmodern ideals.)

The group decided to design, produce and market their own collection, one that wouldn’t be restricted by concerns like functionality and so-called good taste. Its debut, at Milan’s 1981 Salone del Mobile, drew thousands of viewers and caused a major stir in design circles.

So as a record of Bob Dylan’s “Stuck Inside of Mobile” played on repeat, they took their name from the song, devised their marketing strategy and plotted the postmodern look that would come to define the decade of excess — primary colors, blown-up proportions, playful nods to Art Deco and Pop art. A high-low mix of materials also helped define Memphis, as evidenced by Javier Mariscal’s pastel serving trays, which feature laminate veneer — a material previously used only in kitchens — as well as Shiro Kuramata’s Nara and Kyoto tables made from colored glass-infused terrazzo.

An image of Sottsass posing with his collaborators in a conversation pit shaped like a boxing ring appeared in magazines all over the world, and Karl Lagerfield furnished his Monte Carlo penthouse entirely in Memphis furniture. Meanwhile, members like Andrea Branzi, Aldo Cibic, Michele de Lucchi, Nathalie du Pasquier, Kuramata, Paola Navone, Peter Shire, George Sowden, Sottsass and his wife, journalist Barbara Radice, went on to enjoy fruitful careers.

Some people think of the Milan-based collective as the design equivalent to Patrick Nagel’s kitschy screenprints, but for others Memphis represents what made the early 1980s so great: freedom of expression, dizzying patterns and off-the-wall colors.

Eventually, the Reagan era gave way to cool 1990s minimalism, and Memphis fell out of fashion. Sottsass left the group in 1985, and by 1987, it had disbanded. Yet decades later, Memphis is back and can be traced to today’s most exciting designers.

“As someone who was born in the 1980s, Memphis at times feels like the grown-up, artsy version of the toys I used to play with,” says Shaun Kasperbauer, cofounder of the Brooklyn studio Souda. “It feels a little nostalgic, but at the same time it seems like an aesthetic that’s perfectly suited to an internet age — loud, colorful and utilizing forms that are graphic and often a little unexpected.”

Find a collection of vintage Memphis Group seating, tables, decorative objects and other furniture on 1stDibs.

Average Sold Price
$2,231
Styles
Materials
Bay Table Lamp USA, 110 Volts, by Ettore Sottsass for Memphis Milano Collection
By Memphis Group, Memphis Milano, Ettore Sottsass
Located in Pregnana Milanese, IT
Here you are shown the US wired, Bay Table Lamp in glass, aluminum and plexiglass, designed by Ettore Sottsass in 1983 for Memphis Milano. Ettore Sottsass was born in Innsbruck in 1...
Category

21st Century and Contemporary Italian Modern Memphis Group

Materials

Aluminum

Super Lamp by Martine Bedin for Memphis Milano, Italy, 1981
By Martine Bedin, Memphis Group
Located in Vienna, AT
Super lamp, designed by Martine Bedin in 1981 for Memphis Group. To use a rolling table or floor lamp. From the first edition, made of fiberglass with rubber wheels. In excellent con...
Category

1980s Italian Memphis Group Vintage Memphis Group

Materials

Metal

Ettore Sottass "Pattica Lamp" for Memphis 'Post Design' Collection, 2000
By Ettore Sottsass, Memphis Group
Located in London, GB
Ettore Sottsass Post design (Memphis), Milan, Italy. ‘Pattica’ lamp, 2000. Yellow dyed maple base with five florescent lamps. Original box. Fully function, supplied complete with ...
Category

Late 20th Century Italian Post-Modern Memphis Group

Super Blue Table Light USA 110 Volts, by Martine Bedin for Memphis Milano Coll.
By Martine Bedin, Memphis Group, Memphis Milano
Located in Pregnana Milanese, IT
Here you are shown the US wired, Super Blue table or floor lamp in fiberglass, designed in 1981, by Martine Bedin. Color options also include: Yellow, White with Colored Sockets, and...
Category

21st Century and Contemporary Italian Modern Memphis Group

Materials

Glass, Fiberglass

14 Astidamia Vase, by Ettore Sottsass from Memphis Milano
By Memphis Group, Memphis Milano, Ettore Sottsass
Located in Pregnana Milanese, IT
The Astidamia glass vase was originally designed by Ettore Sottsass in 1986. The vase is part of the “Astidamia Glass” collection. Made in blown Murano glass, and signed “E.Sottsass ...
Category

21st Century and Contemporary Italian Modern Memphis Group

Materials

Glass

Nefertiti Teapot Matteo Thun for Memphis-Milano Original, 1980s
By Matteo Thun, Memphis Group
Located in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Vintage original 1980s Nefertiti tea pot. Red is vintage color which is no longer production now. There is signature on bottom. Designed by Matteo Thun for Memphis Milano.
Category

1980s Italian Post-Modern Vintage Memphis Group

Materials

Ceramic

Pair of First Chairs by Michele de Lucchi for Memphis
By Michele de Lucchi, Memphis Group
Located in Vienna, AT
Pair of iconic "First Chairs" designed by Michelle de Lucchi for Memphis Milano 1983 in good condition, some scratches to the seat. Priced individually.
Category

1980s Italian Post-Modern Vintage Memphis Group

Materials

Metal

Carrot Flower Vase, by Nathalie du Pasquier from Memphis Milano
By Memphis Group, Nathalie du Pasquier, Memphis Milano
Located in Pregnana Milanese, IT
The Carrot ceramic vase was originally designed by Nathalie du Pasquier in 1985 for Memphis Milano. The transmuted ceramic arises in geometric compositions that expose the humor and ...
Category

21st Century and Contemporary Italian Modern Memphis Group

Materials

Ceramic

Browse all Furniture from Memphis Group
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Memphis Group Sellers

Memphis Group furniture for sale on 1stDibs

Memphis Group furniture is available for sale on 1stDibs. These distinctive objects are frequently made of metal and designed with extraordinary care. There are many options in our Memphis Group collection of furniture, although brown editions of this piece are particularly popular. In stock, we have 35 vintage editions of these items, while there are also 134 modern editions to choose from. Many of the original furniture by Memphis Group were created in the Modern style in Europe during the 21st Century and Contemporary. Many customers also consider furniture by Sabrina Landini, Michele de Lucchi and Material Lust if you want to have additional options. Prices for Memphis Group furniture may vary depending on size, time period and other attributes. 1stDibs's price starts at $99 and tops out at $27,157, while pieces like these can sell for $2,879.

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