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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
US$2,304
Styles
Materials
Aldebaran Glass Fruit Bowl, by Ettore Sottsass for Memphis Milano Collection
By Memphis Group, Memphis Milano, Ettore Sottsass
Located in Pregnana Milanese, IT
The Aldebaran Glass Fruit Bowl was designed for Memphis in 1983 by Ettore Sottsass. This bowl features a tapering cylindrical shape with three green handles, with the side decorated ...
Category

21st Century and Contemporary Italian Modern Memphis Group

Materials

Glass

12 Amaltea Vase, by Ettore Sottsass from Memphis Milano
By Memphis Group, Ettore Sottsass, Memphis Milano
Located in Pregnana Milanese, IT
The Amaltea Vase was designed by Ettore Sottsass in 1986. The vase is part of the “Amaltea Glass” collection. Made in Murano. Signed “E.Sottsass per Memphis”. Signed on the base. Et...
Category

21st Century and Contemporary Italian Modern Memphis Group

Materials

Glass

32 Ananke Glass Vase, by Ettore Sottsass from Memphis Milano
By Memphis Group, Ettore Sottsass, Memphis Milano
Located in Pregnana Milanese, IT
The Ananke Glass Vase was originally designed by Ettore Sottsass in 1986. The vase is glass blown, and signed on the base, for further information please see authenticity info below....
Category

21st Century and Contemporary Italian Modern Memphis Group

Materials

Glass

Nilo Vase, Designed by Ettore Sottsass in 1983 for the Collection Memphis Milano
By Ettore Sottsass, Memphis Group, Memphis Milano
Located in Beirut, LB
The Nilo vase was originally designed by Ettore Sottsass in 1983 for Memphis Milano 1981-1988. A classic by Sottsass, the Nilo porcelain vase is part of three 'rivers' vases designed...
Category

Late 20th Century Italian Modern Memphis Group

Materials

Porcelain

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

Pair of First Chairs by Michele de Lucchi for Memphis
By Memphis Group, Michele de Lucchi
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

Indivia Ceramic Plate, by Ettore Sottsass from Memphis Milano
By Memphis Group, Memphis Milano, Ettore Sottsass
Located in Pregnana Milanese, IT
The Indivia ceramic dinner plate was originally designed by Ettore Sottsass, in 1985, as part of a series of decorative plates. The playful names of the design items are a reminder o...
Category

21st Century and Contemporary Italian Modern Memphis Group

Materials

Ceramic

Squash Yellow Ashtray, by Maria Sanchez from Memphis Milano
By Memphis Group, Maria Sanchez, Memphis Milano
Located in Pregnana Milanese, IT
The Squash Yellow Ashtray in ceramic was originally designed in 1985 by Maria Sanchez for Memphis Milano. The Squash ashtray is one of the smallest objects in the Memphis Milano coll...
Category

21st Century and Contemporary Italian Modern Memphis Group

Materials

Ceramic

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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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