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Peter Shire is a celebrated artist, working most notably in ceramics (and teapots, in particular), who first rose to prominence as part of the influential and radical Memphis design group. His diverse and lively body of work is a culmination of his west coast-sensibilities (he is a fourth generation Californian), a blurring craft and art, and a postmodern approach to color and form.
Shire was born in Los Angeles in 1947 and developed an early passion for craft, as his father was an illustrator and carpenter. He graduated from the influential Chouinard Art Institute, Los Angeles (now known as CalArts) in 1970. He came of age during a particularly rich period in California design—ceramicists such as Peter Voulkos, Gertrude and Otto Natzler and Ken Price elevated the medium in the 1950s and 1960s and the Pattern and Design movement of the 1970s emphasized surface pattern, kitsch and craft, challenging traditional notions of taste.
Upon seeing Shire’s colorful and anthropomorphic teapots in WET magazine in 1977, Ettore Sottsass invited the young designer to be part of Memphis, a radical design group that suited Shire’s irreverent and playful attitude. While part of Memphis, he created some of the movement’s most iconic designs, including the Bel Air Chair and the Brazil table. After Memphis dissolved in the late 1980s, Shire expanded his artistic output to include glass works, fashion, interior design, and toys. Of particular note are the public mural and sculptures he creates in Los Angeles, a city he has committed himself to and provides him with endless inspiration.
In 2017, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Tucson presented Peter Shire: Naked Is the Best Disguise, a survey of his creative production. Shires’s work is held in such prestigious collections as the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Stedlijk Museum, Amsterdam and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.