[Memphis designers] are hardly sharp-tongued intellectuals or prophets obsessed by a redeeming message that will save the world....Compared with the leaders of the previous generation they’re curious, optimistic, eclectic, a bit superficial, a bit nonchalant, enthusiastic in a rather insolent way. They are great fans of the mass media, fashion devourers, hamburger eaters, record collectors. The past does not appear to weigh heavily on their shoulders. They are in the process of changing the face of design.

Barbara Radice

Living with Memphis

Memphis only lasted six years, yet the radical design collective made a lasting impact on the field of design. Memphis challenged the aesthetics of Modernism and, as Aldo Cibic explains, “reset everything design had seen before”. 

Identifiable and bold, Memphis designs found their way onto movie sets and into the homes of forward-thinking and creative luminaries such as Karl Lagerfeld, whose Monaco penthouse was bursting with the bold designs that he acquired directly from Ettore Sottsass and David Bowie who collected Memphis alongside important modern and postmodern art. Memphis also found its way into retail establishments such as Macy's and Bloomingdale's and in the years since its introduction, museum collections across the globe. 

I always call it sensorial design, because it’s your senses that allow you to explore and understand an object. Your eyes, your fingers, even your nose. That’s why the materials are so important. Objects can change your daily life, make it exciting, happier and more poetic.

Ettore Sottsass

Ettore Sottsass

Ettore Sottsass is one of the most significant designers and architects of the late 20th Century, his bold and colorful, Post Modern aesthetic enlivening objects, furniture and interiors and influencing design around the world. Born in Innsbruck, Austria in 1917, Sottsass and his family moved to Turin, Italy in 1929 so he could study architecture at the Politecnico di Turino. He graduated with a degree in architecture in 1939 but he was called to serve the Italian army during World War II and he spent most of the war in a concentration camp. Upon his return in 1945, he worked for his father, Ettore Sottsass senior, an architect practicing in Turin, before relocating to Milan to curate a craft exhibition at the 1946 Triennale.

In Milan, Sottsass began writing for the art and architectural magazine, Domus. It was also here in Milan that Sottsass founded his own architectural and industrial design practice establishing a name for himself by the end of the 1950s with the design of fashionable office equipment for Olivetti. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Sottsass created radical and experimental designs for forward thinking companies like Poltronova. Sottsass’ exploration of a new visual language included collaborating with artists such as Alessandro Mendini and Andrea Branzi and culminated in the formation of the radical design collective, Memphis whose work was widely accepted and shown all over the world.

Notable architectural projects by Sottsass include the interiors of a chain of stores for Esprit (1985) and the Malpensa airport near Milan (2000). He received many awards and honors throughout his lifetime and his work has been the subject of numerous international publications and exhibitions including a recent retrospective at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Designs by Sottsass can be found in the permanent collections of many museums including the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

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Auction Results Ettore Sottsass