How Memphis Design Found A New Audience

The Memphis Group’s design style is unmistakable. The output of the short-lived, divisive design collective, which debuted at the Milan furniture fair in 1981 and closed shop six years later, embodied the garish appeal of the decade that style forgot. Their furniture was colorful, kitschy and exaggerated. They stacked slanted rows of cheap plastic laminates and called it a bookshelf. The group – led by founder Ettore Sottsass – decided that geometric shapes made great table legs, and that black-and-white stripes totally worked with lemon-yellow circles. The Met Breuer’s new

exhibition Ettore Sottsass: Design Radical cuts through the glare of 80s DayGlo to focus on Memphis, the philosophy. It charts the movement’s origins through its founder’s 60-year career, presenting Memphis not as a passing fad, but the culmination of one man’s decades-long mission of creating a more spiritual approach to design. “The Memphis Group’s main goal was to create objects that appealed to you on an emotional level,” says the Met Breuer curator Christian Larsen.

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