The 80s were a time of upheaval – in society in general, but also in design. During this time, a group of Italian furniture designers founded “Memphis” and wanted to attract attention, cause a stir and provoke. The result was hundreds of objects and interior designs “between kitsch and elegance”, as the exhibition in the Gallery of the Vitra Design Museum is appropriately called.
Hochparterre, the magazine for architecture, planning and design, calls it “Living like in a comic”. “They have something of sculptures or architecture in miniature. In addition to these formal features, there is the colourfulness, the mix of patterns and the everyday and, in both senses of the word, cheap material plastic laminate. The names of the pieces of furniture also stand out because of their exoticism,” writes Susanne Koeberle in the introductory text of the article.
The exhibitors see it this way: “The Memphis group was one of the most unusual phenomena to appear in the world of design in recent decades. It emerged in the winter of 1980/81, when a group of young designers eager to break away from the dogmas of functionalism and industrial design formed around the Italian architect and designer Ettore Sottsass. The group’s first collection, presented at Milan’s Arc’74 gallery in September 1981, was an international sensation. Characterized by garish colours and wild patterns, the Memphis designs seemed to have walked straight off the pages of a comic book and gave rise to a completely new look in which popular culture, advertising aesthetics, and post-modernism merged in a crazy medley.”
The exhibition marking the 40th anniversary of the group’s founding provides an insight into the world of Memphis through exhibits such as furniture, lamps, bowls, drawings, sketches and photographs. Among the exhibits are works by Ettore Sottsass, Michele De Lucchi, George Sowden, Martine Bedin, Michael Graves, Barbara Radice, Peter Shire, Nathalie Du Pasquier and Shiro Kuramata.
Although Memphis disbanded already 6 years after its founding, the group’s history and influence are legendary. Vitra writes: “The exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery is an homage to the brief but intense era of the Memphis group, whose energy and creative drive have lost none of their fascination. To borrow the words of Barbara Radice: »Memphis was started with the idea of changing the face of international design, and it chose the most effective, direct and hazardous way to do so.«”
The exhibition is open daily from 12pm to 5pm and runs until 23 January 2022.
More Information you can get here.