Memphis Design


Bright colors, graphic patterns, and bold geometric shapes characterize the aesthetic of the Memphis Group, the Italian Postmodern design collective founded by Ettore Sottsass in 1980. Active through 1987, the group included architects, furniture designers, product designers, as well as writers—Alessandro Mendini, Nathalie du Pasquier, and Martine Bedin, among them—who aimed to produce radical designs that liberated form from function. Named after the Bob Dylan song “Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again,” Memphis drew upon a variety of influences, from Art Deco to Pop Art to 1950s Kitsch, and marked a significant departure from the restrained, Minimalist designs of the 1970s. Over the past decade, Memphis designs have witnessed a resurgence, inspiring fashion lines by Christian Dior, Missoni, and Karl Lagerfeld (who is also an avid collector of Memphis furniture). In 2015, the Wall Street Journal coined the term “Neo-Memphis” to describe contemporary designers inspired by this playful and eccentric movement, pointing to Kelly Behun and Matthew Sullivan as some of the emerging talent reviving this distinctly ‘80s aesthetic.

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