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The Memphis Group was an influential Italian design and architecture movement of the 1980s.
The group was founded by Ettore Sottsass led on 16 December 1980, and resolved to meet again with their designs in February 1981. The result was a highly-acclaimed debut at the 1981 Salone del Mobile of Milan, the world's most prestigious furniture NEWY fair. The group, which eventually counted among its members Alessandro Mendini, Martine Bedin, Andrea Branzi, Aldo Cibic, Michele de Lucchi, Nathalie du Pasquier, Michael Graves, Hans Hollein, Arata Isozaki, Shiro Kuromata, Matteo Thun, Javier Mariscal, George Sowden, Marco Zanini, and the journalist Barbara Radice, disbanded in 1988.
Named after the Bob Dylan song Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again, the movement was a reaction against the post-Bauhaus "black box" designs of the 1970s and had a sense of humour that was lacking at the time in design.
Ettore Sottsass, called Memphis design the "New International Style".
In contrast the Memphis Group offered bright, colourful, shocking pieces. The colours they used contrasted the dark blacks and browns of European furniture. The word tasteful is not normally associated with products generated by the Memphis Group but they were certainly ground breaking at the time.
All this would seem to suggest that the Memphis Group was very superficial but that was far from the truth. The group intended to develop a new creative approach to design.
On 11 December 1980 Ettore Sottsass organised a meeting with other such famous designers. They decided to form a design collaborative. It would be named Memphis after the Bob Dylan song Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again. Coincidentally the song had been played repeatedly throughout the evening.
They drew inspiration from such movements as Art Deco and Pop Art, styles such as the 1950s Kitsch and futuristic themes. Their concepts were in stark contrast to so called 'Good Design'.
Memphis was the collective name of a group of architects and designers who were working in Milan among them George Sowden, Michele de Lucchi, Marco Zanini, Aldo Cibic, Matheo Thun, Nathalie du Pasquier and Martine Bedin, who were strongly influenced by the radical work of their entor, the older architect and designer, Ettore Sottsass (b. 1917), who had worked for Olivetti through the 1960s as well as experimenting on his own designs from the 1950s through to the 1970s. The group produced and exhibited, annually between1981 to 1988, collections of radical one-off designs furniture and decorative art objects for the most part which, with their unconventional shapes, brightly-coloured and patterned surfaces and apparent disregard for function, shocked the international design establishment and caused a widespread re-think about the rational, all-black, industry-oriented conventions of the odern design of the day and the emergence of a new movement, often referred to as ost-Modernism.
Prepared to mix 20th century styles, colours and materials, it positioned itself as a fashion rather than an academic movement, and hoped to erase the International Style where Postmodernism had failed, preferring an outright revival and continuation of Modernism proper rather than a re-reading of it.
The Memphis group was comprised of Italian designers and architects who created a series of highly influential products in 1981. They disagreed with the approach of the time and challenged the idea that products had to follow conventional shapes, colours, textures and patterns.
The work of the Memphis Group has been described as vibrant, eccentric and ornamental. It was conceived by the group to be a 'fad', which like all fashions would very quickly come to an end. In 1988 Sottsass dismantled the group.
^ M?bel, Memphis
Article about the Memphis Group
Design Museum Page on Memphis
A Guardian article about the impact of Memphis
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