'memphis: 40 years of kitsch and elegance' exhibition at vitra design museum

'memphis: 40 years of kitsch and elegance' exhibition at vitra design museum

until january 23, 2022, the vitra design museum gallery presents ‘memphis: 40 years of kitsch and elegance’. the exhibition celebrates the fortieth anniversary of the memphis group’s foundation through its creations, presenting furniture, lamps, bowls, drawings, sketches, and photographs that give insight into its playful universe. exhibits include works by members such as ettore sottsass, michele de lucchi, martine bedin, michael graves, barbara radice, peter shire, nathalie du pasquier, and shiro kuramata.'memphis: 40 years of kitsch and elegance' exhibition at vitra design museumimage (also header image): group photo of memphis members on the boxing ring bed ‘tawaraya’ by masanori umeda, 1981
© masanori umeda
© studio azzurro, with kind permission of memphis, milano

 

 

vitra design museum brings together iconic pieces by well-known members of the memphis group, which celebrates the fortieth anniversary of its foundation. memphis 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 italian architect and designer ettore sottsass. its name was inspired by the bob dylan song ‘stuck inside of mobile with the memphis blues again’, which was playing at the group’s first meeting. the group’s first collection, presented at milan’s arc’74 gallery in september 1981, showcased designs with garish colors and wild patterns that established an instantly recognizable aesthetic.'memphis: 40 years of kitsch and elegance' exhibition at vitra design museumall exhibition images: installation views ‘memphis: 40 years of kitsch and elegance’, vitra design museum gallery © vitra design museum, photos by bettina matthiessen © VG bild-kunst, bonn 2021

 

 

the memphis group’s aim was to overcome the dictates of functionalism, celebrate the banal and everyday, and break the taboos of good taste. its design philosophy was also influenced by the emergence of the information society. like television and computers, the group’s objects were meant to communicate with the viewer and tell their own unique story. the final breakthrough came in 1982, when fashion guru karl lagerfeld furnished his apartment in monte carlo with the latest memphis pieces.memphis: 40 years of kitsch and elegance exhibition at vitra design museum

 

 

ettore sottsass, the group’s founder, had already started experimenting with sculptural pieces of furniture in the 1960s, applying colourful plastic laminates to creations which he called ‘totems’. ‘seggiolina da pranzo’ (‘lunch chair’), which he designed for studio alchimia in 1978, also features the patterned laminate that was to become a memphis trademark. the exhibition at the vitra design museum gallery showcases his iconic ‘beverly’ sideboard (1981), which combines strangely disparate elements such as a chromium-plated piece of bent tubular steel, a coloured light bulb, and figured wood or snakeskin finish laminates.memphis: 40 years of kitsch and elegance exhibition at vitra design museum

 

 

pieces by michele de lucchi, martine bedin, michael graves, barbara radice, peter shire, nathalie du pasquier, and shiro kuramata are also on view at the vitra design museum gallery. works on view include bedin’s ‘super’ lamp (1981), de lucchi’s ‘kristall’ table (1981), ‘first’ (1983) and ‘riviera’ chairs (1981), and drawings by du pasquier. the exhibition 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.’'memphis: 40 years of kitsch and elegance' exhibition at vitra design museum

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'memphis: 40 years of kitsch and elegance' exhibition at vitra design museumettore sottsass, lamp ‘ashoka’, 1981 © VG bild-kunst, bonn 2021
© vitra design museum, photo by andreas jung

'memphis: 40 years of kitsch and elegance' exhibition at vitra design museum'memphis: 40 years of kitsch and elegance' exhibition at vitra design museumettore sottsass, table ‘tartar’, 1985 © VG bild-kunst, bonn 2021

© vitra design museum, photo by andreas jung'memphis: 40 years of kitsch and elegance' exhibition at vitra design museummemphis: 40 years of kitsch and elegance exhibition at vitra design museumgeorge sowden, drawing of an interior, 1983 © george sowden
© vitra design museum

'memphis: 40 years of kitsch and elegance' exhibition at vitra design museumettore sottsass, design for a photo studio with adjoining flat, 1983 © VG bild-kunst, bonn 2021

'memphis: 40 years of kitsch and elegance' exhibition at vitra design museumkarl lagerfeld’s monte carlo apartment with designs by memphis, monaco, 1982 © jacques schumacher
© VG bild-kunst, bonn 2021 for all designs by ettore sottsass

'memphis: 40 years of kitsch and elegance' exhibition at vitra design museumnathalie du pasquier, drawing of an interior, 1982 © nathalie du pasquier

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sottsass associati, interior for an exhibition on italian design in tokyo, 1984 © photo: marirosa ballo © VG bild-kunst, bonn 2021 for all designs by ettore sottsass

'memphis: 40 years of kitsch and elegance' exhibition at vitra design museummichele de lucchi, drawings for lamps, 1981 © michele de lucchi

 

 

exhibition info:

 

name: memphis: 40 years of kitsch and elegance

location: vitra design museum gallery, charles-eames-straße 2, 79576 weil am rhein, germany

duration: february 6, 2021 – january 23, 2022

curator: dr. mateo kries

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