40 years of Memphis!

The Memphis Group emerged in the winter of 1980/81 when a group of young designers eager to break away from industrial design formed around the celebrated Italian architect and designer Ettore Sottsass. Presenting their first collection in Milan’s Arc’74 gallery in September 1981 they quickly garnered the attention of the international press with their garish colours, bold patterns and celebration of pop and post-modernism. They wanted to test and break the limits of bad taste and reached infamy in 1982 when Karl Lagerfeld decorated his Monte Carlo apartment entirely in Memphis designs, just one year before showing his debut collection as creative director at Chanel in Paris.
Disbanding in 1987, after only 7 years of intense work, their impact is still being felt today in the interior design world. There has been a huge demand in the last 10 years for coveted Sottsass and Memphis Group pieces.


Here at American Supply, we have admired the work of the Memphis Group for some time, their unusual use of materials and daring speaks to us. During the FIAC art week in 2015, we created a Sottsass inspired bookcase from ultra-high-density foam in bi-colour, referencing his Carlton bookcase and Casablanca sideboard, for Maroussia Rebecq’s exhibition ‘UP-CYCLED ART, Eloge de l’Emprunt’ at Le Coeur gallery in Paris. For us, the Carlton bookcase is one of the defining products of the Memphis Group, and we were very happy to pay homage to it.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Memphis Group, the Vitra Design Museum Gallery in Weil am Rhein, Germany, is showcasing iconic pieces, from all of the Memphis Group designers, with drawings and historical ephemera. This is a rare opportunity to see this many Memphis pieces up close, so thankfully the exhibition will run until January 2022.


In the words of the Italian design critic, and wife of Ettore Sottsass, 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

Visit the museum’s website to plan your visit.

Photo Credit: All photos courtesy Vitra Design Museum Gallery unless otherwise cited