Memphis Milano: forty years of style and experimentation

29 April 2021

Memphis Milano

Born in 1981, the brand is still today an icon of absolute and over the top style

Creative current, brand, style, experiment: these are just some of the possible definitions of Memphis Milano, a name that immediately evokes a free and experimental attitude to design, expression of a historical period but also of an approach that still guides designers to which remained in the heart. The name of Ettore Sottsass is immediately associated with Memphis and after all, it is said that a group of designers and architects united by the same vision gathered in his living room. And inspired by the song Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again by Bob Dylan they decided to give life to the Memphis experience that takes its name from the song. They are – as well as Sottsass – Aldo Cibic, Matteo Thun, Marco Zanini, Martine Bedin, Michele De Lucchi, Nathalie Du Pasquier and George Sowden. It was 1980 and in a matter of months they created a collection which, under the artistic direction of Barbara Radice, was presented in Milan in September 1981.

Memphis-Galleria-Post-Design-Milano
Memphis Galleria Post Design Milano installazione, Photo Credit Luca Miserocchi, Courtesy Memphis srl
Memphis-Galleria-Post-Design-Milano
Memphis Galleria Post Design Milano installazione, Photo Credit Luca Miserocchi, Courtesy Memphis srl

The initiative met with great uproar and success, these are the days of the furniture fair and the collection stands out for its originality and creative freedom. Colors, materials and shapes are cheeky, at times almost kitschy and yet they never lapse into bad taste. Memphis had given birth to a new idea of ​​beauty with a creative methodology very close to art. And in fact, if at the end of the 1980s the experience of the Memphis group runs out, in 1989 the Meta-Memphis collection was born, which entrusts the design of furniture and accessories to the artists themselves – and no longer to the designers. The result is paradoxical, with elements very often not usable but significant from an aesthetic and conceptual point of view.

Memphis-Galleria-Post-Design-Milano
Memphis Galleria Post Design Milano installazione, Photo Credit Luca Miserocchi, Courtesy Memphis srl
Memphis-Galleria-Post-Design-Milano
Memphis Galleria Post Design Milano installazione, Photo Credit Luca Miserocchi, Courtesy Memphis srl

In 1996 Alberto Bianchi Alberici, after ten years in the role of director, decided to buy the company from Ernesto Gismondi, continuing to edit the original projects in an unlimited series in line with a democratic and non-elitist vision of design. Only the original collection, the one created between 1981 and 1988, is produced with the Memphis brand, everything that comes after is welcomed in the Post Design brand, created by Alberto Bianchi Alberici as a separate evolution of that experience.

Memphis-Plastic-Field-Venezia
Memphis Plastic Field Venezia, Palazzo Franchetti Venezia (24 Maggio al 25 Novembre 2018), Photo Credit Luca Miserocchi, Courtesy Memphis srl, Photo Credit Madd-Bordeaux-LaurentGuéneau

On the one hand, therefore, Memphis remains, as a manifesto of a homogeneous approach, and on the other there is Post Design in which there is also space for the individual creative visions of the designers.

Memphis Milano
Memphis Plastic Field Venezia, Palazzo Franchetti Venezia (24 Maggio al 25 Novembre 2018), Photo Credit Luca Miserocchi, Courtesy Memphis srl, Photo Credit Madd-Bordeaux-LaurentGuéneau
Memphs-Plastic-Field-Bordeaux
Memphis Plastic Field Venezia, Palazzo Franchetti Venezia (24 Maggio al 25 Novembre 2018), Photo Credit Luca Miserocchi, Courtesy Memphis srl, Photo Credit Madd-Bordeaux-LaurentGuéneau

Forty years after that furniture fair where Ettore Sottsass and his traveling companions presented their collective collection, Memphis is still a topic in the limelight, discussed, analyzed, researched and studied. And every piece of furniture born under his hat has become an icon recognized all over the world.

Memphis-Plastic-Field-Bordeaux
”Sepik” di Marco Zanini 1983 – Collection Memphis Milano, Memphis Plastic Field al Musée des Arts décoratifs et du Design Bordeaux (21 Giugno 2019 – 5 Gennaio2020), Photo Credit madd-bordeaux-LaurentGuéneau, Courtesy Memphis srl
Memphis-Plastic-Field-MK-Gallery
Memphis Plastic Field a MK Gallery, Milton Keynes (21 Novembre 2020-12 Settembre 2021), Photo Credit Rob Harria, Courtesy Memphis srl
Memphis Carlton
Memphis Pierre Table

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