All I want for Christmas is some MEMPHIS!

memphis ashoka table light Ettore Sottsass This is Ettore Sottsass's Ashoka that he designed for Memphis in 1981. It is still available!

We have been drawing your attention to re-editions of important 20th century designs from companies like FontanaArteGubi, Nemo, Tecnolumen, Woka &c.

But some have never stopped being available. In a sense, this does not work to their advantage, because there is no big publicity splash surrounding their reappearance.

So let's make a big splash here for possibly the most significant collection in this category: Memphis!

memphis super table light martine bedin

One evening in 1980, Ettore Sottsass had round to his house a number of other iconoclastic designers, such as Martine Bedin (that is her Super above), Michele de Lucchi (this is his Oceanic)

memphis oceanic table light michele de lucchi

and Matteo Thun (his Santa Fe):

Memphis Santa Fe pendant light Matteo Thun

They spent the night discussing the need for a new creative approach to design. They decided to form a design collective which they immediately christened Memphis, because they had been playing over and over in the background Bob Dylan's Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again.

I cannot conceive of a style of FF&E less likely to be specified at the moment. They are colourful; have mismatched -- often plastic -- surfaces; they are usually not symmetrical, they have content and meaning, referring as they do to art deco (Bay by Ettore Sottsass):

memphis bay table light Ettore Sottsass

fifities Dan Dare space fantasies (Peter Shire's Cahuenga):

Memphis Cahuenga floor light Peter Shire

jolly space creatures -- Martians? ( Martine Bedin's Terminus)

Memphis Terminus floor light Martine Bedin

and fun animals (Ettore Sottsass' famous Tahiti):

memphis tahiti table light Ettore Sottsass

The effect was hugely liberating: they could design what they wanted -- any shape, any material, any reference. And the result was works of great interest, wit and originality.

From the lighting collection, nothing sums up better how innovative designs could be as a result of this freedom than Peter Shire's Laurel of 1985:

memphis laurel table light peter shire

If you must use a fluorescent lamp, at least ensure that it has a separate ballast (the four used here do) and create something which is fun, joyous. Compare this to any other light that uses fluorescent lamps: are they as life-enhancing as this?! (From some angles it looks abstract, from others it looks like a bird.)

So, yes, you'd have to be courageous to specify items by Memphis at the moment, but supposing you have a client who wants intelligent, fun pieces (treat them as sculptures)...

...and/or a client who is design-aware and who therefore realizes the importance of these pieces. They may have attended the 2007 Ettore Sottsass exhibition at tthe Design Museum , for example, where they have seversal Memphis pieces in the permanent collection, including Gerard Taylor's Piccadilly:

Memphis Piccadilly table light Gerard Taylor

Of course, the Memphis collection is not just lighting! All the classics are there, including Sottsass's Carlton room divider:

Memphis Carlton room divider Ettore Sottsass

and this chair, Bel Air by Peter Shire:

Memphis Bel Air chair by Peter Shire

 Note that we have focussed in this post on the Memphis 1981-88 collection, but the descendants, as it were, have continued to design great things since.

The Memphis web site is here, and the link to the PDF catalogue is here.

Given the fame and importance of this collection, and the very high values that these pieces can now achieve at auction, there are inevitably many fakes around. Memphis therefore offer a service that will confirm authenticity (or not). Details here.

You are really excited about Memphis now, right? You want some, don't you? Well, that's just great, because here are Memphis gift ideas;

I really want one of those ties. Hint hint.

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