Nine iconic Memphis pieces reveal why the design movement – characterised by cultural upheaval – remains so popular today.
A cultural phenomenon, Memphis is the love child of the 20th century’s Art Deco, Futurism and Pop Art movements. Conjured up by a group of like-minded Italian architects and designers (called the Memphis group) in 1981, the movement is defined by loud, contrasting colours, bold patterns and asymmetric shapes; an exaggerated, garish style born out of a desire to challenge the understated styles that were prevalent at the time.
Memphis revolutionised notions of furniture as functional items and transformed them into provocative works of art – that also happened to serve a pragmatic purpose. While the movement was short-lived, it continues to influence popular culture in a way that suggests minimalist design might be slowly phasing out. Among the Memphis fanbase are several notable celebrities, including the late musician David Bowie – whose 400-plus collection was auctioned off shortly after his passing – and Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld.
In this feature, we explore nine historical pieces that offer an introduction to the spirited world of Memphis.
Memphis Milano Carlton is arguably the most iconic piece in the Memphis collection. The wooden bookcase, room divider, or dresser – however you choose to interpret it – is covered with brightly coloured laminate.