Italian architect and designer Andrea Branzi, now 78, was a member of the Memphis Group founded by the revolutionary fellow professional, Ettore Sottsass (1917-2007), in 1980. “Ettore Sottsass: Design Radical,” the exhibition at the Met Breuer, New York, through October 8, is a nod to the celebrated provacateur on his birth centenary. On the occasion, Branzi recalls his days with Sottsass, and why the time now is right to place him “on a stage more fit for a man of his great stature and eminence.”
The centenary of Ettore’s birth presents us with a dual opportunity: on one end, to uphold the hagiographic image of a great master we all know and treasure; on the other, to reveal the lesser known, and more tragic, side of this towering figure. These two aspects, however, are not unrelated; they are evidence of that very human quality at the core of his life and work.
One hundred years is a long time — and during those years, my life, too, was transformed. From the moment we met at Poltronova in 1967 up until his death, Ettore and I talked together, ate together, traveled together —first with Nanda and later with Barbara. What bound us was not your typical friendship and familiarity, but a sense of conspiracy, a cultural militancy, founded on our shared belief that the world of design must be in constant flux, since the world itself was in constant flux, and we too had a hand in these changes.