By Anna Sansom
July 23, 2019
THE MEMPHIS EXHIBITION at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs et du Design (MADD) coincides with Bordeaux’s ‘Liberté’ season, which sees freedom-themed cultural events held throughout the city. It takes place 35 years since the museum’s then director, Jacqueline Du Pasquier, whose daughter Nathalie Du Pasquier was a member of Memphis, organised the first Memphis show outside Italy.
Memphis was founded in 1981 by Sottsass. Its name was coined from a 1960s Bob Dylan song, ‘Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again’, that Sottsass and his coterie of young designers and architects listened to during a meeting.
The first Memphis exhibition at the gallery Arc ’74 in Milan broke the Bauhaus form-follows-function theory in favour of experimenting with colour, emotion, sensuality and forms. Disrupting the codes of good taste, materials were daringly and playfully juxtaposed. And, thanks to Ernesto Gismondi, founder of Artemide, the collection was distributed worldwide. Against the backdrop of Italy’s 1970s financial crisis and the rise of the Red Brigades – a terrorist organisation responsible for robberies, kidnappings and murders – Memphis breathed inventiveness and optimism. Karl Lagerfeld described seeing the first collection as “love at first sight” and furnished his Monte Carlo apartment with more than 150 Memphis pieces. His Memphis collection was auctioned by Sotheby’s in Monaco in 1991.