[Memphis designers] are hardly sharp-tongued intellectuals or prophets obsessed by a redeeming message that will save the world....Compared with the leaders of the previous generation they’re curious, optimistic, eclectic, a bit superficial, a bit nonchalant, enthusiastic in a rather insolent way. They are great fans of the mass media, fashion devourers, hamburger eaters, record collectors. The past does not appear to weigh heavily on their shoulders. They are in the process of changing the face of design.

Barbara Radice

Living With Memphis

Memphis only lasted six years, yet the radical design collective made a lasting impact on the field of design. Memphis challenged the aesthetics of Modernism and, as Aldo Cibic explains, “reset everything design had seen before”. 

Identifiable and bold, Memphis designs found their way onto movie sets and into the homes of forward-thinking and creative luminaries such as Karl Lagerfeld, whose Monaco penthouse was bursting with the bold designs that he acquired directly from Ettore Sottsass and David Bowie who collected Memphis alongside important modern and postmodern art. Memphis also found its way into retail establishments such as Macy's and Bloomingdale's and in the years since its introduction, museum collections across the globe. 

Dennis Zanone first saw the work of Memphis in 1984 during its first American tour and over the past several decades, he amassed an impressive collection that rivals the depth and breadth of Lagerfeld’s and is the largest since the fashion designer’s, which sold at Sotheby's in 1991. Zanone has lived with Memphis and is a champion of the movement. The incredible group of works offered in this sale has been extensively researched and was the basis of the 2014 Memphis-Milano: 1980s Italian Design exhibition at The Dixon Museum. 

Masanori Umeda b. 1941

Born in 1941 in Kanagawa, Japan, Masanori Umeda was one of three Japanese members of Memphis group and the designer of one of the most iconic emblems of the style—the Tawaraya “boxing ring” bed. After graduating from at the Kuwasawa School of Design in Tokyo in 1962, he began working for Achille Piergiacomo Castiglioni’s studio in Milan in 1967. From 1970 to 1979, Umeda served as a design consultant for Olivetti, where he met Ettore Sottsass, who invited him to be part of the first Memphis exhibition at Arc ’74 in 1981. Umeda returned to Japan in 1980 and established his own studio, U-Meta Design to continue working in his exuberant, playful style that blended east and west design ethos. Along with Tawaraya, Umeda’s other iconic designs include the Ginza Robot cabinet for Memphis (1982) and the Rose Chair for Edra (1990). His work has received international accolades including the Braun prize in 1968 and an award for commercial design from his native Japan in 1984.

Auction Results Masanori Umeda