I’m interested in the form of things – I’m not interested in telling a story.

Nathalie du Pasquier

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. 

Nathalie Du Pasquier

As one of the founding members of Memphis, Nathalie Du Pasquier has created some of the most recognizable motifs of postmodern design. Born in Bordeaux, France in 1957, Du Pasquier quotes her mother, an art historian and her father, a virologist, as early inspirations in her appreciation towards art and the natural world. With a curiosity to see the world piqued by living in an active port town, at eighteen-years-old she set out for Gabon and West Africa, spending two years traveling and absorbing the cultures that would later inspire her design sensibilities and interest in bright, bold surface pattern.

In 1979 she moved to Milan to work as an au pair. She was drawn to the city for its modern attitude and because it wasn’t “overwhelmed by the beauty of the past.” There, she met her partner George Sowden, a British designer who encouraged her to become interested in modern design. Despite having no formal education, she began working for the fashion brands Fiorucci and Naj Oleari creating textile patterns. In 1981, Ettore Sottsass invited her and Sowden to join the newly formed Memphis group. Du Pasquier says that she was especially drawn to Sottsass’s anarchic, anti-academic style and non-hierarchical approach to taste. Her main contributions to the iconic design style were textiles and furniture, though she also created clothing, plastic laminates, ceramics and objects. Typical of Du Pasquier’s elevated but playful style is her investigation between space and form and exploration of the realm of the imagination.

In 1987, Du Pasquier left the Memphis group and devoted herself to painting and reconnecting with the classics of art history; in recent years she was returned to designing items such as clothing, jewelry and carpets. She did a well-received collaboration with American Apparel in 2014 and in 2015 she had a solo exhibition at Exile in Berlin and a retrospective at the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania in 2017, Big Objects Not Always Silent. She continues to live and work in Milan.

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Auction Results Nathalie Du Pasquier