[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.
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.
Peter Shire is a celebrated artist, working most notably in ceramics (and teapots, in particular), who first rose to prominence as part of the influential and radical Memphis design group. His diverse and lively body of work is a culmination of his west coast-sensibilities (he is a fourth generation Californian), a blurring craft and art, and a postmodern approach to color and form.
Shire was born in Los Angeles in 1947 and developed an early passion for craft, as his father was an illustrator and carpenter. He graduated from the influential Chouinard Art Institute, Los Angeles (now known as CalArts) in 1970. He came of age during a particularly rich period in California design—ceramicists such as Peter Voulkos, Gertrude and Otto Natzler and Ken Price elevated the medium in the 1950s and 1960s and the Pattern and Design movement of the 1970s emphasized surface pattern, kitsch and craft, challenging traditional notions of taste.
Upon seeing Shire’s colorful and anthropomorphic teapots in WET magazine in 1977, Ettore Sottsass invited the young designer to be part of Memphis, a radical design group that suited Shire’s irreverent and playful attitude. While part of Memphis, he created some of the movement’s most iconic designs, including the Bel Air Chair and the Brazil table. After Memphis dissolved in the late 1980s, Shire expanded his artistic output to include glass works, fashion, interior design, and toys. Of particular note are the public mural and sculptures he creates in Los Angeles, a city he has committed himself to and provides him with endless inspiration.
In 2017, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Tucson presented Peter Shire: Naked Is the Best Disguise, a survey of his creative production. Shires’s work is held in such prestigious collections as the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Stedlijk Museum, Amsterdam and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Auction Results Peter Shire