The Memphis style consists of broadening the area of style itself, of never being satisfied with what has already been done, and of looking for a new style all the time.

George Sowden

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. 

George Sowden

As the only British member of the Memphis group, George Sowden made a name for himself with his structural, colorful and humor-inflected designs and illustrations. Born in Leeds, United Kingdom in 1942, Sowden studied architecture at the Gloucestershire College of Art, graduating in 1968, and moved to Milan in 1970 to work for Sottsass Associati and Olivetti. In Milan, he met his to-be wife, artist and designer Nathalie du Pasquier, who would join Memphis along with Sowden in 1981. That same year, he established his own firm, SowdenDesign, developing products for the likes of Olivetti, Swid Powell, Alessi, Swatch and Pyrex, among others. His diverse designs range from consumer electronics and appliances to wallpaper and textiles. In 1991 he received the Compasso d’Oro Award and established his own name brand, SOWDEN in 2010 to continue designing objects of integrity in his striking and tactile postmodern style.

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Auction Results George Sowden