[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.
Adrian Olabuenaga is best known for founding ACME Studios with his wife Lesley Bailey in 1985, a design firm venerated for its modernist-inflected writing and stationary accessories, jewelry, watches and collaborations with artists, designers and architects.
Born in 1955 in Buenos Aires, Olabuenaga’s father was an architect, inspiring a sensitivity for design early in life. He attended school in Los Angeles and first made a name for himself designing quirky, colorful radios and furniture. ACME’s first project in 1986 was with Memphis group member Peter Shire, through whom he met Ettore Sottsass, beginning a fruitful collaboration adapting the radical pop designs of Memphis to wearable accessories. The collection “Memphis Designers for ACME,” featuring over one-hundred products, debuted at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in 1986, along with the Memphis Milano exhibition. The rest of the 1980s brought salient collaborations with a curatorial flair with Alchima Studio, Milanese architects, contemporary artists and even the creator of Batman, while the 1990s ushered in projects with Keith Haring, Michael Graves, the Andy Warhol Foundation and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. In 2007, ACME established its first international flagship store in Tokyo, followed by stores in Vietnam and Singapore. In recent years, ACME has received numerous design awards for their innovative writing tools, such as the first fully biodegradable pen, the first antimicrobial pen and the thinnest pen. Olabuenaga and Bailey continue to head the influential design studio from their Sottsass- designed home studio in Maui.
Auction Results Adrian Olabuenaga