From the International Herald-Tribune: There were a couple of lessons for design buffs to learn from the last round of contemporary design auctions. One was that design, like art, is becoming vertiginously expensive. Another was that Memphis is back again.
Yes, Memphis. Remember the Milan-based group of designers and architects, who split the design world after their 1981 debut? There were those who loved the postmodernist wit of their kitsch, colorful furniture, and others that loathed it. Like Diva, the De Lorean DMC-12, Bow Wow Wow singles and Betamax video cassettes, Memphis was then dismissed as an early 1980s blip. There still isn't a stick of the stuff in the design collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
All that's changing -- MoMA's antipathy apart. Among the most sought-after lots at Phillips de Pury's most recent New York design sale were 1980s pieces by Ettore Sottsass and Andrea Branzi, both Memphis designers, and Alessandro Mendini, who was their chief collaborator in the Studio Alchymia design group during the late 1970s. All of Memphis's hallmarks - super-sizing, dizzy colors, gaudy patterns and cheesy motifs - were visible in the most directional pieces at this spring's Milan Furniture Fair.
They will surface again at this week's London Design Festival. And cool young designers are suddenly citing Memphis and Studio Alchymia as inspirations.
"It's the wow effect," said Job Smeets, co-founder of Studio Job, the Dutch design duo whose Memphis-inspired objects often grace the windows of the Moss design store in New York. "When I open old Domus magazines and see those amazing pieces by Sottsass and Mendini, they seem so emotional and expressive. How were they able to think of those crazy shapes?"