Monday, March 27, 2006

The Man Who Made Memphis

Posted By on Mon, Mar 27, 2006 at 4:00 AM

“If you have ever mixed multiple patterns in a single room, painted one wall a daring color, purchased a teapot with a little bird that whistles when the water's hot or infused your house with inspiring objects from other cultures, there are experts who'll say it's due to the influence of Ettore Sottsass and his group.

"Sottsass is one of the greatest designers of the 20th century and one of the greatest poets of design of all time," says Paola Antonelli, curator of architecture and design at New York's Museum of Modern Art. "What he did was revolutionary, from the 1960s on. First, designing typewriters and mainframe computers for Olivetti, then doing the first decorative plastic laminates for Memphis, which are still in use today.”

Yes, she said “Memphis,” but what Antonelli is talking about is the famous Memphis Design Cooperative, an Italian group founded by Sottsass in the 1980s. Sottsass, now 88, is here in America for his first U.S. museum show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Read more about Sottsass and how he decided to call the most influential design movement of the late 20th century Memphis (it involves wine and a Bob Dylan song) here.

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