Memphis-Milano Post Modern Design #0079

Dennis-ZanoneThe collector: Dennis Zanone, Photographer, Memphis, TN, USA.

The collection: Early Post Modern design: Memphis-Milano from 1981-1987, Memphis influenced design and American Post Modern.

The story behind the collection...

I started collecting twenty years ago because I thought the design ethos was interesting, the way it was meant to be an ephemeral movement and wasn't taken too seriously by Ettore Sottsass, the movement founder. I noticed a mix of different materials on the same piece, some expensive and others cheap and also the influence of Art Deco, 50s Pop, etc.

Top: Zanini's "Dublin" sofa 1981. Above left: Ettore Sottsass' "Casablanca" 1981; Above right: D'Antibes cabinet by Sowden 1981.

Why do you collect Memphis in particular?

I live in the city it's partially named after and liked the fact that the Memphis group wanted to challenge current  modern design concepts of the time. It was a reaction to the 'form follows function' design thinking of the banal late 70s beige and black and chrome glass that was considered modern at the time.

How many objects do you have?

I have over 120 different Memphis pieces and design from each year by the main core group of Memphis designers shown on my Flickr page.

Did you ever meet Ettore Sottsass or any other members of the Memphis group?

I never mett Sottsass but I do have a signed lamp and Memphis book by him. I did meet and spent time with Peter Shire at the LACMA Sottsass exhibition in 2006 where I loaned one of his Memphis lamps and we've stayed in touch through his wife Donna by email.

Which was your first piece?

The first piece was the de Lucci 'First' chair which is an iconic Memphis design and one of the few to be mass produced. All the larger designs are hand-made and very heavy with a solid build quality. Memphis had their own in-house custom furniture builders.

What do your friends and family think about your unique interior?

They are stunned when they first see it and either love it or hate it - there's no in between. I like seeing the 'shock value' and smiles when they see it for the first time.

Has it affected how you live, relax and entertain?

Yes, it's everywhere in my home so I live upstairs but sleep in the Tawaraya boxing ring bed each night.

Could you ever live in a black and chrome Bauhau-esque interior?

Yes, that's my upstairs: Le Corbusier sofas and love seat with two early 70s Wassily chairs in front of the classic Noguchi coffee table and a big screen HD/TV.

Do you have any other classic 80s designs?

Yes: Objects for the Electronic Age by Sowden/du Pasquier for Arc'74 in Milan; George Nelson PoMo clock, ACME Memphis jewellery by Adrian Olabuenga; Memphis clothing, ties and fabrics. I also have a Gary Knox Bennet Memphis/PoMo table which is a table with a geometric coloured base and a slab of raw, unfinished wood. He hated Memphis and this is a satire piece.

Are you also interested in post-modern architecture?

Yes, Michael Graves, P. Johnson, I.M. Pei, Frank Gehry, etc.

What are your favourite 80s movies?

'Ruthless People' - full of Memphis and PoMo design, look it up! 'Blade Runner' of course. 'Back to the Future'.

du Pasquier fabric designs

Do you have a favourite piece and is there anything still missing from your current collection?

My two favourite pieces are the Umeda 'Ginza" robot and the 'Tawaraya' boxing ring bed I sleep in. There are a few '81 pieces I'd like and a few I'll never find or afford, and I don't have any of the Memphis glass because it's very expensive and I'd rather have the furnishings.

Umeda's 'Ginza' robot and 'Tawaraya' Ring.

Do you consider yourself to be obsessed?




Wiki page

Facebook Group

Further reading

Memphis by Brigitte Fitoussi

Ettore Sottsass: Minimum Design by Patrizia Ranzo

Ettore Sottsass: Architect & Designer by Ronald T. Labaco

Mod to Memphis: Design in Colour 1960s-80s by Anne Watson

All images © Dennis Zanone and used with his kind permission.

Reader Comments (2)

Wow, wow,wow! What an absolutely amazing collection! That bed, that must be a fantastic experience sleeping in that every night, I am so jealous! Thanks for sharing this stunning collection!

November 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPippa Kahn
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