‘Memphis Plastic Fields’ exhibition celebrates rebellious postmodern design

Featuring 150 words by Ettore Sottsass, Nathalie Du Pasquier, Michael Graves and other Memphis alumni

The Memphis Group’s wacky, colourful designs were once famously described as a ‘shotgun wedding between Bauhaus and Fisher-Price.’

The short-lived 1980s Postmodern collective of international artists was founded by Italian designer Ettore Sottsass in 1981 and named after Bob Dylan’s ‘Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again’.

It was an intentionally childish revolt against the sedate, ‘functional’ Modernist designs of the 1960s, that was ridiculed at the time for its outrageous, ‘tasteless’ works in garish plastic and terrazzo.

But what was once condemned by serious critics as ‘too 80s’- the likes of which could only decorate the apartment of American Psycho’s yuppy serial killer Patrick Bateman – is now iconic. Items were bought by the late David Bowie and Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld, as well as influencing everyone from Danish designers Hay to American Apparel to fashion houses Dior, Hermès and Missoni.

Memphis: Plastic Field, in MK Gallery in Milton Keynes brings together more than 150 objects from the group. It features works by French designer Nathalie Du Pasquier, late American architect Michael Graves, Italian fashion designer Marco Zanini, the Leeds-born Industrial designer George Sowden, and the late Japanese artist Shiro Kuramata, whose designs, far from being the ‘joke’ critics once said they were, regularly sell at auction for more than £50,000 apiece.

‘Memphis: Plastic Field’ is at MK Gallery until 25 April 2021

Installation view, Memphis Plastic Fields at MK Gallery. Photography: Rob Harris
Installation view, Memphis Plastic Fields at MK Gallery. Photography: Rob Harris
Installation view, Memphis Plastic Fields at MK Gallery. Photography: Rob Harris
Installation view, Memphis Plastic Fields at MK Gallery. Photography: Rob Harris

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