The Modern Art Museum Shanghai is collaborating with Memphis Milano and Global Design Distribution for Christoph Radl's curated exhibition "Memphis Again: 1981-1985, Stuck Inside the Revolution."
It is exhibiting nearly 200 pieces of furniture and objects, such as bookshelves, dividers, vitrines, toilet furniture, tables, desks, chairs, lamps, sofa beds, chandeliers, ashtrays, flower pots, and fruit bowls, made from the widest range of materials between 1981 and 1985 for the Memphis collection.
These materials include wood, plastic, laminate, glass, ceramic, porcelain, metal and fabric.
The Memphis Design Style is the brainchild of Ettore Sottsass, who started the movement from his living room in Milan in 1980. The Italian architect gathered a group of artists, architects and designers, who shared a distaste for the modernist, minimalist style and its use of restrained shapes, subdued hues, and modest lines.
As the artists brainstormed to create a new identity, Sottsass kept playing Bob Dylan's "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again" continuously. The group of Italian artists opposed to the harmonized post-war aesthetic standards adopted the moniker "Memphis."
The Memphis group used terrazzo and plastic laminate materials in their creations, and they were known for their ephemeral designs with shockingly bright colors and abstract embellishment as well as geometrical shapes.
Memphis Again made its China debut in Shanghai with the backing of the Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Shanghai after debuting at La Triennale Museum in Milan during design week 2022.
"The exhibition is presented with two key metaphors in mind: a fashion show and the nightclubbing scene of the 1980s," said Radl, the curator. "It was clear to us from the beginning that we did not want a historicized exhibition, nor an exhibition that was an homage, but rather an immersion into a colorful world full of strong, sometimes provocative expressions that are as vital today as they were back then."
Memphis Again spans two floors, beginning on the second floor, where all Memphis textiles guide people through the show for a more theatrical effect.
Italian multidisciplinary artist and illustrator Massimo Giacon has developed large-scale comic strips with animations that highlight the brand's history. Giacon's work takes viewers back in time to Memphis's inaugural show in 1981 and Sottsass's nighttime gathering.
On the top floor, the objects are displayed in chronological order alongside the spacious U-shaped room, like a fashion show where viewers walk the catwalk in a space that, thanks to the furniture and a special soundtrack by American DJ and producer Seth Troxler, feels like a nightclub.
Memphis's black-and-white patterns create a dreamy and amusing background for a series of neighboring rooms in the exhibition space. Memphis's larger pieces and a variety of objects are on display here.
Date: Through July 30 (closed on Mondays), 10am-6pm (no entry after 5:30pm)
Venue: Modern Art Museum Shanghai
Address: 4777 Binjiang Ave, Pudong New Area