Inaugural Memphis Exhibition, Milan: Reprise

In our design calender post on the inaugural Memphis Exhibition in Milan we noted that although important for the development of design and architecture, the Memphis group was never that successful commercially.

Which is not to say that Memphis furniture wasn’t bought and used to furnish homes.

According to Artemide co-founder Ernesto Gismondi, who also served as Managing Director of the Memphis trading company, there are, or at least were, two homes furnished exclusively with Memphis.

And both of them belong to Karl Lagerfeld.

Not that we can necessarily recommend following Lagerfeld’s example for your own interior decoration, for according to Gismondi, and lest we forget he supported Memphis from the beginning “When one has spent three minutes in them, one gets an urge to shoot oneself through the head, because the objects they contain are incongruous. Practically all of them are individual pieces, works of “art appliqué” as they would say in France, unique specimen which you should display in the home like sculptures”1

Which aside from being an expression of an opinion diametrically at odds with the aims of Memphis and for all the stated intentions of Ettore Sottsass, is an excellent illustration of the fact that styling doesn’t create comfortable spaces, only a unforced, natural, organic, development can achieve such. In addition Ernesto Gismondi’s comments reminds us greatly of the story former Vitra Managing Director Rolf Fehlbaum tells of the time Verner Panton designed the interior of his Basel flat. According to Rolf Fehlbaum every room was monotone – one black, one red, one orange, etc, etc – and not just that walls, floor and ceiling in a room were all one colour, but all the furniture, fixtures and fittings. Everything.

Can I move an object from one room to another?, queried Fehlbaum

Why would you want to?! the confused answer from Panton.

According to Rolf Fehlbaum after a few harrowing weeks he redecorated.

We have no information as to the current condition of the interiors of Karl Lagerfeld’s homes.

Are however planning declining all and any invitations we may receive to visit him.

1. Poul ter Hofstede, Memphis 1981 – 1988, Groninger Museum, 1989

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