Memphis Group was a 1980s Milan based furniture and product design collective, founded by Ettore Sottsass, one of Italy’s architectural greats who then in his 60s, joined forces with a group of young, aspiring architects to create a new line of furniture.

Originally dubbed The New Design the name took on a new presence when renamed Memphis Group. The story goes that Sottsass'  record player stuck repeatedly on the Bob Dylan lyric ‘Stuck Inside of Mobile (With the Memphis Blues Again), to which the designer  exclaimed: 'let’s call the group that!'

The Memphis look rules style over function and satisfies a fascination with design that works to a more sculptural aesthetic. Japanese designer Shiro Kuramata was part of the group during the 1980s; his playful designs combined postmodernism with traditional Japanese aesthetics and as such has become a much sort after designer from the Memphis Group. Their designs have attracted many famous admirers including the late David Bowie, who had many pieces in his private collection.

kuramata

Shiro Kuramata (1934 – 1991) studied architecture at the Tokyo Polytechnic. He graduated in 1953 and started his career working for the Japanese furniture manufacturer Teikokukizai moving on to study residential design at the Kuwazawa Institute for Design in Tokyo. During a period from 1957-63 Shiro Kuramata worked for the Tokyo Department Store Maysuya. In 1965 he decided to break free from formal employment and he started his own design studio focusing on commercial projects and individual items of furniture.
In 1977 his designs for a chest of drawers, Drawer in an Irregular Form, elevated his status in the design world. During the 1980s he designed several pieces of furniture for Memphis, including this chest entitled the Nikko cabinet.

Shiro Kuramata for Memphis Milan, a Nikko cabinet, designed and executed in 1982, lacquered wood and lacquered metal, silver label to reverse, Memphis, Made in Italy, Milano, Shiro Kuramata 1982, no 02 175cm high x 57cm square Estimate: £8 000 – 12 000 Shiro Kuramata for Memphis Milan, a Nikko cabinet, designed and executed in 1982, lacquered wood and lacquered metal, silver label to reverse, Memphis, Made in Italy, Milano, Shiro
Kuramata 1982, no 02
175cm high x 57cm square
Estimate: £8 000 – 12 000

Liberty & Co., London was granted the exclusive UK sale rights from Memphis for the duration of the celebrated Boiler House Project at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Eleven cabinets were produced each with an edition number.

Shiro Kuramata for Memphis Milan Nikko cabinet will be available to view on 24th, 26th, 27th and 28th March. Check out the full sale here.

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