On November 11, Sotheby’s will auction off David Bowie’s beautiful collection of Italian designer furniture and other objects, including his incredible 1966 “Radio-Phonograph, Model No. RR126” by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni. The bulk of his collection going on the block though are 1980s pieces of Memphis furniture. Over at Collectors Weekly, Hunter Oatman-Stanford writes about Bowie’s deep appreciation for Memphis:
The name “Memphis” was supposedly chosen after an early brainstorming session, during which Bob Dylan’s song “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again” played repeatedly on the record player. The designers appreciated the word’s disparate connotations, evoking both cheap American kitsch and the regal city of ancient Egypt.
United in their efforts to reject traditional notions of “good design,” the Memphis artists mocked the bland austerity of Modernism by mixing clashing colors, patterns, and materials on playful geometric forms that often masked an object’s intended use. Although their collaborations only lasted a few years—Sottsass left the Memphis group in 1985, and the rest parted ways in 1987—they caused an uproar in the design world. Memphis sensibilities continued trickling into mainstream design via knockoff brands that influenced interiors everywhere from movie sets to high-school cafeterias.
“It didn’t look serious. It looked like a prank,” Bowie wrote of Memphis in 2002. “It mixed Formica attitude with marble diffidence. Bright yellows against turquoise. Virus patterns on ceramics. It couldn’t care less about function.”
“Space Oddity: David Bowie’s Secret Obsession With ’80s Memphis Design” (Thanks, Ben Marks!)