Feast Your Eyes on The ‘Less is a Bore’ Show, Where Artists Meet Memphis
After David Bowie's banging sale, the art world is in love with Memphis.
In case you haven’t noticed, Memphis is having a big moment. This past Friday, the third part of the Bowie/Collector “white glove” sale, the one devoted to Bowie’s collection of pieces by the radical design collective, sold for a total of £1.4 million ($1.7 million) at Sotheby’s London.
The 100 lots gathered some of the best pieces produced by the short-lived collective, active in Milan from 1981 to 1987, including Ettore Sottsass’s Casablanca sideboard (1981), which sold for £68,750 including buyer’s premium (its presale estimate was £3,000-£5,000); or Peter Shire’s Big Sur sofa (1986), which sold for £77,500, rocketing from a similar estimate.
Concurrently, Dusseldorf’s KAI 10 is staging the exhibition “Less is a Bore: Reflections on Memphis,” whose title borrows the maxim coined by the pope of Post-modernism, Robert Venturi, who turned Mies van der Rohe’s “Less is more” dictum on its head.
In the exhibition, design pieces by Sottsass, Shire, Matteo Thun, Michele de Lucchi, and Alessandro Mendini have been put in dialogue with works by contemporary visual artists like Barbara Kasten, Eva Berendes, and Tobias Rehberger, to riotous results.
“I looked at the furniture designs of Memphis from the perspective of an art historian/curator and was impressed by how they simultaneously emphasize volume and surface, how they are both functional furniture and sculpture,” Julia Höner, curator of the exhibition, told artnet News.
“With Memphis in mind, I began to look at artists working today who are interested in surface and who are creating at the threshold of sculpture and painting, as well as artists influenced by postmodern architecture and using colors typical of Memphis,” she added.
The comeback of Memphis has certainly been slow, but it’s been in the works for a few years now, and not just in the field of design.
For the last three decades, for example, Memphis co-founder Nathalie du Pasquier has geared her creative endeavors from design towards visual arts, focusing on drawing and painting.
Last year, the Berlin gallery Exile gave her a solo show, titled “The Big Game” and this year, she was the focus of a major solo exhibition titled “Big Objects Not Always Silent” at the Kunsthalle Wien in Vienna.
Asked why Memphis seems to be chiming with the times, Höner gave a interesting explanation: “I think that the present time acknowledges this egalitarian atmosphere that vibrates through Memphis: the sensual play with materials, colors, forms, the provocative combination of kitsch and references from high culture … All that seems to be important again in today’s culture, as a counter-reaction to an authoritarian political atmosphere that recently seems to spread throughout the world,” she told artnet News.
Indeed, in the aftermath of Brexit, Trump’s election, the failed peace referendum in Colombia, and the rise of extremism across many different regions, perhaps what we really need right now is to re-introduce the fresh perspective on inclusiveness—not to mention the sheer brightness—of Memphis into our lives.
“Less is a Bore: Reflections on Memphis” on view at KAI 10, Dusseldorf, from October 28, 2016 – February 11, 2017.
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