Memphis, Tennessee-native Dennis Zanone is quite possibly the world’s greatest fan of Memphis design. Over the past two decades, he’s amassed an outstanding collection of postmodern pieces—from the iconic, like Ettore Sottsass’s Carlton Bookcase, to the obscure, like Peter Shire’s Anchorage Teapet. It not hyperbole to say his home is a living tribute to ’80s-era design.
Since Memphis has been in the air lately, we thought we’d go to an expert for some insights into this most recognizable of design styles.
WC: When did you start collecting Memphis, and why were you initially attracted to this work?
DZ: I started collecting Memphis design in the early ’90s. I liked the odd shapes, mix of materials, and the use of vibrant color—and that fact that it was, in a way, named for my hometown. I remembered seeing it in the mid ’80s at an exhibition, and my brother Don, who collects midcentury modern, said that he thought Memphis would be a period collectible at one point in the future. A few pieces bought at auction turned into an obsession. And now my home is filled with postmodern design, and the main emphasis is Memphis-Milano.
WC: How would you say design changed after Memphis?
DZ: I actually think modern design became more functional after the ’80s. Sottsass considered Memphis as an ephemeral movement intended to shake up late ’70s, early ’80s design—not a reaction to fine midcentury design. People who like Memphis appreciate it as a design study; and those who are repulsed by it have a visceral reaction to its cartoonish, over-consuming, "greed is good" vibe. So you either love it or hate it I've found. There’s no equivocation on the subject.
WC: Do you have any recommendations for those who’d like to start collecting Memphis work?
DZ: As with art, buy what you like and can live with, and start with the more common pieces that are less expensive and easier to find at galleries and auctions; then add larger pieces. I started with the furniture then realized I needed some of the metal pieces, and that led to wanting some of the art glass pieces.
WC: What is your favorite piece of Memphis design, and why?
DZ: My favorite piece is the Tawaraya (Boxing Ring Bed) by Masanori Umeda from 1981. It is the largest piece made by Memphis, and it’s considered a piéce de résistance along with the Plaza Vanity by Michael Graves. Of course, I use the Tawaraya as my bed, and I find it very practical. The Memphis design ethos was that form doesn't have to follow function, yet all of the pieces function as intended. I guess that's the difference between living with the pieces and seeing them in photographs in print.
Check out these photos from Dennis’s collection!
If you’d like to know more about Dennis’s collection, you should peruse the various sites he maintains just for the love of Memphis: www.memphis-milano.org, https://www.facebook.com/MemphisMovement, and www.bit.ly/MemphisMovement.
*All images courtesy Dennis Zanone; © the artists
Wava CarpenterAfter studying Design History, Wava has worn many hats in support of design culture: teaching design studies, curating exhibitions, overseeing commissions, organizing talks, writing articles—all of which informs her work now as Pamono’s Editor-in-Chief.
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Nesting Tables from Memphis, 1987
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Italian Carlton Bookcase by Ettore Sottsass for Memphis Milano
Porcelain Model Kariba Fruit Bowl by Matteo Thun for Memphis, 1982
Nuvola Wall Lamp by Beppe Caturegli for Memphis, 1988
Postmodern Super Lamp by Martine Bedin for Memphis Milano
Colon Table by Javier Mariscal for Memphis, 1981
Italian Gloucester Chair by George Sowden for Memphis Milano, 1980s
Postmodern Hyatt by Ettore Sottsass for Memphis Milano, 1980s
Postmodern Gloucester Chair by George Sowden for Memphis Milano, 1986
Vintage Night Stands by Matteo Thun for Memphis Group, Set of 2
Tigris Ceramic Vase by Ettore Sottsass for Memphis
Postmodern Memphis Style Sideboard, 1980s
Vintage Bay Table Lamp by Ettore Sottsass for Memphis
Vintage Euphrates Ceramic Vase by Ettore Sottsass for Memphis
Vintage Ashoka Lamp by Ettore Sottsass for Memphis
Vintage No. 31 Greene Street Chairs by Gaetano Pesce for Vitra, Set of 2
Jagati Table Lamp in Wood by Ettore Sottsass for Memphis, 2000
Black and Yellow Light Objects by Johanna Grawunder for Memphis, 1989, Set of 4
First Chair by Michele de Lucchi for Memphis, 1980s
Round Sally Rolling Table by Shiro Kuramata for Memphis, 1987
Nara Terrazzo Side Table by Shiro Kuramata for Memphis, 1985
Carlton Bookcase by Ettore Sottsass for Memphis, 1995
Japanese Sally Rolling Side Table by Shiro Kuramata for Memphis Milano, 1987
Bel Air Armchair by Peter Shire for Memphis Milano, 1982
Pierre Table by George Sowden for Memphis Milano, 1981
Tahiti Lamp by Ettore Sottsass for the Memphis Group, 1980s
Italian Bookshelf by Andrea Branzi for Memphis, 1980s
Super Table Lamp by Martine Bedin for Memphis Milano
First Chair by Michele De Lucchi for Memphis Milano, 1990s, Set of 2
Italian Charleston Arc Floor Lamp by Martine Bedin for Memphis Milano, 1980s
Tahiti Table Lamp by Ettore Sottsass for Memphis, 1981
Memphis II by DAMM
Memphis Italian Armchair, 1980s, Set of 2
Memphis Lamp in Green by DAMM
Memphis Lamp in Pink by DAMM