In the last six years fashion obsessively borrowed patterns, colour combinations and shapes from the Memphis Milano movement. Every now and then fashion designers also mentioned Ettore Sottsass' interior design pieces as their starting point for a collection.
This connection is destined to continue in the next few days: two special events will indeed celebrate Sottsass (Innsbruck, 1917 - Milan, 2007) during Milan Design Week (4th-9th April 2017), marking 100 years since the birth of the interior designer.
Two different events at Galleria Carla Sozzani in Corso Como 10 (4th April - 1st May 2017) and at Galleria Antonia Janone in Corso Garibaldi 125 (4th - 13th April 2017) will focus on Sottsass' "Indian Memory" collection, made with Alessio Sarri.
Sottsass met Sarri, a ceramicist from Sesto Fiorentino, in the '80s. The designer and the artist soon realised there was a special bond between them, they both shared a special passion for details and Sottsass asked Sarri to turn into ceramics a series of drawings for teapots and fruit bowls he had created in 1973 (the drawings are currently part of the collection at New York's MoMA).
This collaboration generated a group of eight ceramic pieces - Cardamom, Pepper, Cinnamon, Basilico, Cherry, Lapislazzuli, Camomilla and Sugar - exhibited in 1987 at the Galleria Antonia Jannone.
Some of these pieces were characterised by a muted palette; others came in soft pastels or in vividly bright shades of pistachio and yellow.
All of them looked like spaceships, religious totems from a dystopic futures, sculptures or architectural models, rather than functional interior design pieces: Lapislazzuli calls to mind a ziggurat with round edges; Sugar may be a bizarre flying saucers; Camomilla reminds of a crown, while Cinnamon looks like an old school movie camera. In many ways the shapes of these objects liberate them from their immediate function.
"Indian Memory" represented for Sottsass a sort of new beginning: after this collection the designer launched a series of exciting experiments with glazed ceramic.
Thirty years have gone since this collaboration and Sarri recently decided to recreate the pieces and relaunch them: the event at the Galleria Sozzani will focus on the handcrafted aspects of his work, while the exhibition at the Galleria Jannone will introduce visitors also to the preparatory drawings for these pieces and to the original illustrations Sottsass did in 1973.
In a 1986 article published on The Chicago Tribune, Sottsass described Memphis Milano like "a very strong drug", adding, "You cannot take too much. I don't think anyone should put only Memphis around: it's like eating only cake."
We beg to differ: in the confusingly dark times we are living in, Ettore Sottsass and Memphis Milano's playfully ebullient pieces still seem to be the most inspiring and optimistic visual kick we may ever get from the postmodern design universe. Let us eat (only) cake, please.