Ettore Sottsass for Cleto Munari



The celebrated architect and designer, whose work and philosophy  transformed the design world, was born in Innsbruck, Austria and raised in Turin, Italy. The son of an architect, Sottsass studied architecture in Turin, graduating in 1939, and then joining the military, during World War II, when he imprisoned in a labour camp in Yugoslavia.  After the war he joined his father’s architectural practice, before setting up his own studio in Milan where he was able to extend the scope of his work, to include design for ceramics, objects and interiors.  He moved to New York briefly to work with industrial designer George Nelson, and returning to Italy, he began working with Olivetti, famous typewriter manufacturer.  Here he was able to inject his own developing style: contemporary, playful, exuberant, focused on bright, bold colours and strong, simple yet sensual forms and silhouettes, influenced by pop culture.  In 1980, he founded Memphis, a design collective, active through 1981-1988, that achieved international renown for now-iconic objects,  and changed the face of product design.  Memphis also confirmed Italy’s supremacy in avant-garde industrial design. Through his radical, rebellious, iconoclastic style, Sottsass brought colour, fun and style to everyday, utilitarian objects.  Even more, Sottsass saw design as social commentary, rejecting consumerism, and aiming to restore the sacred meaning of objects. After Memphis, he established his own design consultancy. Sottsass was able to turn his talent and apply his philosophy to any area of design, including jewellery.  In the 1980s, he designed a jewellery collection for Memphis, made by ACME studio, Milan and launched at the Cooper Hewitt Museum, New York, and later he collaborated with his friend and colleague, designer Cleto Munari, creating a limited edition jewellery collection of 32 pieces in 2002.  The Mane ring in this exhibition, is one of a limited edition of 9.


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