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museum of decorative Arts and Design

musée des Arts décoratifs
et du Design de Bordeaux
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39 rue Bouffard,
33000 Bordeaux

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Memphis - Plastic Field

from 21.06.2019
to 05.01.2020

The cultural season starting in Bordeaux in June 2019 is dedicated to Freedom.
The Museum of Decorative Arts and Design (madd-bordeaux) is takqing part in this by hosting, in the former prison, the exhibition Memphis – Plastic Field, which was presented in 2018 at the Berengo Foundation alongside the 16th Venice Architecture Exhibition.

"We have become explorers. Maybe we can navigate wide, dangerous rivers and advance into jungles where no one has ever set foot".
Ettore Sottsass, 1981

Ettore Sottsass founded the Memphis Group in 1981, bringing together young architects around his strong personality. They dreamt of shattering the codes of modernity and rationalism; the culture they established was a vitalistic, instinctive reaction to the gentrification of design. Their first collection was exhibited in Milan. The exhibition, that opened on 18 September 1981, had the effect of a bomb in the European design scene. It radically renewed the language of shapes and colours that up until then was based on the sense and presence of the object, rather than on its function. Artists of all nationalities came together around Ettore Sottsass, including two Bordeaux artists Martine Bedin and Nathalie Du Pasquier. Together, they overturned the traditional principles of design, transforming a discipline that up until then had focused on production and rationality, to orientate it towards visual communication. They were filled with a sense of freedom that opened up a whole new scope of possibilities.

A strategy was devised to acquire an international reputation immediately. Ernesto Gismondi, chairman of the company Artemide, distributed the collection worldwide, thus providing essential exposure for the Memphis Group. The usual economic model gave way to unlimited production. The Carlton bookcase became an icon of Italian design all over the world. A thousand copies of the First chair, created by Michele De Lucchi, were soon sold. And the Super lamp, created by Martine Bedin, is still a best-seller.

By presenting this exhibition, madd-bordeaux continues the work inaugurated by Jacqueline du Pasquier, honorary curator of the museum, who in 1983 hosted in Bordeaux the first French exhibition devoted to the Memphis Group.
Exhibiting Memphis today also allows us to show the present-day pertinence of this impetus towards freedom that gave centre stage to democratic culture and focused on the aspects that elitist designers despised, i.e. ornamentation and decoration, by also highlighting spontaneity, sensuality and humour. As stated by Paris Match in 1983: "After Memphis, nothing was ever the same again in the history of interior design". 

Bringing together over 160 iconic works designed between 1981 and 1988, Memphis Plastic Field highlights the irreverent and subversive spirit of all these young designers. As well as these masterpieces, about thirty vases produced in Murano are exhibited.

"Memphis tried to breathe new life into the word "design"… The thing I like about all these Memphis objects is their playfulness. "
Auction catalogue for Karl Lagerfeld's Memphis collection, 13 October 1991

The museum would like to thank Alberto Bianchi Albrici and the company Memphis Srl, that co-produced the exhibition and lent most of the works.

20 designers / more than 160 pieces : Martine Bedin, Thomas Bley, Andrea Branzi, Aldo Cibic, Michele De Lucchi, Nathalie Du Pasquier, Michael Graves, Massimo Iosa Ghini, Shiro Kuramata, Javier Mariscal, Alessandro Mendini, Maria Sanchez, Peter Shire, Ettore Sottsass, George J. Sowden, Gerard Taylor, Matteo Thun, Masanori Umeda, Marco Zanini et Marco Jr. Zanuso.

Ettore Sottsass, Park Lane, 1983 - Collection madd-bordeaux
Marco Zanini, Roma, 1986 - Collection Memphis Milano
©madd-bordeaux - Laurent Gueneau

Opening: Friday 21 June at 6.30 pm

Information: Opening hours, prices, guided tour




The young friends of the museum : the madd Junior Team (6-11 yo)
- Junior opening : Wednesday 19 June at 2 pm
-Workshops for kids in July and August. Program on demand.
Free admission for the members of the madd Junior Team. By registration +33 (0)5 56 10 14 05 - Organised by the Friends of the museum

Workshops and activities
-The workshop Memphis - Plastic Field for kids as part of the exhibition, free access, no reservation needed.
-Game booklet for kids.
-Special workshops for children’s outdoor, leisure and activity centers. By registration.
-Custom tours and activities for school and student groups throughout the duration of the exhibition.
Informations and registration at +33 (0)5 56 10 14 05 /


-Fête de la musique
Friday 21 June from 6 pm to midnight
The madd-bordeaux welcomes the Super Daronne band from Bordeaux for a special party around the 1980's.

-Afterworks Quartiers d’été with l’I.BOAT
Every Thursday night from 6 pm to 10 pm – 27 June to 1st August
The madd-bordeaux invites I.BOAT to celebrate the exhibition Memphis - Plastic Field.
Program: night opening of the exhibition, DJ Sets, tapas and fresh drinks.
In partnership with Junkpage magazine.


Figures from the design world will be invited to exchange with the public throughout the duration of the exhibition.
Program under way.



-During school terms: Saturdays and Sundays at 3 pm
Price: museum ticket + 1 € - No reservation needed
-During school holidays: Everyday at 3 pm (except on Tuesday)
Price: museum ticket + 1 € - No reservation needed
-All year round: On demand > 11 people.
Prices: 50€ + 3€ per person during the week / 65 € + 3 € per person during the week-end
Registration: +33 (0)5 56 10 14 05 /
Guided tours (groups or individuals) in English on demand.



Catalogue of the exhibition

Publication supervisor: Constance Rubini, directrice du madd-bordeaux
Graphic design: Alexandre Dimos - Studio deValence
Exhibition views: Laurent Gueneau


Light after darkness
Jean Blanchaert, curator of the exhibition

Memphis, the sensorial object
Constance Rubini, curator of the exhibition

Reproduction of brochures and catalogues from the Memphis collections between 1981 et 1988, introduced by
texts of the period time

Interview of the architect and designer Ettore Sottsass, 1982
Excerpt of the brochure « Memphis 1982 », n.p.

Interview of the architect Arata Isozaki by Barbara Radice, 1983
Excerpt of the brochure« Memphis Furniture Milano 1983 », n.p.

La Memphis
Michele de Lucchi, designer and founder member of Memphis

Il convegno di Laglio, lac de Côme
Martine Bedin, designer and founder member of Memphis

Comunicato Memphis 1985
Barbara Radice, founder member and cultural manager of Memphis

Memphis et le nouveau design italien
Andrea Branzi, designer and founder member of Memphis

Memphis, the New International Style
George J. Sowden, designer and founder member of Memphis

Exhibition views and list of artworks exhibited

Co-published and distributed by Éditions Norma
Bilingual French and English edition
208 pages
39 €

The catalogue is on sale at the museum, in bookstores and online.

Ettore Sottsass, Berverly, 1981 - Buffet en bois, stratifié plastique, placage de bois de bruyère et métal - Collection Memphis Milano
©madd-bordeaux - Laurent Gueneau

Jean Blanchaert et Constance Rubini

IB Studio - Isabella Invernizzi et Beatrice Bonzanigo

Graphic design of the catalogue
Alexandre Dimos – Studio deValence
Co-published and distributed by Éditions Norma

The museum wants to thank

Château Haut-Bailly,
mécène d’honneur

Alberto Bianchi Albrici and the company Memphis Srl, that co-produced the exhibition.

Martine Bedin, Andrea Branzi, Michele de Lucchi, Nathalie Du Pasquier, Barbara Radice, George J. Sowden for thier friendly support.

Farrow & Ball
InterContinental Bordeaux - Le Grand Hôtel
Bordeaux Métropole

The partners of Quartiers d'été

For their fidelity, the museum would also like to thank
Les Amis et le Cercle du madd
Château Nairac
Les Crus Bourgeois du Médoc
Les Galeries Lafayette
La société de négoce DIVA
Station Ausone - Mollat

Workshop kids - Cell 13
Wallpaper based on a design by Nathalie Du Pasquier, 1985
©madd-bordeaux - Laurent Gueneau