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Postmodern Design

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Postmodern Design

Strictly speaking, Postmodern Design was a short-lived movement that manifested itself chiefly in Italy and the United States in the early 1980s. Objects produced by postmodern practitioners were characterized by hot-colored, loud-patterned, usually plastic surfaces; strange proportions and weird angles; and a vague-at-best relationship between form and function. Critics derided postmodern design as a grandstanding bid for attention and nothing of consequence. The fact that, thirty years later, postmodern design still has the power to provoke thoughts (along with other reactions) proves they were not entirely correct.

     Postmodernism began as an architectural critique. Starting in the 1960s, a small cadre of mainly American architects began to argue that modernism, once high-minded and even noble in its goals, had become stale, stagnant and blandly corporate. In the next decade in Milan, a cohort of designers led by Ettore Sottsass and Alessandro Mendini brought the discussion to bear on design. Sottsass and Michele de Lucchi, in 1980, gathered a core group of young designers, which would come to include Michael Graves, Marco Zanini, Shiro Kuramata and Matteo Thun, into a design collective they called Memphis. They saw design as a means of communication and they wanted it to shout. That it did: the first Memphis collection appeared in 1981 and broke all the modernist taboos, embracing irony, kitsch, wild ornamentation and bad taste.

     Memphis works remain icons of postmodernism: the Sottsass "Casablanca" bookcase with it’s leopard-print plastic veneer; de Lucchi’s "First" chair, which has been described as having the look of an electronics component; Martine Bedin’s "Super" lamp: a pull-toy puppy on a power cord leash. After the initial Memphis show caused an uproar, postmodern design quickly took off in America. The architect Robert Venturi had already begun a series of plywood chairs for Knoll Inc. with beefy, exaggerated silhouettes of traditional styles such as Queen Anne and Chippendale. In 1982, the new firm Swid-Powell enlisted a group of top American architects, including Frank Gehry, Richard Meier, Stanley Tigerman, and Venturi to create postmodern tableware in silver, ceramic, and glass.

     Many of the pieces mentioned above formed the core of a 2011 survey of postmodern design at the Victoria & Albert Museum — an exhibition that showed the movement's influence on contemporary design and fashion. That fact, coupled with the works offered on these pages, proves that postmodernism is a movement that continues to inspire.

Alessandro Mendini and Alessandro Guerriero Table and Chairs
By Alessandro Mendini, Memphis Group
Very rare table and chairs from the Ollo collection. Consorzio Esposizione Mobili for Studio Alchimia. Italy, 1988 This set features Mendini's Olimpico pattern. Also see our scre...
Category

Late 20th Century Italian Dining Room Sets

Materials

Wood

Yantra Y33b vase by Ettore Sottsass Poltronova
By Ettore Sottsass
Yantra Y33b by Ettore Sottsass. Original Poltronova edition released in the 1960s-1970s.
Category

Vintage 1960s Italian Modern Vases

Materials

Ceramic

1967, Paolo Lomazzi, Donato D'urbino, Jonathan de Pas, for Zanotta, Blow Chair
By Zanotta, Gionathan de Pas & Donato D’Urbino & Paolo Lomazzi
Blow chair. Traces of wear like not being totally clear plastic. This was the first mass-produced inflatable chair. Designed by the Milan-based studio of De Pas, D'Urbino, and Lomaz...
Category

Vintage 1960s Italian Mid-Century Modern Lounge Chairs

Materials

Plastic

Alessandro Mendini Ceramic Vase Model B Superego Editions, Italy
By Superego Editions, Alessandro Mendini
"B" ceramic vase designed by Alessandro Mendini and produced by Superego Editions, 99 pieces limited edition. Signed and numbered  
Category

Early 2000s Italian Modern Vases

Materials

Ceramic

Ettore Sottsass, Table Lamp Model "Tahiti", Milano, 1981
By Ettore Sottsass, Memphis Group
Ettore Sottsass (1917–2007) Table lamp model tahiti Manufactured by Memphis Milano, 1981 Polychrome enameled metal Measurements 38 cm x 10 cm x 60h cm. 14.96 in x 3.93 in ...
Category

Late 20th Century Italian Post-Modern Table Lamps

Materials

Metal

Tawayara 'Boxing Ring' Seating Unit by Masanori Umeda
By Masanori Umeda
Tawayara boxing ring seating unit by Masanori Umeda (Japan) for Memphis srl (1981). The Tawaraya boxing ring bed/seating area was the brainchild of Masanori Umeda -- a testament to ...
Category

20th Century Italian Post-Modern Sofas

Materials

Metal

Lapo Binazzi, Rare MGM Lamp Prototype, Pink Lacquered Metal, 1969
By UFO Group
Prototype realized in 1969, prior to series put into production during the 1970s for Gruppo UFO and Studio Alchimia. Hence making it a rare early prototype. On the base of the lamp ...
Category

Vintage 1960s Italian Post-Modern Table Lamps

Materials

Sheet Metal

Shiva Vase by Ettore Sottsass
By Ettore Sottsass
A vase "Shiva" for Ediciones de diseno, Barcelona, 1973. Glazed clay, molded casting. Marked "b.D barcelona design".  
Category

20th Century Spanish Vases

Materials

Clay

Ettore Sottsass for Memphis "Tahiti" Lamp
By Memphis Group, Ettore Sottsass
An iconic "Tahiti" lamp by Ettore Sottsass for Memphis. Capturing the spirit of the Memphis movement, the lamp is composed of metal, wood and laminate in the abstract form ...
Category

20th Century Italian Table Lamps

Materials

Metal

"Pratone" Lounge Chair for Gufram, Italy 1971.
By GUFRAM Furniture
"Pratone" lounge chair, designed by Pietro Derossi, Giorgio Ceretti and Riccardo Rosso, 1966, produced starting in 1971 by Gufram, still in production. This example produced by Gufra...
Category

Vintage 1970s Italian Lounge Chairs

Materials

PVC

Alessandro Mendini "Three" Sculpture, Prototype, Superego Editions, Italy
By Alessandro Mendini, Superego Editions
Bronze color 'Three' ceramic sculpture designed by Alessandro Mendini and produced by Superego Editions. Signed and numbered. Prototype. Limited edition of eight pieces. Arts & C...
Category

2010s Italian Modern Figurative Sculptures

Materials

Ceramic

Ashoka Large Table Lamp by Ettore Sottsass for Memphis Milano
By Ettore Sottsass, Memphis Group
Ashoka lamp by Ettore Sottsass for Memphis, Milano, 1981. Excellent condition.
Category

Vintage 1980s Italian Post-Modern Table Lamps

Materials

Steel

Orange Eero Aarnio 'Kantarelli' Fiberglass Side Table for Asko Oy, Finland, 1967
By Asko, Eero Aarnio
An orange high gloss fiberglass 'Kantarelli' side table with tulip base designed by Finish designer Eero Aarnio in 1967 for modern furniture maker Asko Oy in Helsinki, Finland. This ...
Category

Vintage 1960s Finnish Mid-Century Modern Side Tables

Materials

Fiberglass

Alessandro Mendini - "Dipylon" Rand Totem Sculpture
By Alessandro Mendini
Alessandro MENDINI Rand Totem "Dipylon" Signé "A. Mendini" Edition of 10 Signed on the base Earthenware totem composed by four ovoid elements, red, black and gold enamels. ...
Category

21st Century and Contemporary Abstract Sculptures

Materials

Ceramic

La Femme Commode by Nicola L. In stock
By Nicola L.
THE CHEST WOMAN. Cat-Berro Edition 2008 Chest of drawers on wheels. Lacquered wood. Drawers. Measures: H 170cm., L 64cm., P 38cm. First created in 1969. Last piece.  Pricing does...
Category

21st Century and Contemporary French Commodes and Chests of Drawers

Materials

Wood

Ziggurat Container by Oeuffice
By Oeuffice
Oeuffice explores the world of Middle Eastern architecture and ornamental structures. Collaborating with a Lebanese craftsman specialized in wood inlay, Oeuffice has created a system...
Category

2010s Lebanese Arts and Crafts Decorative Baskets

Materials

Acrylic, Wood

Porfido Coffee Table by Piero Gilardi for Gufram, 1974, Italy
By Memphis Group, Piero Gilardi, GUFRAM Furniture
Rare limited edition table by Piero Gilardi from 1974. Ressembling an ancient engraved piece of stone, it is fully comprised from polyurethane foam and in excellent condition. This i...
Category

Vintage 1970s Italian Post-Modern Coffee and Cocktail Tables

Materials

Polyurethane

Fruit Bowl "Sol" by Ettore Sottsass
By Ettore Sottsass, Memphis Group, Canedese
Ettore Sottsass, Fruit Bowl "SOL" 1986 for Memphis Milano Signed: E. SOTTSASS PER MEMPHIS MILANO Multi-colored blown glass produced by: Gino Canedese & Figlio, Venedig.
Category

Late 20th Century Italian Centerpieces

Materials

Glass

"PIP-e" Stackable Outdoor Chair Designed by Philippe Starck for Driade
By Philippe Starck, Driade
"PIP-e" is a stackable chair, designed by Philippe Starck and manufactured by Driade, in polypropylene monobloc available in carnation, lavender gray, white or dark gray colors. Indo...
Category

21st Century and Contemporary Italian Chairs

Angelo Mangiarotti for Skipper, Modern Set of Six Black Chicago Chairs, 1983
By Skipper, Angelo Mangiarotti
A set of six Chicago chairs by Angelo Mangiarotti produced in 1983 by Skipper, Milan. The chairs are molded in a single piece of fiberglass and are a marvel of production technology...
Category

Vintage 1980s Italian Modern Chairs

Materials

Fiberglass

Michael McCarthy for Cassina Italian Marble Cocktail Table
By Michael McCarthy, Cassina
White marble cocktail or coffee table by Cassina with black metal tubular base. Designed by Michael McCarthy for Cassina, 1960s.
Category

Vintage 1960s Italian Coffee and Cocktail Tables

Materials

Marble, Metal

Four Dining or Side Chairs Designed by Nicos Zographos, USA, 1966
By Nicos Zographos
Four armless chairs in tubular metal upholstered in black, basket weave fabric, designed in 1966 by Nicos Zographos for the General Fireproofing Company.
Category

Vintage 1970s Dining Room Chairs

Archizoom Associati Sanremo Floor Lamp by Poltronova
By Archizoom Associati, Poltronova
Sanremo floor lamp (1968). Archizoom (Italy) / Poltronova. Painted sheet steel base and stem with laser-cut methacrylate pendants, halogen (50 watt) / Dimensions: W 38 x H 225 x D...
Category

Vintage 1960s Italian Post-Modern Floor Lamps

Materials

Metal

"Soft Egg" Stackable Monobloc Armchair Designed by Philippe Starck for Driade
By Philippe Starck, Driade
"Soft Egg" is a polypropylene monobloc armchair, designed by Philippe Starck and manufactured by Driade, available in white, carnation, dark gray or gray colors. White and gray versi...
Category

21st Century and Contemporary Italian Modern Armchairs

Materials

Polymer

"Giova" Table Lamp + Flower Pot Designed by Gae Aulenti for FontanaArte
By Fontana Arte, Gae Aulenti
"Giova" is a refined table lamp and flower pot hybrid piece of design, designed by Gae Aulenti and manufactured by FontanaArte, featuring a chromed metal base, a middle globe in tran...
Category

21st Century and Contemporary Italian Modern Table Lamps

Materials

Gold, Chrome, Metal

Laverne Lucite "Lily" Chair
By Erwine & Estelle Laverne
Manufactured by Laverne International, USA. From the "Invisible Group" series. Original fuzzy red cushion.
Category

Vintage 1960s American Lounge Chairs

Materials

Lucite

Assorted Matteograssi Style Leather Chairs
By Unknown
Black leather Marcel Breuer style cantilevered armchair with chrome frame. Original condition with visible scratching and wear. Leather wrapped armrests secured with a screw. Origina...
Category

Vintage 1960s Dutch Mid-Century Modern Dining Room Chairs

Materials

Chrome

Floor Lamp "Svincolo" by Ettore Sottsass, Studio Alchimia Milano, 1979
By Memphis Group, Ettore Sottsass, Alchemia
Floor Lamp "Svincolo" by Ettore Sottsass, Studio Alchimia Milano 1979 laminated wood, chromed metal, neon-light
Category

Vintage 1970s Italian Memphis Group Floor Lamps

Materials

Chrome

Memphis Style Side Table, circa 1980s
By Memphis Group, Peter Shire
A fun and whimsical Memphis style side table in the manner of Peter Shire. This table consist of painted steel with a 23.5" round 1/2" thick glass top, circa 1980s.
Category

Vintage 1980s Unknown Modern Side Tables

Materials

Steel

Elda Chair by Joe Colombo for Comfort, 1963
By Joe Colombo, Comfort, Italy
The Elda lounge chair was designed in 1963 and is made of a fiberglass shell with a rotating base, the seat is padded with black leather covering. The iconic piece, designed by Joe C...
Category

Vintage 1960s Italian Mid-Century Modern Swivel Chairs

Materials

Leather, Fiberglass

Lino Sabattini "Germoglio" Silver Plated Vase for Sabattini, 1979
By Lino Sabattini, Sabattini Argenteria
Beautiful organic form that speaks to its name of "Germoglio," meaning "Bud" or "Sprout." The finely crafted silver plated body exemplifies the skill of Lino Sabattini's eponymous fi...
Category

Vintage 1970s Italian Modern Vases

Materials

Silver Plate

Paul Talman "Fifty Fifty" Wall Lamp
By Paul Talman
Paul Talman wall lamp. Model "Fifty Fifty". Aluminum base and plastic spheres. Spheres can be rotated creating different patterns. Two lamps available. Switzerland, 1960s.  
Category

Vintage 1960s Swiss Mid-Century Modern Wall Lights and Sconces

Materials

Aluminum

Stilnovo Table Lamp Model 8051, Italy, 1960s
By Stilnovo
Table lamp modell 8051 by Stilnovo Milano Italy of the 1960s, with a tilt table head and adjustable stand. Label of Stilnovo on the back, slight signs of usage. For the electrificat...
Category

Vintage 1960s Italian Mid-Century Modern Table Lamps

Materials

Metal

Rocking Chair Produced by Fasem in Italy
By Mart Stam
Rare rocking chair produced by Fasem in Italy.
Category

Vintage 1960s Italian Mid-Century Modern Rocking Chairs

Materials

Chrome

Fiberglass and Leather ‘Diabolo’ Chair by Ben Swildens, 1960s
Rare ‘Diabolo’ chair by Ben Swildens (Netherlands 1936). Made by Stabin - N.V. Woerden in the, 1960s, marked with 'sb precisie meubelen' Woerden. Swildens is very well known because ...
Category

Vintage 1960s Dutch Mid-Century Modern Armchairs

Materials

Leather, Fiberglass

Michael Graves Mailbox
By Michael Graves (b.1934)
A splendid Michael Graves Mailbox
Category

Late 20th Century American Collectibles and Curiosities

Materials

Steel, Aluminum

Mirror Designed and Signed by Ettore Sottsass, 2007 Made in Italy
By Ettore Sottsass
Dioniso four mirror of early production designed by Ettore Sottsass for Glas Italia in 2007 comprises orange, white, and black colored glass in geometric shapes that surround the cen...
Category

21st Century and Contemporary Italian Modern Wall Mirrors

Materials

Mirror

Peter Shire Elyssian Heights Floor Lamp
By Peter Shire
This Peter Shire Elyssian Heights floor lamp is a unique, one of a kind made in 1988. The light source is in the center of the fan shaped shade and provides even illumination withou...
Category

Late 20th Century American Memphis Group Floor Lamps

Materials

Metal

Peter Shire "Olympic Torch" Floor Lamp
By Memphis Group, Peter Shire
A very large Memphis style floor lamp created for the Los Angeles Olympic village of 1984 by famed artist, Peter Shire.
Category

Late 20th Century American Memphis Group Floor Lamps

Materials

Aluminum, Steel

Michele De Lucchi for Cleto Munari Carafe
By Michele de Lucchi, Cleto Munari
Designed for Cleto Munari, manufactured by Rossi e Arcandi. Stamped “M De Lucchi/Cleto Munari/Rossi & Arcand/Made In Italy”, numbered “40/99”, “925” silver mark. Literature: ...
Category

Vintage 1970s Italian Pitchers

Materials

Sterling Silver

Alessandro Mendini Prototype Ollo Chair for Alchimia, 1988
By Gruppo Alchimia, Alessandro Mendini
Rare collectors item, prototype Ollo chair. Designed by Alessandro Mendini for Alchimia, Italy, 1988. This chair was never in production, only a few try out prototypes were made. Thi...
Category

Vintage 1980s Italian Mid-Century Modern Side Chairs

Materials

Metal

Table "Brazil" by Peter Shire, Memphis Milano, 1981
By Memphis Group, Peter Shire
Table "Brazil" by Peter Shire, Memphis Milano 1981
Category

Late 20th Century Italian Tables

Materials

Wood

Baykal Ceramic Flower Vase by Marco Zanini
By Marco Zannini
Baykal ceramic flower vase by Marco Zanini (Italy). Rare. Zanini had the notion (correctly, in actuality) that most artistic flower vases almost never get used in reality. Thus, h...
Category

Vintage 1980s Italian Memphis Group Vases

Materials

Ceramic

Robert Venturi "Cabriole Leg" Table for Knoll
By Robert Venturi
Cabriole leg dining or center table in "Grandmother's Tablecloth" printed laminate with black laminate top by Robert Venturi for Knoll. Model #65848.
Category

Vintage 1980s American Dining Room Tables

Materials

Laminate

Volga Porcelain Flower Vase by Matteo Thun for Memphis
By Matteo Thun
Volga porcelain flower vase by Matteo Thun (Italy/Austria) for Memphis srl (1983). Created for the 3rd Memphis exhibition in 1983, Thun was amongst a group of the movements design...
Category

Vintage 1980s Italian Memphis Group Vases

Materials

Porcelain

Victoria Ceramic Flower Vase by Marco Zannini
By Marco Zannini
Victoria ceramic flower vase by Marco Zannini (Italy.) Rare. Zanini had the notion (correctly, in actuality) that most artistic flower vases almost never get used in reality. Thus, ...
Category

Vintage 1980s Italian Memphis Group Vases

Materials

Ceramic

Tanganyika Ceramic Flower Vase by Marco Zannini
By Marco Zannini
Tanganyika ceramic flower vase by Marco Zannini (Italy). Very rare, perhaps only 10-12 were ever made. Zannini had the notion (correctly, in actuality) that most artistic flower va...
Category

Vintage 1980s Italian Memphis Group Vases

Materials

Ceramic

Kyoto Round Table by Shiro Kuramata
By Shiro Kuramata
Kyoto round table (1983) Shiro Kuramata (Japan) / Memphis Milano Round end table in metal and colored-glass-infused "Star Piece" terrazzo Dimensions: Ø 23.75", height: 28.5" The Ja...
Category

Vintage 1980s Japanese Post-Modern Center Tables

Materials

Steel

Rare Shiro Kuramata Wall-Mounted Desk and Mirror
By Shiro Kuramata
Designed for the Dalichi Hotel in the Tsukaba Center, Japan, 1983. Fully documented in the Kuramata archives.
Category

Late 20th Century Japanese Desks and Writing Tables

Narciso Sculpture by Andrea Cascella for Alessi D'Apres
By Alessi
Limited edition of Alberto Alessi's first early seventies company design introduction project which did not work out very well ... New Old Stock comes with original packaging. ...
Category

Vintage 1970s Italian Abstract Sculptures

Materials

Stainless Steel

Alessandro Mendini lounge chair
By Alessandro Mendini
San Leonardo limited edition 14/100 by Alessandro Mendini Rare and stunning leather lounge chair and hocker designed by Alessandro Mendini for Matteo Grassi, Italy, 1986. Both the ...
Category

Vintage 1980s Italian Mid-Century Modern Lounge Chairs

Materials

Leather

Silver Plated Verseuse/Tea Pot by Richard Meier for Christofle
By Richard Meier
Rare silver plated verseuse/tea pot by Richard Meier for Christofle. Collection "Perspective." Signed.
Category

20th Century French Tableware

Richard Meier Dining Set
By Richard Meier, Knoll
Richard Meier for Knoll International dining room suite. Chair measurements: 21 W x 20 D x 27.5 H inches. Impressed signature to underside of each chair. Dining table measurements:...
Category

Late 20th Century American Mid-Century Modern Dining Room Sets

Materials

Beech

"Juliette " Vase, 1994 by Ettore Sottsass for Sèvres
By Ettore Sottsass
Juliette vase, 1994 by Ettore Sottsass (1917-2007) for Sèvres manufacture. White porcelain biscuit and red enameled porcelain. Signed, stamped by Sèvres, numbered 04. Rare piece f...
Category

Late 20th Century French Vases

Materials

Porcelain

Robert Venturi's "Chippendale" Chair by Knoll
By Robert Venturi, Knoll
architect / designer Robert Venturi's Post Modern "Chippendale" chair from 1984, buttercup yellow laminate over molded plywood with original Knoll cushion. Original paper label and 1...
Category

Late 20th Century American Post-Modern Chairs

Materials

Laminate, Wood, Wool

Chicago Tribune Floor Lamp by Matteo Thun, Italian, 1980s
By Matteo Thun
The "Chicago Tribune" floor lamp was designed by Matteo Thun for Biffeplast in Germany, circa 1984. It is made from enameled metal and black plastic.
Category

Vintage 1980s Italian Industrial Floor Lamps

Materials

Iron

Post-Modern Table Lamp by Coy Howard
By Coy Howard
American post-modern bronze and parchment table lamp by California-school architect Coy Howard, 1984. Height: 19½in., Width: 20in., Depth: 8¾in.
Category

Vintage 1980s American American Craftsman Table Lamps

Materials

Bronze

Matteo Thun Pitcher
By Matteo Thun
Designed for Cleto Munari, manufactured by Rossi & Arcandi. Stamped with maker’s mark, “925” silver mark and “Matteo Thun per Cleto Munari”; numbered “30/99” inside the lid. Li...
Category

1990s Italian Pitchers

Materials

Sterling Silver

Vintage Porcelain Vase by Michael Graves for Alessi
By Alessi, Michael Graves (b.1934)
A trumpet mouth, fluted rectangular vase by influential architect and designer Michael Graves. The piece mimics elements of classical Greek architecture; a fluted column sitting on t...
Category

20th Century Italian Vases

Materials

Porcelain

Roma Chair by Marco Zanini for Memphis, 1986
By Marco Zannini, Memphis Group
From the 1986 Memphis/Milano collection, this chair represents one of Marco Zanini's most important designs for Memphis. This example has a deep green metal flake finish on the fiber...
Category

Vintage 1980s Italian Post-Modern Chairs

Materials

Fiberglass