Ettore Sottsass is the radical Italian architect and designer, whose work ranges from the the Maui home he designed for ACME studios to his founding of the Memphis Milano movement. Sottsass defined the avant-garde design of the 60s, 70s and 80s and a new show at New York’s Met Breuer looks at how his oeuvre shifted our idea of what contemporary design is.
Whether it was wavy lines drawn onto chunky furniture in clashing primary colours or telephone tables that look like they came from a Saved By The Bell set, Sottass’s output is a mixture of high and low-brow references. And you can check it all out at Ettore Sottsass: Design Radical.
“I come from the Functionalist school—Gropius, Le Corbusier…” Ettore said in a 2011 interview with Hans-Ulrich Obrist, “but I’ve always thought all this wasn’t enough, that we could go much further.” And he did.
Sottsass designed computers for Olivetti electronics in the 1950s before breaking out alone and creating his 1969 Valentine portable typewriter (widely known as the inspiration for Apple’s iMac G3), the 1995 Carlton Room Divider (which doubled as a bookcase), the 1980 Ultrafragola wavy-edged mirror, and his instantly recognisable furniture in neon pinks, yellows and contrasting grey.
The Met Breuer have also brought together far-flung objects that inspired Ettore’s eccentricity – on show alongside his world-famous works are letters, sketches, jewellery, tribal artifacts and photography. Presented alongside his iconic designs, they make sense of the designer’s work – he wanted to present design as a form of entertainment and art – an idea that still rings true today.
Ettore Sottsass: Design Radical at Met Bruer – July 21 – 8 October
Main image: Ettore Sottsass (Italian, 1917–2007) , “Carlton” Room, Divider 1981 . Wood, plastic laminate 76 3/4 x 74 3/4 x 15 3/4 in. (194.9 x 189.9 x 40 cm) . The Metropolitan Museum of Art, John C. Waddell Collection, Gift of John C. Waddell, 1997 © Studio Ettore Sottsass Srl