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Ettore Sottsass

Innsbruck 1917 - Milaan 2007

Ettore Sottsass was one of the great masters of twentieth-century, Italian avant-garde design. He was born in Innsbruck, Tyrol, in 1917. As the son of an architect he was exposed to the world of design from an early age and was familiar with current theories on functionalism. In 1958, Sottsass became a design consultant for Olivetti. Working for the company he designed a series of typewriters, including the revolutionary Valentine model of 1970, and various other items of office equipment for the company. In 1960s he accepted the position of art director at the Italian furniture company Poltronova.
Sottsass is best known as the founder of the Memphis design group (1981-1987). Memphis broke away from the constraints and neutrality of functionalism with the aim of restoring a symbolic and emotional dimension to their designs. They sought to design objects that made an emotional statement, attaching less importance to their practical application. Since the 1960s Sottsass was interested in this ‘Architettura Radicale’ or anti-design. Defying the narrow interpretation of good taste, the Memphis designers incorporated kitsch and images from popular culture. In addition to a large collection of vases, dishes and lamps, the museum has Sottsass’s iconic Carlton bookcase, the Memphis group’s signature design.

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