"Carlton" Room Divider

Ettore Sottsass (Italian (born Austria), Innsbruck 1917–2007 Milan)

Memphis Milano
Wood, plastic laminate
H. 76-3/4, W. 74-3/4, D. 15-3/4 in. (194.9 x 189.9 x 40 cm)
Credit Line:
John C. Waddell Collection, Gift of John C. Waddell, 1997
Accession Number:
  • Description

    Sottsass is not only one of the most influential designers of the latter half of the twentieth century but also one of the most paradoxical. While he has had a successful career producing industrial designs for the mainstream corporation Olivetti, for everything from typewriters and computers to office landscapes, he has also been iconoclastic as well, creating strikingly unconventional consumer-oriented objects that challenge the bourgeois audience at which they are aimed to reassess its assumptions of the limits of "good taste."

    Between 1981 and 1988 Sottsass and a small international group of like-minded designers who called themselves Memphis, created nonconformist furniture. The totemic "Carleton" room divider is an outstanding example of his Memphis designs. Although intended for a luxury market and of fine workmanship, it is made of cheap plastic laminates rather than fine woods. The vivid colors and seemingly random interplay of solids and voids suggest avant-garde painting and sculpture. Yet, typical of Sottsass, underlying the surface brilliance is an entirely logical structural system, of real and implied equilateral triangles.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Signature: [label right side at bottom]: MEMPHIS /MILANO /ETTORE SOTTSASS /1981 /MADE IN ITALY

  • Exhibition History

    Giampiero Bosoni, editor, ¦Il Modo Italiano: Italian Design and Avant-garde in the 20th Century¦, Musée des Beaux-arts de Montréal, Montreal, May 4–August 27, 2006; Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, October 21, 2006–January 7, 2007; Museo d'Arte Moderne e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto, Italy, March 3–June 3, 2007, ill. p. 295, checklist p. 371, no. 325.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History