Ettore Sottsass (Italian (born Austria), Innsbruck 1917–2007 Milan)
Wood, plastic laminate
76 3/4 x 74 3/4 x 15 3/4 in. (194.9 x 189.9 x 40 cm)
John C. Waddell Collection, Gift of John C. Waddell, 1997
Not on view
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.
Marking: [label right side at bottom]: MEMPHIS /MILANO /ETTORE SOTTSASS /1981 /MADE IN ITALY
John C. Waddell, New York (1985–97; his gift to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Recent Acquisitions of Twentieth-Century Design and Architecture," June 29–November 14, 1999, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Significant Objects," November 26, 2002–May 2, 2004, no catalogue.
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. "Il Modo Italiano: Italian Design and Avant-garde in the 20th Century," May 4–August 27, 2006, no. 325.
Toronto. Royal Ontario Museum. "Il Modo Italiano: Italian Design and Avant-garde in the 20th Century," October 21, 2006–January 7, 2007, no. 325.
Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto. "Il Modo Italiano: Italian Design and Avant-garde in the 20th Century," March 3–June 3, 2007, no. 325.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Modern Design: Selections from the Collection," May 30–October 5, 2008, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Highlights from the Modern Design Collection: 1900–Present, Part II," May 23, 2011–July 1, 2012, no catalogue.
Penny Sparke. Ettore Sottass Jnr. London, 1982, p. 79.
Hans Höger. Ettore Sottsass, Jun.: Designer, Artist, Architect. Tübingen, 1993, colorpl. 81, calls it "Room divider Carlton".
J. Stewart Johnson in "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 1997–1998." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 56 (Autumn 1998), p. 65, ill. (color).
Patrizia Ranzo. Ettore Sottsass. Ed. Andrea Branzi. Milan, 2011, ill. p. 73 (color).