April 18-23

TAWARAYA RING – Masanori Umeda, 1981

Wooden Ring covered in decorative laminate, traditional Japanese tatami made of woven straw, metal and lacquered wood elements.

Upholstered cushion covered in silk. Size: L 280, D 280, H 120 cm.

Tawaraya Ring is a domestic “boxing ring”. Masanori Umeda’s aim was to create “a space that is furniture at the same time”, a ring “for intellectual combat”. As a conversational metaphor, Tawanara Ring sets the stage for Memphis’s battle to revolutionize design on.


from 16th to 23th April 2023

It’s the evening of December 11, 1980. A group of young designers and architects has gathered in Ettore Sottsass’s living room. The record Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again by Bob Dylan plays over and over: thus Memphis was born, with a two-fold reference to the ancient capital of the Egyptian pharaohs and the birthplace of Aretha Franklin and Elvis Presley in Tennessee.

A few days later, a revolutionary collection of design objects was discussed and outlined, one which was to take shape over a few months in the drawing of Ettore Sottsass, Aldo Cibic, Matteo Thun, Marco Zanini, Martine Bedin, Michele De Lucchi, Nathalie Du Pasquier e George Sowden.

The first collection  of 55 products of the Memphis-Milano brand, under the guidance of Ettore Sottsass and the artistic direction of Barbara Radice, was presented in Milan on September 19, 1981 at the Arc ’74 showroom  of Brunella and Marco Gidani at number 2 Corso Europa.

This was the period of the Salone del Mobile, and more than 2,000 people crowded outside the gallery, blocking the city traffic, foto that immediately felt like an epoch-making event. The new language mixed elegance and kitsch, dialoguing with absurd and irrational shapes, using plastic laminates with patterns that simulate precious materials, but most of all it introduced the pleasure of play into the rational language of industrial production: Memphis-Milano quickly conquered public and and press attention all over the world.

Together with the first nucleus of participants, Andra Branzi, Alessandro Mendino, Michael Graves, Hans Hollein, Shiro Kuramata, Peter Shire, Masanori Umeda, Arata Isozaki, Terry Jones, Javier Mariscal, Paola Navone, Luigi Serafini, Bruno Gregori from Studio Alchimia also displayed in this legendary debut.

As time went by, the leaflets of the early exhibitbitions were replaced by illustrated catalogues. The logo designed by Christoph Radl, different for the first three collections, settled in 1985 as that of Memphis-Milano, and that same year Ettore Sottsass left the group. The last exhibition of the Memphis group was “Luci Lights” in 1988: since then no more products have been issued under the Memphis brand.