Check Out David Bowie’s Incredible Collection Of Memphis Group Design

Bowie bought so much Memphis, Sotheby’s is giving his collection its own auction.

This July, we learned that David Bowie was a fan of Ettore Sottsass and the Memphis Group after Sotheby’s revealed news of the late musician’s extensive art collection. Now that the auction house has released the auction catalogs in their entirety, the full extent of Bowie/Memphis love has been revealed–and we are not disappointed.


As it turns out, Bowie collected over 100 pieces from the Memphis Group–so many that Sotheby’s in London has given them their own separate auction on November 11. He bought all the blockbuster pieces–Peter Shire’s Big Sur sofa, Sottsass’s Carlton Room Divider–alongside more obscure, more eccentric, Memphis pieces. In the market for a Michele de Lucchi celery serving plate? Or a very industrial-looking Nathalie du Pasquier fruit bowl? It’s all here, to be sold off later this month. Starting bids range from $100 to $7,000.

Even if bidding at Sotheby’s is not a typical pastime of yours, the catalog offers a fairly comprehensive look at the colorful, postmodern designs of the Italian design group and its non-conformist leader, Ettore Sottsass. The Memphis Group came onto the design scene at the Milan Design Fair in 1981 with a collection of pieces that challenged the Modernist conventions of clean lines and clear functionality–and lately the group has been making quite the comeback. Designs like Sottsass’s blocky Enorme Telephone and Marco Zanini’s Space Age-y, pastel Colorado Teapot perfectly exemplify the movement’s playful irreverence.

Sounds like a fit for David Bowie, right? According to Laetitia Contat Desfontaine, the head of design of Sotheby’s London, who we spoke to back in July, Bowie discovered Memphis in the early ’80s along with the rest of the world and started collecting pieces immediately, even meeting with Ettore Sottsass. Amazing as the mental image of that hang out is, it’s even better to see how extensive Bowie’s support for Memphis actually was. See the full haul here.

[All Images: courtesy Sotheby’s]


About the author

Meg Miller is an associate editor at Co.Design covering art, technology, and design.