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Design Made in Hong Kong 2022: Memphis and the Post-Contemporary Object – FREE EVENT


DATE: 31 August – 3 September 2022

TIME: 11am – 7pm (31 August – 2 September) / 11am – 6pm (3 September)


For more information, please visit:


“Memphis and the Post-Contemporary Object” is a project commissioned by the Italian Cultural Institute – Hong Kong, in which Novalis Art Design provides concept and guidance to university students at the Hong Kong Design Institute (HKDI) to produce new furniture that shows a contemporary interpretation of the Memphis Group.

The Memphis Group was an Italian design movement founded by Ettore Sottsass in 1981 alongside Michele de Lucchi, Aldo Cibic, Matteo Thun, Marco Zanini, Martine Bedin, Nathalie Du Pasquier, and George Sowden. Active between 1981 and 1988, the Memphis Group defined ‘80s aesthetic and greatly revolutionised the design world.

Memphis sought to rebel against the ‘uniform panorama of good taste’ of the time, where the principle ‘form follows function’ reigned supreme. With Memphis, design has been liberated from rationality, and enters the realm of poetry. Form no longer had to follow function. Design could be loud, colourful, whimsical, with clashing patterns. Objects were liberated from function and instead became a visual object rather than just a tool or piece of furniture. The pieces shown by the Memphis Group and their international collaborators were shocking: mixing elegance and kitsch, playing 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. Love it or hate it, it rapidly amassed public and press attention worldwide, and came to define the aesthetics of the ‘80s. More importantly, it expanded the boundaries of design, emphasizing the expressive possibilities of design as a vehicle of communication, rather than just one of utilitarian function.

The artistic approach to furniture design introduced by Memphis in the eighties, that was then adopted by a large part of the world, has seen in the following years a progressive weakening of the more explosive and charged aesthetics of its product language, in favor of an ever softer chromatic mainstream.

Even as the scenario evolved in this way, Memphis always remained true to itself, keeping its vocation for the artistic hybridization of everyday functionality intact. Today the most effervescent soul of emotional furniture returns to appear once again in the contemporary visual scenario, awakened by native digital aesthetic languages characterized by bright colors and deconstructed geometries, according to an “insta-friendly” approach designed to look good on one’s small screen smartphone (and encourage e-commerce).

The great opportunity that presents itself in Memphis today is that of combining the firepower of the visual languages typical of social networks (Instagram in the first place) with the cultural density of a brand that has made the history of post-modern design.

With this in mind, each student designed furniture that declines the aesthetic identity of Memphis in a way that is consistent with the brand and, at the same time, in line with the new aesthetic sensibilities native to digital networks, thus bringing the freshness of the new contemporary visual scenarios into the real product, defining a new contemporality in which the physical product speaks the language of the digital image, turning it into a “solid”, physically present element.


  • Organizzato da: Italian Cultural Institute / Novalis Art Design
  • In collaborazione con: Hong Kong Design Institute