LA Modern to Auction Off Ettore Sottsass Designs


Architect and industrial designer Ettore Sottsass may not be a household name, but recent retrospectives at LACMA and London’s Design Museum have broadened the audience for his office equipment, furniture and ceramics. One fan of his work was computer pioneer, movie producer and art collector Max Palevsky.

While Sottsass’ early career was spent working for clients such as Fiorucci, Esprit, the Italian furniture company Poltonova, Knoll International, Alessi and the city of Turin (designing its street furniture), it was in the early 1980s that Sottsaas founded the Memphis Group. With an international band of designers, the group launched a collection of 40 pieces of furniture, ceramics and household products. The Memphis group became known for its post-modern design sense, with a strong emphasis on color, irony and intentional assymetry.

Ettore Sottsass Master Bedroom Bed Frame. Photo Credit: Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA). Estimated $2,000-$3,000.

Palevsky and Sottsass met in 1978, and quickly formed a deep bond. In 1984 Palevsky asked Sottsass to design his Spanish Colonial home in Malibu. Palevsky passed away last year and on March 6th, his collection of Sottsass-designed custom furnishings is hitting the auction block (with no reserve) at LA Modern.

Ettore Sottsass Custom Sofa. Photo Credit: Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA). Estimated $8,000-$12,000.

According to an upcoming catalog on the auction:  

“Although the Malibu furnishings were still rooted in the principles of a Memphis design vocabulary, they reveal a growing interest in assemblage and in different combinations of color and materials that would later find full expression.”

Design blog You Have Been Here Sometime has been compiling stories and snippets about the designer and his career. The auction will feature a marble entry table, a custom headboard and a marble and steel coffee table. In addition to the Sottsass furnishings, the auction will feature works by Harry Bertoia, Reg Butler, and Man Ray as well as fine art from Alexander Calder, Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha, Francis Bacon, Pablo Picasso and Ellsworth Kelly.

Ettore Sottsass Marble Console. Photo Credit: Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA). Estimated $3,000-$5,000.

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