"Casablanca" Sideboard

Designed by Ettore Sottsass, Italian (born Austria), 1917 - 2007. Made by Abet Laminati S.p.A., Italy. Made for Memphis, Milan, Italy, 1980 - present.

Made in Milan, Italy, Europe

Designed 1981

Plastic laminate, wood

7 feet 6 1/2 inches × 63 1/2 inches × 15 inches (229.9 × 161.3 × 38.1 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Decorative Arts and Sculpture

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Collab: The Group for Modern and Contemporary Design at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Abet Laminati, 1983

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Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    At the 1981 furniture fair in Milan, this witty and monumental sideboard was the centerpiece of a disparate exhibition of objects that came to define "postmodern" design. It was the signature work of Ettore Sottsass, Jr., who had commissioned the objects from an international group of architects and designers, and founded the enterprise to produce them known as "Memphis." Like the name itself, which refers both to the ancient capital of Egypt and to the center of American popular music in Tennessee, the objects endorsed eclecticism, appropriation, metaphor, ambiguity, and humor. With its irregular, arm-waving silhouette and brightly colored, close-patterned surface decoration, the Casablanca sideboard announced a radically new aesthetic that defied the spare forms and functional values of traditional modernism. Relying largely on industrial materials such as the 1950s-style plastic laminate used here, Memphis adopted color, ornament, and novel shapes to restore the sense of individuality, freedom, and humanity that Sottsass believed modern design had lost. Katherine B. Hiesinger, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 157.