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© Michele DeLucchi

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The First Chair, 1983

Artist: Michele DeLucchi, Italian, b. 1951

Medium: Lacquered wood and enameled metal

35 x 27 x 20 in. (88.9 x 68.6 cm)

Credit Line: Memphis Brooks Museum of Art Purchase

Object Number: 86.33

Copyright: © Michele DeLucchi

On View

Founded in Milan in 1981, MEMPHIS was a collaborative of international designers, architects, and artists. The name MEMPHIS originated from a Bob Dylan song titled “Stuck in Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again.” The track repeatedly played in the studio and the designers felt that Memphis was the perfect identity for their own endeavors. The name suggested references to diverse cultural experiences such as the history of cotton production, American blues, rock and roll, and the ancient city of Memphis, Egypt. Although the group avoided formulating a manifesto, they presented an alternative to the tenets of International Modernism, which was known for its focus on function and simplicity of form. Departing from the functionality of Modernist design, MEMPHIS sought to bring a whimsical, surreal, and exciting quality to its projects.


Combining sources and materials that were both expensive and affordable, decorative and spare, MEMPHIS found inspiration in plastic laminated countertops, Art Deco, Hollywood, and early civilizations. Introducing color, shape, and pattern back into furniture, Michele De Lucchi’s First chair explores the circle as a design element and humorously questions the effectiveness of the object. The chair is relatively small and appears more decorative than useful. A set of narrow metal legs supports the seat of the chair, while a thin rod curves up from the front legs to form the armrests and back. A dynamic interaction is created between the flat and rounded elements, from the bright turquoise vertical back, to the glossy black spheres, and back to the flat lacquered horizontal seat. De Lucchi’s use of simple shapes and shiny colors establishes a spatial balance between two-and three-dimensionality, as well as a play between highly lacquered wood and matte industrial metal.