Like Ettore Sottsass in Italy, the Japanese designer Shiro Kuramata was a sophisticated man who had long experience as a modernist designer prior to his involvement in the Memphis experiment. Due to the geographical distance, he never became a core member of the group but was a regular contributor of designs to its collections. Kyoto and Nara (both named for ancient cities in Japan) feature terrazzo, a characteristic Italian material that he reinterprets by introducing a confetti-like scattering of brightly colored fragments.
Also seen here are two of Kuramata’s independent designs, which date just after the breakup of Memphis. The influence of the Italian radicals can be felt in the two pieces, both of which have angular profiles and stark juxtapositions of industrial materials. Yet they are infused with Kuramata’s particular lyricism. The artificial roses and feathers – cheap, kitschy decorations – are made poetic by being encased in transparent acrylic. The ephemeral materials are preserved in freefall for all time.