"Carlton" room divider


Ettore Sottsass Jr. ( Italian (born Austria), 1917 - 2007 )


Memphis Milano ( Italian, 1981 )

designed 1981
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General Description

The totemic Carlton room divider is an outstanding example of the work of Ettore Sottsass, the defacto leader of the Memphis Group, a Milan-based collective of furniture and product designers whose work rose to prominence in the 1980s. The overall form reveals a seemingly random interplay of lines and shapes suggestive of avant-garde sculpture, although the divider is composed of an entirely logical structural system of real and implied equilateral triangles. By dismissing lavish materials and craft in creating strikingly unconventional yet fashionable objects, Sottsass effectively reassessed the definition of both modernity and "good taste" with his nonconformist designs. This is one of the most iconic pieces from the Memphis group, with a jagged shape and clashing colors in quotidian materials, a blatant rejection of conventional forms and dictates of "good taste,"- it embodies Postmodern furniture design.

Excerpt from

Bonnie Pitman, ed. Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2012), 350.

Fun Facts

  • This object is so heavy that correspondence related to the acquisition of this object notes it is, "very, very, very heavy - need 4 people to move."
  • Of his work Sottsass, Jr. said, "I don't understand why enduring design is better than disappearing design. I must admit that for me obsolescence is just the sugar of life."

Web Resources

Metropolitan Museum of Art
See another Carlton room divider on the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.