The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Photo: Benthem Crouwel Architects.

Stedelijk Museum Calls Off Ettore Sottsass Retrospective

The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam announced today that it has canceled a retrospective of the late Italian architect and designer Ettore Sottsass. The institution cited disagreements with the gallery representing Sottsass and his heirs over the choice of the exhibition concept as the reason. The show, which was supposed to open this spring, would have been the first major Dutch overview of the Italian designer’s work.

The museum had planned to present a thematic exhibition that showcases Sottsass’s designs from different decades and disciplines, highlighting his influence on younger generations and displaying work by designers who were members of the Memphis Group, which Sottsass founded in 1980. However, Sottsass’s gallery and descendants decided they no longer wished to collaborate on the project and rescinded their offer to loan works as well as their consent to allow the publication of the designer’s texts. While the museum could have still staged the exhibition, since it owns eighty objects by Sottsass that span his oeuvre, it did not want to continue without the cooperation of all parties.

Commenting on the situation, interim director Jan Willem Sieburgh said, “I regret that the museum felt compelled to take this decision. We were looking forward to working with the heirs to produce an exceptional, public-friendly exhibition about Ettore Sottsass. Months of discussions, however, proved fruitless. As a museum, we cannot and will not allow the way in which we conceive our exhibitions to be dictated to us. The heirs and the gallery owner gave too little scope for interpretations we wished to explore in the presentation. When all is said and done, analysis and research remain at the heart of a museum’s core academic mission.”