Peter Shire shares Memphis memories

Part of Maxwell Williams' Take it to the Max

Peter Shire and Richard Christiansen in conversation at the Autre magazine + Chandelier Creative brunch celebrating their mini-doc directed by Johnny Le on Peter Shire, "West of Memphis: A Day in the Studio with Peter Shire." (January 2018) Autre + Chandelier Creative

“There’s no success like excess,” joked Peter Shire, the Echo Park-based artist and only American associate of the Memphis Group of designers, known for their outrageous colours and angular approach to objects. “You know what Mae West said: ‘The only thing better than too much of a good thing is more’.” The hirsute 71-year-old with a penchant for stripy shirts was answering questions after a brunch-time screening of the director Johnny Le’s short documentary How to Be Peter Shire. The event was held at the appropriately pink Flamingo Estate, a former pornography studio now owned by Richard Christiansen of the media agency Chandelier Creative, which produced the film for Autre Magazine. Shire (who has a string of shows this year at Kayne Griffin Corcoran gallery in Los Angeles, Harper’s Books in New York and Memphis’s exhibition space in Milan) shared some endearing anecdotes about his Communist upbringing and about the design group’s late leader Ettore Sottsass. “At one point when I first met Ettore, he loved Chinese restaurants, and we were at one,” Shire recalled. “And he said: ‘You know, all these things we’re doing are political’. And here I thought we were just making custom furniture. He said: ‘What if everybody peed in the ocean at the same time?’ I’m still working that one out.”