Energetic works by iconic artists of the ’80s and ’90s fill Raquel Cayre’s apartment and dominate her popular Instagram feed
Millennials looking to brand themselves on social media often have little shame when it comes to self-promotion, but Raquel Cayre, the 26-year-old behind the highly likable @EttoreSottsass account, never set out to become “Instagram famous.” Still, she’s managed to wrangle over 70,000 followers without so much as a headshot on her account and draw the attention of real-deal designers who swoon over the curated feed. Unlike most Insta users her age, Cayre voluntarily ducks out of the internet spotlight, choosing to shine the beam on someone else entirely: Ettore Sottsass, the deceased Italian architect and designer best known as the founder of legendary postmodern design group Memphis Milano.
At the start, she pieced her feed together using images of interiors from out-of-print books, design blogs, and Pinterest, highlighting the squiggly lines, loud colors, and geometric shapes that are hallmarks of Sottsass’s aesthetic. “I didn’t care if anyone followed me,” says Cayre. “It was going to be my own inspirational mood board. I didn’t think it would get this kind of traction.” It wasn’t until established designers like Kelly Wearstler and, eventually, Sottsass’s widow, Barbara Radice, began to take notice, that Cayre really understood the appeal, and her underlying mission. “Everyone pins Sottsass to Memphis, but that was one of his later projects,” she says. “Our generation doesn’t really know that, and I wanted to try to explain to the public who he is.”
But Cayre’s fascination with Sottsass’s work certainly isn’t limited to the confines of the web. Her Tribeca apartment is practically a gallery dedicated to the Memphis movement—a virtually unaltered rental, serving as a blank canvas for her eclectic collection. At the entry to her bedroom leans the piece that started it all: Sottsass’s wavy-edged Ultrafragola mirror. The glowing, pink masterpiece sparked Cayre’s initial interest in the famed designer when she spotted it at a Paris flea market a few years ago. “I went back to the hotel and completely nerded out,” she recalls. She proceeded to read up on his architecture, glassworks, and ceramics, and track down select items to start a collection of her own.
Cayre’s Instagram account has led to some important introductions, most notably to the sole Memphis distributor in the U.S., Keith Johnson of Urban Architecture—a connection that has helped her locate hard-to-find pieces for herself and her clients and has led to a friendship between one of Memphis’s biggest fans and one of its most dedicated dealers. “The second I called Keith it was a match made in heaven. He worked with Sottsass from day one,” she says.
Though she’s convinced that Memphis is having a moment that will eventually quiet down, Cayre can’t get enough of the quirky collectibles. “Every time I come in here, I can’t believe it’s real,” she says. “I do have days where I wish I lived in a Philip Johnson house in New Canaan with a Donald Judd daybed, one lamp and one book at a time. Sometimes I dream about that, but I can’t fight it. I’m a collector, and I like stuff.” As she moves forward; dealing, designing, and working on exciting new projects; Cayre plans to stick to what speaks to her. “The art world is super political, and you never know if an artist is going to be the next Picasso or Basquiat, so my number one rule is to buy what you love.”