How to pick up a rare piece of Charlotte Perriand furniture
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
The French architect and designer Charlotte Perriand is often overshadowed by her male contemporaries in the history books, but she continues to be revered as a creator. Part of a design trinity formed with Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret, she referred to their collaboration as “three fingers on one hand”, and they produced some of the most iconic designs of the 20th century. Today, her work is highly desirable, and a Sotheby’s Paris sale of previously unseen furniture taking place on 24 November is expected to rouse major collector interest.
The auction provides a rare opportunity to snap up pieces that were commissioned in the early 1970s for a house outside Toulouse designed by the architect Pierre Debeaux. There are some exceptional examples, from a minimal en forme sideboard (with a guide price of €250,000-€350,000) to a one-off “Eventail” table (€700,000-€1m) – a piece based on a design envisaged for Perriand’s own chalet, which is topped by rectangular panels in an unfurled fan arrangement. The historic collection has remained in the same family for 50 years and “is a true discovery”, according to Florent Jeanniard, head of 20th-century design for Europe and vice-chairman of Sotheby’s France.
The furniture – a cohesive collection crafted from African dibetou wood – was conceived as a set of focal points for the large open spaces of Debeaux’s contemporary house. Terracotta floors and warm accents of wood and stone set the tone, and the largely spare interiors were a foil to the furniture’s subtlety in line, typical of the designer’s well-documented passion for the Japanese aesthetic.
In addition to the Perriand pieces, there are other rare finds at the auction, including a bronze and glass lamp by French artist and decorator Max Ingrand for Fontana Arte (circa 1955-1960; €20,000-€30,000), a pair of leather armchairs and an ottoman by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer – whose influence on Perriand’s oeuvre was profound. Sets of bookcases by Pierre Debeaux (€8,000-€10,000 each), as well as simple, functional furnishings by some of the world’s most important designers and artists such as Alexandre Noll, Pierre Jeanneret, Diego Giacometti, Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne, Gio Ponti and Pierre Soulages, will also go under the hammer.