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Artcurial to offer three exceptional pieces signed by the Irish designer Eileen Gray
Eileen Gray, Console, avant 1920 © Artcurial.

PARIS.- On November 27th 2018, during its prestigious 2nd semester Art Deco auction, Artcurial will present 3 works from the most in demand designer in the world: Eileen Gray. A console completed toward 1918-1920 (estimate: €1M - 1,2M), a floor lamp from 1925 (estimate: €300,000 - 400,000), and one of the 12 only examples in the world of the famous Bibendum armchair (estimate: €500,000 - 600,000). All three pieces are extremely sought after by collectors as they have been exhibited at the Pompidou Center during the monographic exhibition dedicated to Eileen Gray in 2013. These museum quality pieces are already subject to a new loan request for a monographic exhibition to be held in New York in 2020.

Eileen Gray, considered at times an iconic Art-Deco decorator, sometimes an emblematic modernist architect, figures among the major designers of the twentieth century. Painter by trade, the designer was born in 1878, applying her anti-conformist thoughts to all her architecture and furniture projects from an early age until her death in 1976. Notable works include her lacquer and tubular metal pieces and villa E 1027 a Modernist masterpiece located in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin in the Alpes-Maritimes. Unlike Charlotte Perriand, she never produced furniture in series, preferring to work for herself, uncompromisingly. As a result, only a small number of furniture pieces were produced.

Other extremely rare pieces included in the auction, a most-likely unique René Lalique bronze bust representing Sarah Bernhardt, a Diego Giacometti coffee table, furniture signed by Carlo Bugatti and Gio Ponti ceramics which come from a large private Italian collection.

Eileen Gray, between Art Deco and modernism
Eileen Gray studies her craft between London and Paris. In 1905, in London, she discovers and falls in love with lacquer with which she creates masterpieces such as the screen Le Destin, commissioned by couturier Jacques Doucet. The following year, she permanently moves to Paris. Past her 40th birthday, she enteres into a sector practically inaccessible to women: architecture. She starts construction of the Villa e 1027, on the seafront perched on rocks of the Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, in the Alpes-Maritime. She creates a series of furniture characterised by mobility and flexibility as demonstrated by the Transat chair or the Bibendum chair presented during this auction.

The Bibendum chair (estimate: €500,000 - 600,000) is designed towards the late 1920’s. The model auctioned by Artcurial belonged to Jeanne Tachard, founder of the fashion house Suzanne Talbot. Gradually abandoning lacquer in the mid 1920’s, Eileen Gray directs her attention to more «Modernist» works, influenced by the Dutch group De Stijl. The name of this model is directly derived from the nickname given to the Michelin Man, from whom she borrows the appearance with the superposition of rolls. When the designer completes Villa e 1027, the Bibendum chair takes centre stage in the villa’s main room. Designed using metal tubes and coated canvas, the Chair Bibendum radically breaks with classical references, traditional expertise and the preciousness of the major interior designer creations of 1920’s.

Today it embodies a modern manifest, a design icon of the 20th century.

Completed toward 1918-1920, the sideboard (estimate: €1M - 1,2M) is interestingly closer to the precious spirit of the Art Deco at the turn of the 1920’s.

With the Table aux chars or even the screen The Destiny, the sideboard is documented as one of the first lacquer pieces designed by Eileen Gray. With lacquered flip-up coral tablets, it is a rare witness of the artist’s first stylistic period. Only one example of this sideboard is known. It was in Yves Saint Laurent’s Paris office.

The set will be completed by a floor lamp whose base is designed as an architectural model (estimate €300,000 - 400,000). It could be compared to Eileen Gray mock-ups from around 1923-1925 listed to this day, bearing witness to her first ventures in the field of architecture. Her architectural designs are close to Adolf Loos and modern Dutch architectural examples who will be amongst the first to notice the originality of Eileen Gray’s body of work. After the war, the floor lamp is placed in villa Tempe in Pailla on the heights of Menton, prior to being moved to her Parisian apartment, Rue Bonaparte.

René Lalique and Diego Giacometti
Alongside the works of Eileen Gray, this auction will present pieces from Art Deco’s greatest names: modernist luminary creators such as Jacques Le Chevallier, furniture by Jacques Emile Ruhlmann, Edgar Brandt, Paul Dupré- Lafon, Jacques Quinet and Jean Royère.

A notable discovery: the Bust of Sarah Bernhardt, one of the rare bronze works by René Lalique (estimate: €50,000- 60,000). This probably unique piece was given to Sarah Bernhardt to mark the 30th anniversary of her career at the Theatre de la Renaissance in 1896. René Lalique, who also created many costume jewellery pieces for the actress, adorns this sculpture with two carved ivory medallions representing the masks of comedy and tragedy. This sculpture, part of the 1923 Sarah Bernhardt estate sale, has not reappeared on the art market until now.

An exceptional Diego Giacometti piece will also be presented. Directly commissioned by the current owner whose restaurant the artist frequented, this Table aux hiboux et aux grenouilles carries an estimate of €200,000 - 300,000. The poetic style of the artist, who liked to populate his creations with animals, is easily recognized in this bronze table.

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