Consigned from a number of different sources, this ensemble titled Charlotte Forever spanned a 20-year period, from a rare pivoting light fitting created in 1938 to a ‘suspended’ bookcase from 1965.
Along the way Artcurial took in some of her most famous commissions such as her collaboration with the industrial designer Jean Prouvé to provide furnishings for the student accommodation units at the Cité Internationale Universitaire in Paris in the early 1950s.
It also showed her versatile approach to different materials, from wood and moulded ply to anodised aluminium and melamine.
The sale was held on October 24, timed to coincide with FIAC, France’s annual contemporary art fair. With around 100 customers registering to bid, the action was rapid and keen. Every lot sold to net a total of €2.5m/£2.3m hammer (€3.1m/£2.8m including premium). In an event where 85% of the purchasers were foreign buyers, the vast majority of the individual sums paid outstripped the auctioneers’ estimates, in some cases several times over.
The sale also set a new auction high for a work by the artist when a European collector paid €560,000 (£509,090) for her Bureau en forme, a desk with a solid pine organically curved top set on three supports with two aluminium drawers.
This design, conceived in 1939, was part of a class of Perriand’s designs for furniture ‘en forme’ which demonstrated how traditional materials could be used in a format that still embraced Modernism.
The desk had been owned by a Swiss collector from Grenoble who was a friend of Pierre Jeanneret, the Swiss architect with whom Perriand worked in the 1930s while she was in the Paris atelier of his cousin, Le Corbusier. It subsequently belonged to the Galerie Jousse Enterprise.
The price beats the previous high of €420,000 (then £381,820) set at Sotheby’s Paris rooms back in 2009 for a one-off, deluxe version of an extending dining table in chromed lacaquered metal and linoleum, created in 1930.
The second highest price at Artcurial’s sale was also €420,000 (£381,820), paid for one of her best-known designs. This was a rare ensemble of bookcase and console of 1952 from the Maison de la Tunisie, part of the aforementioned student accommodation commission, with a more recent provenance from a private collection in Munich.
The lacquered aluminium and pine ensemble, which had been guided at €200,000-300,000, sold to an American collector.
The sale’s third-highest price at €410,000 (£372,730) was a second ‘en forme’ creation again from 1939: a ‘suspended’ or ‘floating’ solid pine sideboard/cabinet with aluminium grille sliding doors which, like the top lot, had been with the Galerie Jousse Enterprise. Before that it had spent many years in the family of Perriand’s friend and collaborator, Prouvé.
A rare ‘Air France’ table in folded anodised aluminium was a piece inspired by her visits to Japan and her admiration for its light, elegant, easily transportable furniture.
This small occasional table was part of the furnishings designed for the Tokyo apartment of her husband Jacques Martin, who worked for Air France. The original prototype was produced by Jean Prouvé’s factory in Maxéville and was the Prouvé Ateliers’ first essay in creating a seamless piece of furniture out of a sheet of metal.
Air France ordered nine of these tables for Martin’s corporate apartment but, including two prototypes, the edition was limited to 12 examples. The version offered by Artcurial was given by Perriand to her friend, the Japanese architect and designer Junzo Sakakura, in thanks for help promoting an exhibition of work by Perriand, Le Corbusier and Fernand Léger at the Takashimaya Department store in 1955.
It had passed down through Sakakura’s family and this was its first appearance on the market. The little table was taken to a double-estimate €240,000 (£218,180).
Another Japanese-inspired piece was a Tokyo low bench of 1954 made from solid ash and accompanied by cushions covered in fabric of the period by Simone Prouvé (daughter of Jean). A design originally conceived for the Jacques Martin’s Tokyo apartment, this eclipsed its €15,000-18,000 guide to sell at €85,000 (£77,270).
Keen demand ensued also for the aforementioned 1938 pivotal wall light in lacquered metal with a Bakelite switch. This piece had originally come from Perriand’s own apartment on the rue Las Cases in Paris. It was consigned to the auction by Charlotte’s daughter Pernette, to benefit the Archives Charlotte Perriand. The light trebled its guide to take €80,000 (£72,730).
£1 = €1.1