Collection Daniel Lebard / SALE PREVIEW
A treasure trove from the French industrialist with an open mind and taste for metal masterpieces.
2nd -3rd November 2021
ON THE 2ND and 3rd of November, Christie’s Paris is auctioning the collection of the prominent industrial tycoon Daniel Lebard. Professionally rooted in the world of industry, Lebard’s fascination with industrial materials also influenced his taste in art and design. From the early 1980s he started to assemble what has become one of the most impressive contemporary collections of industrially inspired modernist design. At the time, this area of design was not in vogue, but Lebard had a keen eye and an open mind, which led him to the new galleries on the block (such as François Laffanour, Patrick Seguin and Philippe Jousse). Together, these galleries were responsible for transforming the market for these designers.
“It’s a unique collection and one that could never be put together today … the provenance ‘Daniel Lebard’ is bound to become a future reference,” said Flavien Gaillard, head of the design department at Christie’s Paris. Indeed, the collection is such a series of masterpieces by metal pioneers, that it is difficult to pick out star lots.
The collection starts with the avant-garde work of Pierre Chareau, all private commissions. These include a rare coat hanger ‘SN 39’ created for the Maison de Verre (Lot 8, estimate €70,000-€90,000, sold for €425,000) for the Dalsace family; a desk ‘MB 744’ and ‘SN3’ stool for Alain Lesieutre in 1927 (Lot 15, estimate €250,000-€350,000 and lot 15B, estimate €30,000-€50,000, sold for €788,000 and €137,500) and a bookcase ‘MU 1030’ (Lot 14, estimate €300,000-€350,000, sold for €560,000) also commissioned for Daniel Dreyfus.
Jean Prouvé is best represented, with 51 lots, each of which displays an aspect of his particular genius and creative use of technology. For instance, the folding chair (Lot 22, estimate €200,000-€300,000, sold for €425,000) is one of the designer’s first pieces of furniture. The frame is handmade of bent and welded sheet steel. The seat and back of the chair consist of strips of cloth inserted in special eyelets welded to the frame and fastened with laces. Only six of these were built, created for Prouvé’s sister, Marianne, as a wedding gift in 1930.
After these experiments, Prouvé continued to seek to align art with new technologies, with both one-off designs and production pieces. The ‘Métropole’ chair (also known as ‘Standard’ after the Vitra reedition in 2001) is one of his most iconic creations. “The examples that are being offered in the sale are amongst the best, the green colour is rare and absolutely stunning,” adds Gaillard (Lots 44-47). A hero of the French resistance, Prouvé’s ambition after the Second World War was to bring his skills as designer and metalsmith to the rebuilding of France – whether that meant designing gas stations, door knobs, chairs, offices or ‘small architectural machines’ such as the ‘Maison démontable 6 x 6 m’, originally conceived as emergency housing.
The top lot of the sale is an example of Jean Prouvé and Charlotte Perriand’s collaborative design process. The ‘Table de bibliothèque’ (Lot 42, estimate €800,000-€1,200,000, sold for €1,016,000) was commissioned from the two designers by the Maison de la Médecine, with André Salomon – a fellow member of the UAM [Union of Modern Artists] – as the lightning consultant. Only seven examples were produced. Another interesting lot, with a more tempting estimate, is a unique screen by Jean Prouvé and Charlotte Perriand (Lot 159, estimate €20,000-€30,000, sold for €30,000) specially designed for Air France in Brazzaville. It will certainly attract attention.
Meanwhile, Charlotte Perriand’s extraordinary console – slightly more than three metres long – created for the Coquatrix apartment (Lot 51, estimate €400,000-€600,000, sold for €836,000) feels like a true masterwork. It is a good candidate for a new price record.
The sale features an important group of works by Mathieu Matégot and for the first time at auction an example of his ‘Papillon’ chair. This enchanting design perfectly embodies the poetic and playful work of the designer (Lot 10, estimate €40,000-€60,000, sold for €206,250).
The witty French designer Roger Tallon also captured the attention of Daniel Lebard. Tallon had a holistic approach to design and worked on projects as varied as machines, ski boots, furniture and the new Parisian automated subway for RATP. He shared a commitment to function – as can be seen in the pair of ‘métamorphique’ beds, which imitate the human body shape with their triangular forms in order to save space, and were designed for his own home (Lot 274, estimate €30,000-€50,000). He was also interested in visual experiments – spacial “collages” of volumes that started with projected images of historical characters such as Napoleon. With this optical game he imagined a playful approach to history for children and created the ‘chaise-portrait’ such as the one imagined for the Orly Airport kindergarten in 1967. Sitting on Brigitte Bardot or Charles de Gaulle seems simply irresistible (Lot 70, estimate €25,000-€35,000, sold for €30,000 and Lot 71, estimate €30,000-€50,000, sold for €31,250).
In this industrial design landscape, there is also an extraordinary ‘grande applique’ by Serge Mouille made by the artist for his home in Monthiers in 1963 and bought in the historical sale ‘Le Regard d’Alan’ in 1991 (Lot 39, estimate €200,000-€300,000, sold for €312,500).
Seen all together the estimates might make you dizzy but they reflect the current demand for this market. Furthermore, the provenances are stellar and immaculate, in a market that has been particularly affected by factitious pieces. Aside from Lalanne and Giacometti, this sale contains work from the most sought after designers of the past five years – without doubt the results will be strong, with auction records broken.
Daniel Lebard describes the act of collecting as a heroic gathering of mythical fruits. In the catalogue, the gallerists who helped Lebard find his way in the orchard have left grateful forewords, creating a picture of a curious, supportive and sympathetic figure who contributed silently to the blossoming of their business, but also to the recognition of the designers that he collected. Beyond the estimates and prices, this sale offers an opportunity to admire the patient art of collecting.
Collection Daniel Lebard, sous le prisme de la modernité at Christie’s Paris will take place on 2nd November (5pm CET) and 3rd November (11am CET).