‘Multimo Sofa’, 1969
PIERRE PAULIN, WHO died in 2009, is renowned for his highly original, plump and sensuous furniture. His pieces are dedicated to comfort, but with their clear, seductive lines, smooth curves, bright colours and picturesque names – ‘mushroom chair’, ‘ribbon chair’, ‘tongue chair’ – they evoke the freedom from convention of the 1960s. This ‘Multimo’ sofa is an ultimate expression of his signature playful style.
It was in 1958 that Pierre Paulin moved to the Dutch manufacturing company, Artifort, the manufacturers of this sofa. Failing his Baccalauréat as a young man, he had trained as a ceramist and then a stone-carver, with dreams of becoming a sculptor, before an injury forced a change in direction. He then studied at Camondo, the famous school for decorative arts in Paris, before starting work under the influential post-war furniture designer and manufacturer, Marcel Gascoin. During this period Paulin developed broad interests in Scandinavian design, the Japanese aesthetic and discovered the functional, sleek, factory-made midcentury Modern furniture of American designers Charles and Ray Eames.
It was at Thonet, however, in the 1950s, that he began experimenting with swimwear material stretched over furniture, developing an approach that would yield a series of ingenious space-age designs a few years later at Artifort. Paulin wrote later, “At Artifort, I started using new foam and rubber from Italy and a light metallic frame, combined with ‘stretch’ material. Those new, rounder, more comfortable shapes were such a success that they’re still being copied today. I have always considered design to be a mix of invention and industrial innovation.” He also credited his multifaceted arts education for his ability “to think up a shape and make it spin in my head, like a sculptor or an architect would” – creating work that is truly multimodal, operating simultaneously as functional design, sculpture and symbolic object. Above all, however, he once said, to explain the universal appeal of his inventions: “you need to like the human body, its contours and its morphology.”
The new materials enabled him to break a range of conventions: the sofa back is not a single unit, but a series of tongues or petals; there are no feet to the sofa, the base of the piece being hidden by the fabric; and the pastel colour owes more to contemporary fashion than to furniture. Already by 1967 the Museum of Modern Art in New York had begun to acquire his pieces, confirming Paulin’s place in the top echelons of international contemporary design. The year this sofa was designed, 1969, Paulin was awarded the Chicago design award, and the works he presented there were exhibited at MoMA. He was also commissioned to undertake the redecoration of the Denon Wing of the Louvre. He would go on to redecorate the apartments of the Elysée Palace for both Georges Pompidou and François Mitterrand, and in 2008 was named Designer of the Year at Maison & Objets.
This piece was on sale in Lyon & Turnbull’s autumn design sale in London, on Friday 29th October, 2021. Its estimate was £7,000-£9,000 sold for £25,000.
‘Multimo Sofa’, 1969, was Lot 310 in Lyon & Turnbull’s: MODERN MADE: Modern British & Post-War Art, Design & Studio Ceramics.