‘Rodéo’ desk and chair, 1989-90
Elizabeth Garouste & Mattia Bonetti
In 1981, the French interior architect and stage set designer Elizabeth Garouste met the Swiss designer, painter, sculptor and photographer Mattia Bonetti. With no prior experience in furniture design, they collaborated on a wildly imaginative collection of furniture including the iconic ‘Chaise Barbare’. This combined patinated bronze with cowhide, in a combination at once theatrical, primitive and luxurious. Debuted to great acclaim at the renowned Parisian furniture and interior design firm Maison Jansen, this collection – a very early example of what is now recognised as “collectible design” – launched a creative partnership that lasted twenty years.
The sculptural furniture the pair produced was, by turns, flamboyantly neo-Baroque, neo-primitive and amusingly futuristic. Deeply versed in the decorative and furniture traditions of Europe, Garouste & Bonetti made work, whether one-off or limited edition, that is wholly original, full of wit and fantasy, and which relishes the grand gesture. Attached to fine materials and exceptional craftsmanship, on the one hand, on the other they broke free from the constraints of a classic, refined French aesthetic. They once said in an interview: “Our hope is to give people the feeling of freedom in the choice of forms. Good taste really bothers us a lot. What we care about is implanting doubt.We don’t have any rules.”
This ‘Rodéo’ set, of desk and chair, from 1989, was designed for the Gallery Néotù, pioneers in Paris of the production and promotion of avant garde, limited edition, design from 1984 to 2001. The set combines the most rugged, ancient technologies of wrought iron and tanned animal hide with those finely finished details of the edged and hemmed cow skins and the graduated discs at the tops of the legs. The combination of desk and chair suggests the swagger of a TV cowboy, with a jokey hint of a live cow, but within a domestic space the pieces also offer a luxurious sensuality of material and authenticity of form.
The set photographed here is currently available at the gallery Mouvements Modernes, the gallery which, under Pierre Staudenmeyer, grew out of Gallery Néotù. Another example is available next week (estimate €20,000 – €30,000) at Christie’s Paris, up for auction in the sale of the collection of philanthropist and collector, Baroness Marion Lambert.