It is the quirky designs of husband-and-wife team François-Xavier and Claude Lalanne that populate the top echelons of so much French design in the salerooms these days.
Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Anne Crane
However, when it comes to design from the immediate post-war period, two other names stand out: Jean Prouvé and Charlotte Perriand.
Both were active designers in the inter-war era and members of the influential cooperative the Union des Artistes Modernes.
Perriand worked in the studio of Le Corbusier before the war then went to Japan, returning afterwards to France. Prouvé, a native of Lorraine, was a manufacturer as well as a designer, keen on mass production methods, setting up his own factory in Maxeville.
After the war Prouvé’s interest in mass production, especially pre-fabrication and use of industrial materials came to the fore.
He famously joined forces with Perriand in the 1950s to work on a series of furnishings for student accommodation at Cité Universitaire in Paris.
The modular pieces that they created for these buildings – room dividers and low cabinets – have become post-war landmarks with their emphasis on open shelving and sliding doors, and the use of coloured metal.
These can have substantial price tags when they appear on the market.
So too have a number of the famous prefabricated houses designed and created by Prouvé which surface periodically at auction and with design dealers.
But the designers’ work was also often created in large runs over a long period, so prices can vary depending on rarity and provenance.
Designers at auction
On November 20 the Paris auction house Artcurial (25/20/12% buyer’s premium) held a sale focusing on French and Italian design predominantly from the immediate post-war through to the 1970s.
It featured a large number of works by Prouvé and Perriand. This mix of early designs and pieces ranged from a provenance traceable back to original commission to examples that were mass produced on a larger scale over a long time period, thus giving the opportunity to sample their work at various price points.
The sale featured one of Prouvé’s prefabricated houses from 1945, the potential best-seller of the auction with an estimate of €300,000-400,000, although it failed to get away.
A Perriand table, a 12-seater one-off in solid pine from 1961 commissioned for a ski chalet in Meribel and passed down by descent to the vendor, met with more success at a hammer price of €135,000 (£120,535).
The sale also featured a set of six black-tinted ash and straw seated dining chairs, but not a provenanced one-off. These sold for €4500 (£4015).
A Prouvé piece with notable provenance to the original owners was a dining table from 1943 in solid wood with ivory-painted steel-supporting crossbar to the underside. It had been purchased from Prouvé by a Doctor L from Briancon in the Hautes Alpes and passed down by descent. This realised €32,000 (£28,571).
Earlier this year, in May, the auction house obtained a very substantial price for a Prouvé table when it sold a black lacquered steel, wood and melamime piece, a Trapeze design of 1954 for the Antony student housing facilities, at €510,000 (£447,370).
In the November sale, two beds came from Prouvé and Perriand’s commission for the Cité Universitaire.
One, a Perriand design of 1959 from the Maison du Brésil in solid and plywood made €12,000 (£10,715). The other, a Prouvé and Perriand design from the Antony accommodation in lacquered steel fitted with a swivelling side table realised €10,000 (£8930).
Also on offer were several examples of Perriand’s Berger circular topped solid wood stools, a design of c.1950.
Three pairs, two low and one high model, realised €12,000 (£10,715), €10,500 (£9375) and €7500 (£6690) while a single black painted low version made €8000 (£7140).
£1 = €1.12