Alessandro Mendini - Design New York Tuesday, December 7, 2021 | Phillips
  • The Poltrona di Proust chair epitomizes postmodern design in the way that it amalgamates seemingly disparate reference points into a single object. Mendini first began his design experiments related to this chair in 1976 by visiting locations where the French author Marcel Proust lived and worked. Originally Mendini had the idea to create a “Proust Fabric,” a textile that would conjure the world that Proust occupied and described in his novels. The project morphed into the present armchair model after Mendini bought a replica of an eighteenth-century-style armchair—a kitsch object—and had the chair hand-painted in a pointillist pattern based on a detail from a Paul Signac painting. To Mendini, this impressionist pattern created an appearance that “look[s] unreal, almost like mirages that would be appropriate for some kind of meditative and immaterial surroundings.” 


    Antibes, Petit Port de Bacon. Private Collection. Artwork: © Paul Signac Estate. Photo credit: Sheldon Marshall.

    Mendini has stated that between fifteen and thirty or so chairs were made. He occasionally signed the reverse of the chair’s apron, as is the case in the present example. In Mendini’s recollection of the chair, titled “The Story of the Proust Chair” (2001), he chronicled the numerous museum collections to which this model belongs as well as the private collections and galleries which owned examples. He mentions Grace Designs in Dallas, very likely a reference to the present chair. Throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s, Mendini produced the chair in a variety of other materials, including bronze, plastic laminate, and ceramic but the examples made from 1978 to 1987—such as the present lot—are the most sought after by design collectors. Today, the chair has become an icon not only for Mendini’s design practice but also, more broadly, for the ways in which it playfully embodies principles of postmodern design. 

    • Provenance

      Grace Designs, Dallas
      Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1986

    • Literature

      Rosa Maria Rinaldi, "Memphis e Alchimia," Domus, no. 646, January 1984, p. 55
      Albrecht Bangert, Italian Furniture Design: Ideas Styles Movements, Munich, 1988, pp. 63, 65, 116
      Peter Weiss, Alessandro Mendini: Objetos, proyectos, construcciones, Milan, 2001, pp. 100-01, 119
      Glenn Adamson and Jane Pavitt, eds., Postmodernism: Style and Subversion, 1970-1990, exh. cat., Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2011, p. 41

Property of a Private Miami Collector


"Poltrona di Proust" armchair

designed 1978, produced circa 1986
Painted wood, painted fabric upholstery.
41 3/4 x 42 x 37 in. (106 x 106.7 x 94 cm)
Hand-painted by Franco Migliaccio. Reverse of apron inscribed mendini.

Full Cataloguing

$15,000 - 20,000 

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New York Auction 7 December 2021