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  • Provenance

    Maison du Mexique, Cité Internationale Universitaire,  Paris, France; Philippe and Patricia Jousse, Paris, France; Laurence and Patrick Seguin, Paris, France

  • Literature

    Galeries Jousse Seguin and Enrico Navarra, Jean Prouvé, Paris, 1998, pp. 152-153; Mary McLeod, ed., Charlotte Perriand: An Art of Living, New York, 2003, p. 231; Peter Sulzer, Jean Prouvé: Oeuvre Complète/Complete Works, Volume 3: 1944-1954, Basel, 2005, p. 260, cat. no. 1240.2; Jacques Barsac, Charlotte Perriand-Un Art d'Habiter, Paris, 2005, front cover and pp. 368-379 for a discussion of this bookcase and interiors at the Maison du Mexique; Elizabeth Védrenne, Charlotte Perriand, New York, 2005, p. 60; Jacques Barsac, Charlotte Perriand et le Japon, Paris, 2008, p. 205

  • Catalogue Essay

    Although never a couple, Charlotte Perriand and Jean Prouvé stood hand-in-hand at midcentury, the pragmatic parents of postwar modernism in France. Together they devised economic solutions to the problems of daily life in everyday places: dormitories, locker rooms, apartments, offices. Their unadorned furniture, built from wood, aluminium, and bent sheet steel, never sacrificed clarity for decoration, “but its construction is so powerful that it imposes itself in space like sculpture,” as fashion designer Azzedine Alaïa observed of Prouvé’s work. (Laurence Bergerot, Patrick Seguin, Jean Prouvé, Paris, 2007, vol. 1, p. 23)
     
    Longtime friends, the two designers formalized their relationship in 1952 at the behest of gallerist Steph Simon. That year and the next, they collaborated on furniture—bookshelves, tables, beds—for the student bedrooms of the Maison de la Tunisie and Maison du Mexique at Cité Universitaire, Paris. In both residences, each room was dominated by a large bookcase whose wide plank shelves were joined by staggered aluminium ‘blocks’ painted black and white, as well as diamond-embossed aluminium sliding doors in various colors. Unlike the ‘Tunisie’, suspended on the wall and supported by a single central leg, the freestanding ‘Mexique’ functioned not only as bookcase and storage unit but also as screen, a chief architectural element separating bed from washbasin and animating the room.
     
    “Are we going to have mass or void?” asked Perriand in her autobiography Une Vie de Création (The Monacelli Press, New York, 2003). With its energetic interplay of forms in space, the ‘Mexique’ achieves both. “This seemingly ridiculous question is in fact an important one. For some, the void represents emptiness and destitution; for others it is the key to thought and motion.” No doubt thought is motion, colored by memory and digression. With its polychrome patchwork, the ‘Mexique’ in situ must have echoed the asymmetric daydreams of the students who lived there. Lacquered Yucatán Yellow and Hacienda Red, did it comfort certain students hankering for home?
     
    Seventy-seven examples of the present lot were built for the Maison du Mexique, Cité Universitaire,                     9 Boulevard Jourdan, Paris.

80

‘Mexique’ bookcase, from the Maison du Mexique, Cité Universitaire, Paris

1953
Pine, painted ‘Diamond Point’motif, aluminium, bent steel.
160.5 x 184.5 x 31 cm. (63 1/4 x 72 5/8 x 12 1/4 in.)
Manufactured by Les Ateliers Jean Prouvé, France. 

Estimate
£80,000 - 140,000 

Sold for £97,250

Design

28 April 2010
London