Christie’s Auction highlights Hubert de Givenchy’s French Touch – WWD
PARIS — The sale of Hubert de Givenchy’s estate at Christie’s in Paris next week reflects the discerning eye of the designer known as the ambassador of French taste, as the house he founded turns 70.
With 1,229 lots going under the hammer and an overall estimate of around €50 million, this will be the biggest single sale ever at the auction house’s Paris branch and cement Christie’s reputation. as a powerhouse for auctions of individual collections. , including the historic sale of the collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé in 2009.
On Wednesday, the house previewed more than 900 lots during a special presentation at its headquarters on Avenue Matignon, which will be open to the public from Friday until June 14.
Due to the appeal of the Givenchy name, Christie’s expects throngs of visitors to attend the “Hubert de Givenchy – Collector” exhibition, designed by scenographer Cécile Degos, which recreates several rooms from the two main residences of Givenchy – the Hôtel d’Ourrouer on rue de Grenelle in Paris, and the Renaissance-style Château du Jonchet near the Loire Valley.
Two online sales of smaller items, such as tableware, started on Wednesday and will run through June 22 and June 23 respectively. Among the most accessible lots are a malachite box, estimated between 100 and 200 euros, and a desk chair from the 90s whose initial price was 50 to 80 euros.
Live auctions will take place June 14-17 at the Marigny Theater and at Christie’s auction house in Paris, temporarily transformed into a replica of the castle’s parterre garden, with deer sculptures originally made for the couture show by Cristóbal Balenciaga, who gave them to his designer colleague when he retired.
Featured lots include “Woman Walking,” a cast of a statue by Alberto Giacometti estimated at around €30 million, and “Passage of the Migratory Bird” by Joan Miró, once hung in the designer’s bedroom. The painting, which has never been presented at auction, has a starting price of 2.5 million euros to 3.5 million euros.
But above all, the collection reflects Givenchy’s passion for the 18th century, with works of art, sculptures and furniture representing what is known as “the French taste” or “the French taste” – some coming from colleagues designers, including Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld.
It was a moving occasion for Charles Cator, Vice President of Christie’s International, who worked with de Givenchy on the first sale of objects from his collection at Christie’s in 1993, and several subsequent projects until the designer’s death in 2018. .
“The sale in 1993 was an extraordinary experience for me,” recalls Cator. “It changed my professional life forever, but it also, I think, changed the way we approach sales of collections. And indeed, someone once told me that the 1993 sale established the collectible sales model for the next 20, 30 years.
De Givenchy was appointed chairman of the supervisory board of Christie’s France in 1997 and a member of its international board of directors and has participated in numerous exhibitions and sales, the latest being the auction of his collection of works by Diego Giacometti in 2017.
Collecting was a lifestyle for the great designer with aristocratic roots and looks and his business partner Philippe Venet, whose flawless taste extended to every aspect of their home, including the garden table.
“It must be the only table that had a denim cover made by Givenchy because there were a lot of birds above it and it kinda annoyed him that they kept making a mess. So he asked the fashion house to make him a denim blanket that he could then take off and wash,” Cator recalls.
What tied Givenchy’s clothes, like the famous black dress Audrey Hepburn wore in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” and her furniture collection was her love of structure and a deep respect for craftsmanship, Cator said.
“Chairs are sculpture, it’s shape and profile,” he said as he walked through the exhibit. “Obviously a big part of her aesthetic is the line.”
He pointed to an 18th-century mechanical cylinder desk by David Roentgen, with secret drawers and elements that release when a key is turned. “Like a couture dress, to make it do what it does, there’s a tremendous amount of ingenuity,” he remarked. “And I think that’s what he loved about furniture.”
De Givenchy was heavily influenced by American landscape designer and socialite Bunny Mellon, who had her own bedroom at Château du Jonchet, which was recreated for the presale exhibition.
“He obviously made wonderful clothes for her, but also, they were interested in interiors, collecting and having a lot of fun together looking at things, and I think she was also very influential in always keeping a sense of simplicity and balance with everything. He had it, but I think she emphasized it,” Cator said.
The blue and white decor of her bedroom was something of an anomaly for de Givenchy, who favored a palette of green, gold, white and black. The first floor of the Christie’s exhibit includes a replica of the stunning green velvet bedroom in her Paris apartment. “He said, ‘Always green, always green, Charlie,'” Cator recalled with a smile.
De Givenchy often reupholstered chairs to make them more to his liking. “He was obviously, in his craft, incredibly interested in fabrics and materials, and he used old materials sometimes or often simple materials,” Cator said.
Conversely, de Givenchy updated a Louis XVI bergère chair with a textile designed by artist Georges Braque, and had Givenchy’s glove makers embroidered in elaborate leather and suede for a series of Claude Sené chairs. dating from the 18th century.
He is sensitive to the provenance of the pieces, such as one of his first major acquisitions, a wardrobe made by André-Charles Boulle, cabinetmaker to King Louis XIV, which is the subject of a parallel exhibition at the Kugel gallery in Paris. from Thursday until June 15.
Formerly the property of José-Maria and Misia Sert, friends of Chanel, the wardrobe stood in her living room alongside a painting by Mark Rothko, illustrating her precocious talent for mixing eras.
He bought from Chanel, who regularly invited him to dinner, a Régence console table in gilded oak, dated around 1710-1720, and from Lagerfeld, a pair of Louis XVI period fireplace accessories – both estimated between 60,000 and 100,000 euros. .
“The interesting thing about the collection, because there’s such a huge range, is that it’s her eye all the way through, from big to simple,” Cator said.
He believes the discerning eye is what kept the interiors from feeling oppressive, despite the staggering amount of objects they contained, including 440 examples of seating furniture alone.
“The rooms had an incredible harmony and serenity because they had an extremely solid structure. And then you can layer, because people say, ‘My God, with so much in these rooms, how can you say that they are very peaceful? But in fact, in fact, they were, and I think it’s because there was the foundation,” Cator explained.
According to him, what sets the collection apart from estate sales of other designers such as Saint Laurent and Lagerfeld is that Givenchy has sourced pieces specifically for its houses.
“He knew how to use furniture, but he didn’t buy things just for fun, so that’s different,” Cator said. “He was more focused on the rooms he had and how to make them as wonderful as possible.”
Alexis Kugel, co-owner of Galerie Kugel, said he and his brother Nicolas owe a debt of gratitude to de Givenchy, a longtime client who designed the gallery’s stand for the 1994 Biennale des Antiquaires, centered around the famous Boulle wardrobe. which he had sold to them two years earlier.
“He taught us a certain sobriety in presentation, a taste for symmetry. These were great lessons and for the next 20 years he remained a very regular customer who liked to constantly improve his collections,” Kugel recalls.
The “Tribute to Hubert de Givenchy, Collectionneur” exhibition is a rare opportunity for the public to enter the imposing Kugel gallery on the banks of the Seine, which extends over more than 1,000 m² over three floors.
“For us, the most important thing is to give people a living illustration of what we could call “the great French taste”. It’s hard to explain, but it’s a blend of unostentatious luxury, perfection in proportions and smart design, and you can find that in every piece of furniture,” says Kugel.
“We are betting heavily on the Hubert de Givenchy sale [at Christie’s] help a new generation who may have forgotten the French 18th century a little, who may be tired of the minimalism of the white loft, to rediscover the infinite pleasure of living surrounded by beautiful objects,” he said.
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