Paris – The sale of Hubert de Givenchy at Christie’s in Paris next week reflects the fine eye of the designer known as the ambassador of French taste, as the home he founded celebrates its 70th anniversary.
With 1,229 lots under the hammer, and a global estimate of nearly €50 million, this will be the largest single sale ever made at the auction house’s Paris branch, and cements Christie’s reputation as a central force for auctions of single owner collections, including the historic sale of the Yves Saint Laurent collection. and Pierre Bergé in 2009.
On Wednesday, the house held a preview of more than 900 plots of land in a special presentation at its Matignon Street residence, which will be open to the public Friday through June 14.
As Givenchy’s name has been withdrawn, Christie expects crowds of visitors to take part in the “Hubert de Givenchy – Collector” exhibition, designed by architect Cécile Degos, which recreates several rooms of de Givenchy’s two main residences – the Hôtel d’Ourrouer on Rue de Grenelle in Paris, and the Renaissance-style Château de Jonchette near the Loire Valley.
Two smaller online sales of items, such as cutlery, began on Wednesday and will run through June 22 and 23, respectively. Among the pieces accessible are the malachite chest, valued at €100 to €200, and a 1990s office chair with a starting price of €50-€80.
The live auctions will take place June 14-17 at the Théâtre Marigny and Christie’s Selling Room in Paris, which has been temporarily converted into a replica of the château’s garden park, which includes elk sculptures originally made for the Cristóbal Balenciaga haute couture salon, which he gifted to his fellow designer when he retired.
Among the stars are “Woman Walking”, a statue of Alberto Giacometti estimated at 30 million euros, and “Passage of the Migratory Bird” by Joan Miro, which hung in the designer’s bedroom. The painting, which has never before been offered at auction, has a price tag of €2.5 million to €3.5 million.
But primarily, the collection reflects de Givenchy’s 18th-century passion, with artwork, sculpture and furniture exemplifying what is known as “le goût français” or “French flair” – some sourced from fellow designers, including Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld.
It was a sentimental occasion for Charles Cator, Vice President of Christie’s International, who worked with de Givenchy on the first sale of pieces from his collection at Christie’s in 1993, and several subsequent projects until the designer’s death in 2018.
“Selling in 1993 was an unusual experience for me,” Cator recalls. “It changed my working life forever, but it also, I think, changed the way we approached collection sales. Indeed, someone once told me that selling in 1993 set a pattern for collection sales for the next 20 or 30 years.”
De Givenchy was appointed Chairman of Christie’s France’s Supervisory Board in 1997 and a member of its international board of directors and has been involved in a number of exhibitions and sales, most recently auctioning his collection of works by Diego Giacometti in 2017.
Collecting was a lifestyle for the tall, aristocratic-rooted designer and partner Philippe Vignet, whose impeccable taste extended to every aspect of their home—including the garden table.
“It must have been the only table that had a Givenchy denim cover because there were a lot of birds upstairs and it bothered him a bit that they kept making a mess,” Cator recalls. Take it off and wash it.”
Cator said that what connected de Givenchy’s clothing, such as the black dress that Audrey Hepburn made famous for in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” and his collection of furniture was his love of structure and a deep respect for craftsmanship.
“The chairs, it’s sculpted, it’s shaped and shaped,” he said, walking at the monitor. “Obviously calligraphy is a very big part of its aesthetics.”
He pointed to an 18th-century mechanical cylindrical desk designed by David Roentgen, with drawers and discreet elements that are released when the key is turned. “Like a couture dress, to get him to do what he does, there is a tremendous amount of ingenuity,” he said. “And I think that’s what I love about furniture.”
De Givenchy was heavily influenced by American garden designer and socialite Panni Mellon, who had her own bedroom at the Château du Jonchet, which had been remodeled for a pre-sale gallery.
“Obviously he made great outfits for her but also, they were interested in the interiors, they put together and spent a lot of fun time together looking at things, and I think it was also very impressive in always keeping the feeling of simplicity and balance with everything. He had that,” Cator said. That, but I think she confirmed it.”
The blue and white décor of her bedroom was an anomaly for de Givenchy, who preferred green, gold, white, and black. The first floor of the Christie Gallery includes a replica of an eye-catching green velvet room in his Paris apartment. “He said: Toujours le vert, toujours le vert, Charlie,” Cator recalls with a smile.
De Givenchy often re-upholstered chairs to make them more convenient for him. “It was clear that he was incredibly interested in fabrics and materials, sometimes using old or more often plain materials,” Cator said.
Conversely, de Givenchy updated the Louis XVI bergère chair with a fabric designed by artist Georges Braque, and Givenchy glove makers embroidered the leather and suede upholstery of a series of 18th-century Claude Seigner chairs.
He was sensitive to the provenance of the pieces, such as one of his first major purchases, a cabinet made by André-Charles Paul, maker of furniture for King Louis XIV, the centerpiece of an exhibition taking place simultaneously at the Cogel Gallery in Paris from Thursday through June 15.
The closet, formerly owned by Jose Maria and Messia Sert, friends of Chanel, stood in his living room alongside a painting by Mark Rothko, illustrating his early talent for mixing eras.
From Chanel, who regularly invited him to dinner, he bought a Régence gilt-oak console table, dated circa 1710 to 1720, and from Lagerfeld, a pair of chimney inserts from the reign of Louis XVI – both estimated at €60,000 to €100,000.
“The interesting thing about the set, because there’s such a wide range, is that it’s his eye all the way, from the big to the simple,” Cator said.
He believes that eye-catching was what kept the interiors from feeling oppressive, despite the sheer amount of items they contained, including 440 models of bench furniture alone.
“The rooms were in unbelievable harmony and calm because they had such a very strong structure. And then you could layer it, because people would say, ‘Okay, with so many things in these rooms, how can you say it’s so peaceful?’ But in reality, In fact, they were, and I think that’s because of the brace,” Cator explained.
He thinks what sets the collection apart from real estate sales by other designers such as Saint Laurent and Lagerfeld is that Givenchy bought private pieces for his homes.
“He understood how to use the furniture, but he didn’t buy things just for it, so it’s different,” Cator said. “He’s been more focused on the rooms he has and how to make them as cool as possible.”
Alexis Kugel, co-owner of the Kugel Gallery, said he and his brother Nicola owe a debt of gratitude to de Givenchy, a longtime client who designed the exhibition stand for the Biennale des Antiques in 1994, centered around the famous Musée Paul. which he sold to them two years ago.
“He taught us some sobriety in terms of presentation, taste of symmetry. Those were great lessons and over the next 20 years he remained a very regular customer who loved constantly improving his collections,” Coogill recalls.
The exhibition “Hommage à Hubert de Givenchy, Collectionneur” provides a rare opportunity for members of the public to enter the majestic Kugel Gallery on the banks of the Seine, which spans over 10,765 square feet on three floors.
“For us, the most important thing is to provide people with a realistic illustration of what you might call ‘le grand goût français.’ It’s hard to explain, but it’s a combination of luxury without ostentation, perfection in proportions and cleverness of design, and you find it in every one of these pieces of furniture. Coogill explained.
“We are very reliant on the Hubert de Givenchy discounts [at Christie’s] To help a new generation who may have forgotten a little French eighteenth century, and who may have tired of the simplicity of the white loft, to rediscover the infinite pleasure of living surrounded by beautiful things.”
Hubert de Givenchy has died at the age of 91
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Documentary on the life of Hubert de Givenchy