Selling Out Chandigarh (04) – Upcoming at Wright

Dining chairs from Punjab University Student Residences, Chandigarh, set of eight, by Pierre Jeanneret at Wright, December 17, 2020. Estimate: $20,000–30,000

sofa from Punjab University, Chandigarh by Pierre Jeanneret at Wright : estimate: $20,000–30,000

Pierre Jeanneret, pair of lounge chairs from Punjab University, Chandigarh at Wright. Estimate $20,000–30,000

[Chandigarh] is the biggest example in India of experimental architecture…It hits you on the head and makes you think. I like the creative approach, not being tied down by what has been done by our forefathers but thinking in new terms…in the ultimate analysis, a thing which fits in with social functions is beautiful.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Former Prime Minister of India

For me it is a design desaster: Concrete in a tropical climate doesn’t fit well. It was supposed to be a new city and local government seat of Punjap, but not used as it was supposed or ment to be…and soon derelicted and in the past 10=12 years raided by design raiders.

In one of my eaerlier posts of this series I referred to a Mondo Blogo post and there I found this artist’s comment about raiding French former colonies for sought after Pierre Paulin design:

Chandigarh house of Pierre Jeanneret (1)

Chandigarh house of Pierre Jeanneret (1)

Chandigarh house of Pierre Jeanneret (1)

In the process of researching material for the Chandigarh category I stumbled upon this Jeanneret Chair
Via Mondo

Selling Out Chandigarh (03) – One Person’s Trash is another Person’s Treasure





Above dilapidated Chandigarh chairs. Below restored ones


One Person’s Trash is another Person’s Treasure

Indian officials had looked 50 years or so to the rather raw furniture designed by Pierre Jeanneret who, in collaboration with his cousin Le Corbusier (Charles Edouard Janneret), had designed the city of Chandigarh. So what happens with old furniture? You try to sell it or you throw it away as trash. Until a clever Frenchman, Eric Touchaleaume, came along who assessed the true value of the furniture and started to buy dilapidated furniture from the local auctions and take it from the various junkyards. He restored the furniture in top condition. He wrote a book about it. Organized various prestigious galleries to showcase his finds and offered the furniture for sale by prestigious auction houses. And there and then it became apparent that Chandigarh was losing an important collection of original design and architecture and started people claiming that he was looting and robbing Chandigarh…other people would call it clever marketing…

More Links

  • Mondo Blogo Who used this subtitle and wrote a lengthy article about the controversy.
  • Patrick Seguin Gallery in Paris has a collection of restored Chandigarh chairs.
  • Chandigarh Design has a collection of photos of the dilapidated furniture from whom I borrowed some. I have a feeling it is the webshop of the French entrepreneur who decided to buy the lots.
  • My Introduction to this series.

Post Alia

When you take a close look at the dilapidated Chandigarh chairs and the mint condition ones you will agree with me that although raw, the design has been exceptionally sturdy. The chairs have survived 50 years of uninterested use and can be beautifully restored.

Selling Out Chandigarh (02) – Kangaroo Chair by Pierre Jeanneret

Kangaroo Chair by Pierre Jeanneret


Selling Out Chandigarh (2)

I started this series about the Selling Out of Chandigarh Furniture in March (time flies) with this post: Selling out Chandigarh (01) – Introduction. I came across more posts adressing the issue and would like to share some with you:

Midcenturia (the second photo is theirs) devoted a long post on the subject with some nice photos of the process of building Chandigarh. In a comment somebody pointed to a satirical post of Mondo Blog giving rise to some heated debate. Some would call it the “looting” of Chandigarh. The same people behind the Indian adventure (as they call it) were part of stripping some African countries from Jean Prouvé furniture that was sold in auctions all over the place for ginormous amounts: In one of the comments I found these wise words:

You know, this isn’t all. Chandigar’s been getting picked clean of its Le Corbusier furniture, fixtures–and manhole covers for years now.

The part where pickers bribe petty bureaucrats to look the other way while they load their offices and guest houses into a truck makes me angry; but the part where pickers save or salvage the same furniture from garbage bins and government surplus sales makes me want to thank them. The part where some random Chandigarhian is walking home drunk and falls into an open manhole because some dealer wants to make a fast EUR 18,000 at Artcurial, well…

Why post now?

The direct reason for this post was I visited Vienna in February and visited the Dorotheum building while there was another auction on display (Their 2012 Leap Day auction).

“Kangaroo” chair or “Chauffeuse” or more simple: Lounge Chair

Thereafter I rummaged around on their site a bit and found this Chandigarh chair.

I believe it is one of the neater furniture designs for Chandigarh.

I’m royally amazed each time I see a piece of the reasonably raw Chandigarh furniture fetch a high bid at an auction.

designed by Pierre Jeanneret for the Administrative Buildings in Chandigarh, c. 1955, teak, Indian rosewood, woven cane, height 60 cm, width 55 cm, depth 63 cm. (DR) Provenance: Administrative Buildings, Chandigarh, India. Lit.: E. Touchaleaume, G. Moreau, Le Corbusier. Pierre Jeanneret. L’Aventure indienne, Paris 2010, p. 570 (PJ-SI-59-A).

Specialist: Dr. Gerti Draxler
estimate EUR 15.000,- to 20.000,- (USD 21.500,- to 28.500,-)

Auction Date: 22.11.2011 – 17:00
Location: Palais Dorotheum
Public Viewing: 12.11. – 22.11.2011
Category: Design
realized price* EUR 15.180,- *USD 21.500,-

Via Dorotheum.

Selling out Chandigarh (01) – Introduction

Selling out Chandigarh (01)-Introduction

On March, 31, 2011, I was witnessing a Sale by Wright in Chicago online in real time. I saw many Chandigarh items of furniture from Le Corbusier (Chosen name for Charles Edouard Jaenneret) and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret, labeled “Chandigarh”, but couldn’t place Chandigarh until I stumbled on an article in the Design Observer.

The Background

India and Pakistan were split up in 1947 and India lost Lahore, the capital of the Punjab, to Pakistan.

Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India, commissioned Le Corbusier (Charles Edouard Jeanneret) to build an entirely new city “free from the fetters of the past.” which became Chandigarh. Le Corbusier commissioned his cousin Pierre Jeanneret for interior design and he designed thousands of pieces of furniture for the government buildings and private residences of Chandigarh.

Some inhabitants of the city are not over enthusiastic with the design, because concrete and the Indian heat didn’t fit well together.

Chandigarh seems unattended and not well kept. Between 1999 and 2008 Indian officials have simply thrown out as garbage or sold via local auctions many pieces of the original furniture.

It appears that many pieces were collected by the Frenchman Eric Touchaleaume.
He wrote a book about this Indian Adventure. Auctionhouses gladly refer to this book as proof of the provenance…
Earlier he had retrieved Jean Prouvé furniture from Congo Brazaville. Read this interesting interview with him in the Guardian in February 2008.

The Controversy

The furniture pieces are sold through various auction houses all over the world for exorbitant prices.

For instance Phillis De Pury: April 7, 2010 Sale from Lot 83: The 4 cross armchairs were SOLD AT £67,250 while the ESTIMATE was £30,000-45,000…

It is clear that with such prices a controversy is born: Are the auction houses accessory to looting or merely doing their job? The same sort of controversy that occurs when a ship sunken a long time ago, is recovered and the cargo (for instance precious china) is auctioned.

We at Chair Blog don’t want to take a position for or against, but simply register what is happening.

Now it is time to publish this post as end of March 2012 again there are many pieces at an auction. This time Wright.

See also:

From time to time we will report more on the subject.