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 (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.

Concrete LC2 by Stephan Zwicky

Concrete LC2 by Stephan Zwicky
With the motto “Grand confort, Sans confor, Dommage a Corbu”, or “Sorry Corbu, a Grand comfort without comfort” Stephan Zwicky created this Concrete LC2.

I had featured this chair earlier, but the reason I repeat it is that it wasn’t until I read Fabio Novembre’s blogpost that I realized this was an ode to le Corbusier.

Chairs in Words

You have undoubtedly seen these chairs before but it’s unlikely you’ve ever seen them like this: the iconic chairs Barcelona by Mies van der Rohe and LC-2 by Le Corbusier get an artsy makeover in the form of art prints by Etsy user Sarah Schmid.

Lounge Chair B306 by Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand

Lounge Chair B306 by Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte
Lounge Chair B306 by Le Corbusier (Charles Edouard Jeanneret), his cousin Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand

Estimate Euro 50,000 – 70,000 ($70,367 – $98,514)
Price Realized Euro 121,000 ($171,807)

Sale 1000, Les Collections du Chateau de Gourdon, 29 – 31 March 2011, Paris, France

An adjustable ‘B306’ chaise longue, with chromed tubular steel frame and black-painted pressed and folded steel platform, by Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand, with woven-wool textile seat covering, produced by Thonet Frères, Paris, 1930.

Illustrating Le Corbusier’s conviction that furnishings should be ‘machines for living’, the chaise was one of several influential designs conceived 1928-1929 by Le Corbusier, his cousin Pierre Jeanneret, and Charlotte Perriand. The present example is an early version, dating to around early 1930 when the design was first retailed, as evidenced by the raised rear support legs which conform to the April 1929 patent drawings accepted by Thonet. Shortly after serial manufacture commenced, the rear legs were reduced in height to correspond to those at the front. An apparently identical example, also with raised rear legs and hand-woven textile covering, is in the collection of the Vitra Design Museum, Weil-am-Rhein, Germany. An example of the revised design, with all legs of equal height, was presented by Charlotte Perriand at the UAM exhibition of July 1930.

via Christie’s.