In the '80s, Parisian gallerist Patrick Seguin would be lucky if he could peddle a Jean Prouvé Standard chair for $200. Now, a single one begins at $15,000. His career began by scooping up school lunchroom chairs and salvaging prototypes from brothels. Now, he boasts an all-white Parisian gallery and a princely throne at Design Miami. His story is characterized by a deep obsession to record, salvage, and deify Post-war relics. His wife jokingly call him "Patrick Prouvé," and his career is marked by a deep obsession with cataloging, salvaging, and enshrining Post-war relics.
Jean Prouvé was a hero of the French resistance, a metalsmith by trade, and, briefly, the mayor of Nancy, France. Joined by architects like Charlotte Perriand and Pierre Jeanneret, he belonged to a vanguard of staunchly utilitarian architects tasked with the herculean effort of rebuilding France after World War II. In the years that followed, Prouvé made anything and everything that a country decimated by war might need: doorknobs, dormitories, hospital supplies, gas stations, offices, and, yes, portable homes for the masses. Commissioned by the French Minister for Reconstruction Raoul Dautry, Prouvé's demountable house was a wood, glass, and steel miracle that could be dismantled, shipped anywhere in the world, and constructed in less than three hours.
But Prouvé had very little business acumen. By 1952 he had lost control of his Nancy, France, factory. More than fifty years later, two new warehouses have risen in its place. They are—quelle surprise—owned by Patrick Seguin. The warehouses boast a king's ransom worth of work—almost twenty of Prouvé's homes are stored there—and, all together are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. In a twist of fate no one ever imagined, the austere post-war designer has become a darling of the auction house.
André Balazs spent $4.97 million on Prouvé's Maison Tropicale, Azzedine Alaïa's bedroom is a Prouvé gas station within his Parisian loft, Richard Prince purchased one to sit alongside a pond on his Hudson estate, while hotelier Patrick McKillen converted two of Prouvé's demountable homes into libraries, which he keeps tucked away on the vineyard outside his château.
Would Prouvé—a saint of practicality and functionality—roll around in his grave at the thought that his designs had been relegated to objet d'art for the very wealthy? Perhaps not. As John Prouvé once said, "There is no difference between making a piece of furniture and making a building."
Patrick Seguin isn't one to treat his trove of Post-war homes as precious, untouchable edifices. Instead, he's invited a series of architects and curators to stretch, mutate, and adapt them. It all began with Jean Prouvé's 1948 Ferembal House in the Jardin des Tuileries. After Seguin had spent a year looking for the rare piece (It was being used as the office for a canning factory) and a decade raising money for its refurbishment, he asked his friend Jean Nouvel to help. What followed was Nouvel's nothing short of magical adaption of Prouvé's former factory office into a one-story in situ installation in 2010.
This week, Galerie Patrick Seguin will showcase British architect Richard Rogers's adaptation of Jean Prouvé's 6x6 Demountable House at the 10th anniversary of Art Basel in Miami. Adapting the iconic prefab into a functional holiday home, Rogers has outfitted his interpretation with all the necessities of an ad-hoc homestead: hot water, solar power, and even a bathroom.
From John Chamberlain to Alexander Calder, we've assembled all of Patrick Seguin's remixes in the spirit of his contemporary renaissance. They reveal the true elasticity of Prouvé's design legacy and are a fitting memorial for a man who was so hellbent on collaboration that it's at times been difficult for historians to "identify his precise role in architectural projects."
· Gallerist Patrick Seguin Turns Prefab Prouvé Houses Into Collectibles [WSJ]
· Patrick Seguin [Galerie Patrick Seguin]· New Spin on a Classic Prouvé Prefab Goes Off-The-Grid [Curbed]
· Toasting Pierre Jeanneret, the Le Corbusier Sidekick Who Made a Name for Himself in India [Curbed]
· Tour a Barcelona Flat Full of Postwar French Design Classics [Curbed]