Saturday, March 2, 2013

Rare Eileen Gray Lamp at Auction on Heels of Centre Pompidou Retrospctive

Hello Dear readers.  It is funny how inspiration comes in waves.  While doing some unrelated research, I found that this early Eileen Gray lamp is on the block (today) at the regional auction house Leclere in Marsaille.
Eileen Gray ivory, ebony and parchment table lamp, circa 1922-25  Image via Leclare
I was not readily familiar with this form but the experts at Leclere presented a period image of this model within the "Monte-Carlo Boudoir" Gray produced for the XIV Salon des Artistes Decorateurs, Paris of 1923.
Eileen Gray, Monte Carlo Boudoir for the Salon des Artistes Decorateurs, Paris 1923  Image via Leclare
I was familiar with this sumptuously tinted image and was a bit lost as I thought I had "seen it all".  In scanning the finer details...voila!
Detail showing lamp model on the low table  Image via Leclare
I simply love discovering something "new" about a subject I had considered so well covered.  After doing a bit of digging I found a few examples that have been on the market within the last decade.
Eileen Gray ivory, ebony and parchment table lamp, circa 1922-25  Image via Artfact
Camard & Associes had this example in March of 2010 achieving €120,000 against an estimate of €120,000-150,000, making the example at Leclare a relative bargain at €50,0000-60,000.  The Camard example was a bit more exciting as the shade is embellished with a westernized interpretation of an African pattern.  We will have to wait and see the result as the Leclere sale.  While the sale had a nice mix of 20th century design the Gray lamp was the top lot and definitely stood out amongst the rest of the offerings.  One wonders why the consignor would not have chosen to sell with a larger house in Paris...but I digress.  If its provenance holds-up (it was acquired by a family in the period directly from the artist and then made its way to a Parisian private collection) then I would see no problem with it flying past the conservative estimates listed.
Eileen Gray pair of rosewood and mahogany table lamps , circa 1920  Image via Artiste
This pair of lamps of the same design but in carved wood were offered at Christie's New York in September of 2007 achieving $22,500 against an estimate of $25,000-35,000.  These are perfectly elegant, but I prefer the examples in ivory with their original shades.

In the course of researching this post it has come to my attention that the Centre Pompidou in Paris has just opened a sweeping retrospective of the Gray's work on now through May 20th.  The displays are after my own heart showing the objects (where possible) against backdrops of period images of their original commission/interior.  It just so happens the they feature the Monte-Carlo Boudoir...
Monte-Carlo Boudoir items displayed at the Centre Pompidou  Image via Arte-Case
As you can see from the rather small image (my apologies) they are showing the ivory table lamp, floor lamp and a side table form the original installation.  I am not sure who presently owns the table lamp or the side table.  But the African inspired floor lamp is on loan from the Virginia Museum of Fine Art.
Eileen Gray lacquer and parchment floor lamp, circa 1923  Image via VMFA
This exhibition is terribly exciting and I have just ordered the catalogue.  I think that a trip to Paris is in order as the closing of the Gray exhibition coincides with what are shaping up to be exciting sales at Christie's and Sotheby's....details to follow.  I will post the results of the table lamp at Leclere as soon as they are published.  Until next time--AR.

P.S. Here is a highlight reel put together by the Centre Pompidou...

Eileen Gray, du 20 février au 20 mai 2013 by centrepompidou

The lamp did indeed sell for a confirmed price of €73,000!  It must have passed the test to achieve such a good price.  My congratulations to Leclere.


  1. Those are pretty heady prices! The design is beautifully simple, and yet imaginative. Personally I would prefer a different shade, so that what horrify an Art Deco purist, (like yourself?).

    1. Its quite funny, I do not like the design of the shades per-se but it would horrify me to do away with the original shade if it was intact. I am a purist in that sense.