We have discovered and acquired many extraordinary pieces over the last 20 years. Sometimes a work is only shown once in an exhibition or at an art fair, and if not sold, goes on to live in storage and on our website; and if you are not familiar with the piece or its designer, the work’s story fades and becomes lost. Other times, a work has been shown repeatedly, but occasionally its unique significance goes unnoticed among the other objects in those presentations.
As we communicate online more now, Demisch Danant is launching a new series called Hidden Treasures to highlight a selection of these very special works, explain why we acquired them, and bring their narratives and distinctive characteristics to the foreground.
We exhibited this work at the Design/Miami fair in 2012—a solo presentation devoted to Pierre Guariche. It didn’t sell and we decided to put it away until this year. That was eight years ago, when we understood it was, perhaps, ‘too early’ for the significance of this cabinet to be appreciated.
This piece is a rare example of Guariche’s early work with Galerie Mai in the 1950s; it exemplifies his special ability to design elegant furniture in series for multi-function use. Here, Guariche integrated a stereo system in production furniture for the first time. Prior to the design of this work in 1952, a stereo cabinet was only available as a custom-made object. The yellow painted perforated metal door is very sophisticated and stylistically coherent with the period.
This piece is the only one of its kind that we ever have been fortunate enough to find. Galerie Mai production was a small operation and all the models in its production are scarce.
This unique table belonged to Jacques Dumond himself and remained in his country house until 2017. It’s very simple, in cherry wood and original glass, and admirably illustrates Dumond’s approach to minimalism, functionalism, and a reductive approach towards ornamentation. Dumond was one of the pioneers of French modernity and served as a liaison between an older generation of traditional interior designers and those exploring new materials and technologies of the post-war era.
Dumond mostly worked on private commissions rather than mass production; examples of his work are rare and were unknown until recently. We are working on a monograph about Dumond and research results to date are exciting. He wanted to rejuvenate the expression of design by making it “sensitive and humane, useful and beautiful, with what the industry had to offer.”
The table was shown many times, and reserved by interested clients many times too, but in the end was never acquired. We realize the price of $28,000 may be considered high for a simple table by an unfamiliar designer, but we stand by the price and the piece. We believe in the importance of this table and have a strong record of discovering unknown designers before the market does (i.e. Lalannes, Pergay, Paulin, Hicks, César, et. al.) and investing in our beliefs.
We first learned of the existence of César's Expansion Table in 2014 through the Fondation César. We were collaborating with the foundation’s Chairman and President Stéphanie Busuttil-Janssen on the exhibition Paris Match: Henri Samuel and the Artists He Commissioned, 1968-1977.
At that moment, the unparalleled career of the celebrated French artist César, a founding member in 1960 of the Nouveaux Réalistes group, was just beginning to be rediscovered in the United States. The discovery of this table made us ecstatic for several reasons. First, the table is, in and of itself, an astonishing object. Second, while we knew of César’s iconic Console, commissioned by Samuel, and of Expansion Lamp, the table was a monumental find. Editions of the work had been hidden in private collection for decades.
The Expansion Table exemplifies the period between the late 1960s and mid-1970s, when a new era of artistic expression took hold in France and transformed design. It was an exciting moment marked by leaps of creative daring in every field, and rich with an eagerness to know and experience different mediums and forms of expression and artistry beyond the old, accepted boundaries; César’s radical approach was duly celebrated.
We sold the Expansion Table immediately and began searching for another one from the edition of 8 editions (+ 4AP.)
When an extraordinary piece surfaces, it is not uncommon for other examples to come out of hiding. Thus, we discovered two more examples of the Expansion Table and quickly sold them to leading collectors. Meanwhile César’s market in the US was escalating. In 2017, the Centre George Pompidou in Paris presented a retrospective of the late artist, attracting historic crowds to the museum. Several solo exhibitions were presented by Luxembourg & Dayan gallery in New York as well.
We actively searched for another Expansion Table while immersing ourselves in the life and influential career of a man known around the world only by his first name; and, we were able to acquire a number of artworks and objects made by César. Then we struck gold (rather bronze), locating and ultimately acquiring another Expansion Table. Now, this table is one of the most important works in our collection to date. A common question we hear: Is it a table or a sculpture? It’s both and on a par with César’s most celebrated Expansions.
Some background on César’s Expansions: One of the artist’s great breakthroughs in the late 1960s, took the form of sculptural spills called Expansions. Realized with liquid polyurethane foam, a novel material at the time, each spill involved actively pouring specifically tinted foam, allowing it to expand, and then leaving it to set in a process that resulted in soft forms several times larger than their original liquid volume. César was moved by this material’s freedom and energy—rather than conforming to the matrix of a mold, it actually spread and expanded in what would famously become a critically admired analog for the new spirit of liberation that marked the era. As Pierre Restany noted in 1970, “César’s expansions reveal a new phase in his work, the phase of maturity: the mastering of the technique allied to the freedom of form.”
The Expansion Table (1977) is one of the rare works in which César applied his Expansion technique to a functional object. Whereas he also created a handful of bronze ashtrays, lamps, as well as the console commissioned by Henri Samuel, the Expansion Table is the object in which César philosophy—his belief that life and art are one entity, indivisible—achieves its apex.
This is a nice story. Last spring, Demisch Danant presented Sheila Hicks: Line by Line, Step by Step, in two chapters. The exhibition focused on Hicks's ‘minimes’ and other small works spanning six decades of her intimate practice. These works, among others, reveal her journeys, discoveries, revelations, and a deep connection to sense of place. As a personal archive, each work unveils hidden meanings and invites the viewer into a labyrinth of discovery.
Between the two exhibition chapters, Suzanne visited Sheila at her atelier in Paris. The primary focus of the visit was to work with Sheila on current projects. While there, Suzanne eyed a group of cream-toned silk ‘ponytails’ hanging on a plexi frame on the window sill, but never spoke of it. The window sill was filled up with Sheila’s collections, reflecting organically the same intention of the show in the gallery. One month later, when we installed the next chapter, a crate arrived with the ‘ponytails’ for the presentation. As an added twist, Very Silk Bas-Relief was displayed in a Chinese vitrine.
Sheila Hicks’s work is an evolving practice; she reforms, adapts and modifies her works over time. Very Silk Bas-Relief was first exhibited in the 1970s, and after, sequestered in Sheila’s personal collection. “Ponytails” is a recurring element in this remarkable artist’s oeuvre—created by pulling together long pieces of soft linen or silk and then binding them at intervals with threads dyed in bright colors.
In an interview with Monique Levi-Strauss in 2004, Sheila noted “I found my voice and my footing in my small work. It enabled me to build bridges between art, design, architecture and decorative arts.”
Michel Boyer designed the Brasília Lamp in 1974 for the lighting company Verre Lumière. It was produced in an edition in black lacquer and in three different sizes. Boyer used these highly tectonic objects in his interior projects, including the French Embassy in Brasília. Their production lasted several years.
This lamp, with its handsome polished steel base, is a one-of-a-kind version of the Brasília commissioned for the Verre Lumière showroom in Paris.
Pierre Paulin designed this ceiling lamp for Verre Lumière in 1971, at the same time as his Palais Élysée commission. It is extremely rare. We presented it publicly only one time at Design Miami/ Basel 2016 in an exhibition about Verre Lumière and Pierre Paulin. At that time, it was not for sale. Twice, we made it available for offers; but ultimately, we were not ready to let it go from our collection. We considered saving this work for a future Verre Lumière exhibition in the gallery, but have now decided to make it available for this series instead—indeed a hidden treasure.