FRIDAY FINDS: Collecting with flair – Yves Saint Laurent and Jacques Doucet

Grand Salon du 55 rue de Babylone, chez Yves Saint Laurent Photographie Nicolas Mathéus

Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé’s rue de Babylon appartment in Paris. The legendary Eileen Gray Dragon Chair (1917-1919) is in the foreground.
Image courtesy of Nicolas Mathéus
JACQUES DOUCET (1853-1929) and YVES SAINT LAURENT (1935-2008)
The current exhibition ‘Vivre pour l’Art, Jacques Doucet and Yves Saint Laurent’ at the Fondation Pierre Bergé Yves Saint Laurent in Paris is a marvel!  These two grand couturiers, living and working at different ends of the 20th century created stunning and thoughtful collections of fine and decorative art in their homes,  reflecting both the cultural currents of their times and their own personal aesthetic eye. They combined art, furniture and lighting in a seamless whole, daringly mixing periods in “the search for the perfect space”. The subject of the exhibition is essentially the artistic vision of the collectors.
Studio Saint-James, demeure de Jacques Doucet, à Neuilly-sur-Seine, c. 1930 Image parue dans L’Illustration, N°4845
Jacque Doucet’s home in rue Saint James, Neuilly
You can just spy a small carpet by Ruhlmann on the right hand side next to Legrain’s wonderful African tabouret (c1924), and under Modigliani’s painting ‘La Blouse Rouge’ (1919). And of course Coard’s wonderful Art Deco sofa.
Image from L’Illustration n° 4845.
 Their highly eclectic approach to collecting is infinitely inspiring – in their separate ways they created their own unique dialogue between pieces in their homes. Doucet mixed Art Deco furniture with contemporary avant garde fine art, Cubist sculpture and 5th century Chinese and Northern Guinean sculpture. His studio (above) is a testament to the symbiotic energy he created:  Rousseau’s exotic ‘La Charmeuse de Serpents’ painting of 1907 towers majestically over the stunning curves of Marcel Coard’s Art Deco sofa (before 1925) in ivory and wood.  Doucet also owned Brancusi’s ‘La Muse Endormie II’ (c1923),  a Marcel Duchamp collage ‘La Roulette de Monte Carlo (1924) and Picasso’s spectacular ‘Les Desmoiselles d’Avignon’ of 1907.
Studio Saint-James, demeure de Jacques Doucet, à Neuilly-sur-Seine Image parue dans L’Illustration, 3 mai 1930
Jacque Doucet’s home, Neuilly.
Image from ‘L’Illustration’, 3 may 1930.
Salon de musique, 55 rue de Babylone Photographie Nicolas Mathéus
Salon de Musique, rue de Babylone, Paris, home of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé.  Look at the glorious Art Deco red lacquered chair by Jean Dunand and the mirrors by Claude Lalanne.
Image courtesy of Nicolas Mathéus
After WW11 there was very little interest in Art Deco furniture. Yves Saint Laurent loved its subtlety and quality and basically rediscovered it in the 1970s, building a collection of exquisite pieces by Jean Dunand, Jean Michel Frank, Ruhlmann, André Groult and Eileen Gray. Saint Laurent and Bergé’s nod to contemporary design included the fabulous ‘YSL’ bar by François-Xavier Lalanne, several beautiful and whimsical Claude Lalanne mirrors with a distinctly modern Art Nouveau feel, and some of their iconic sheep on wheels with real sheep wool, some without heads in the form of tabourets. These remarkable pieces were put in the same spaces as Goya’s wondrous and delicate portrait Don Luis Maria de Cistuné y Martinez (1791) alongside robust Cubist paintings and Roman sculpture.  And it worked!
The library of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé
 The Lalanne sheep ‘meandered’  through the rooms in rue de Babylone mingling effortlessly with Renaissance bronze sculpture and Jean Michel Frank’s beautiful wooden screen (c1925) to the right hand side of the image. (You can only see the back of the screen in this image – the straw marquetry on the other side is exquisite. You can see it in the exhibition!).
Grand Salon du 55 rue de Babylone, où vécut Yves Saint Laurent de 1970 à 2008 Photographie Nicolas MathéusGoya’s 1791 portait with Dunand’s Art Deco vases, fauteuils and Fernand Leger’s painting ‘Le Profil Noir
Image courtesy of Nicolas Mathéus
Time marches on and the collections have obviously now been dispersed to museums and private collections around the world but how breathtaking they must have looked all together in their houses in rue Saint James in Neuilly (Doucet) and rue de Babylon in Paris (YSL and Pierre Bergé) in the late 1920s and 1970s/1980s respectively. The ‘mise en scène’ is the genius of the eye of the collector and where the magic happens. As Yves Saint Laurent said, “Some people change apartments every three years. As for me, I move objects. It gives them a new life”.
Fondation Pierre Bergé Yves Saint Laurent
3 rue Léonce Reynaud 7516 Paris.
Exhibition runs to 14 February 2016.
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