Henri Samuel and the artists he commissioned

Demisch Danant showcases exhilarating French design

Legendary French decorator Henri Samuel’s playful sensibility and use of exuberant colour and rich fabrics earned him a devoted following that included the Rothschilds, Vanderbilts, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan and Valentino. New York gallery Demisch Danant’s exhibition Paris Match: Henri Samuel and the Artists He Commissioned, 1968-1977 is a glorious tribute to the design impressario regarded as one of the first tastemakers to juxtapose historical elements with modern pieces – by such noted figures as César, François Arnal and Philippe Hiquily. The exhibition showcases rare work – many pieces seen publicly here for the first time – and highlights furniture and objects he co-created with the artists of his day.

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Among the highlights (prices from $15,000 to $400,000) in the show, which runs from November 7 to January 31 2015, are several important works by César, the groundbreaking artist known for expressive furniture designs and liquid-looking decorative objects. César’s Expansion Table and Expansion Lamp (second picture) typify the artist’s work in bronze and resin. Expansion Murale (third picture) in shiny gold, and exquisite Expansion Ashtrays make their stateside debuts. Candélabre ($100,000, first picture) is also a head-turner.

Also on view is François Arnal’s spectacular Plexiglas and brass gueridon ($35,000, fourth picture), a rare piece commissioned by Samuel in 1969 that complements a smoke-coloured version that graced the decorator’s own hotel particulier in the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.  Vibrant geometric motifs are the hallmark of painter and sculptor Guy de Rougemont whose iconic Table Nuage is a funky combination of Plexiglas, brass and interior lighting that creates a floating effect. Other notable works include Philippe Hiquily’s surrealist glass-top table and Jean-Michel Sanejouand’s Symétrique Rocking Chair and Ottoman for L’Atelier A, which combine materials including upholstered leather and chrome-plated steel in unexpected ways.

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A tastemaker, patron of the arts and design impressario, Henri Samuel mixed genres to create The Samuel Style – an eclectic aesthetic that forever challenged the bourgeois idea of matching interiors and garnered a following from Paris to Palm Beach. This show exquisitely illustrates his position at the forefront of an exciting decade of shifting design tastes.

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