Three years ago, the designer Eileen Gray’s chair "Dragon Chair" was sold by the auction for $ 28 millions, but it is only a part of the story ..
During her career, Eileen Gray (1878-1976) was little-known, but among the art experts she was the cult personality, and now she is recognized as one of the most prominent designers of the first half of the 20th century.
Her name will always be associated with the birth of modern design - Eileen Gray was one of the pioneers of modernism, the only woman among the outstanding young designers.
Eileen Gray began her artist career, making the lacquer articles/products - folding screens, panels, later beds, book shelves, tables and other pieces of furniture. All the pieces of furniture, created by her, were handmade products, elaborated by her, perfect to the last detail. Eileen Gray in her works used mostly the black, brown and other dark color palettes, which added to her works the strong harmony of tones. She was the first who surprised with the use of tubular steel furniture, which for those times was a revolutionary novelty.
Today the designs, created by her, have become the classical works.
The most famous of these are BIBENDUM CHAIR, TRANSAT CHAIR, S CHAIR, DAY BED, BRICK SCREEN, NON CONFORTISM, PETITE COIFFUSE, OCCASIONAL TABLE, MONTE CARLO..
Eileen Gray wouldn’t be so prominent personality in the history of Modernism, as we know her today, if she had limited her activities only to the designer's works. At the end of the twentieth, Eileen Gray focused on the architecture and created a new architectural form. In the year 1929, she together with her colleague and the love of her live (boyfriend) – the Romanian architect Jean Badovici, built the famous Villa E1027 in the Southern France, on the Mediterranean sea coasts, with the view of the coast of Monaco. The Villa is considered to be the masterpiece of the avant-garde architecture; it was very futuristic for those times - visually "grown" from the cliff, with the flat roof, terraces, large windows, which stretched from the floor to the ceiling, with the surprisingly functional planning, with built-in furniture, created by Eileen Gray, and suitable for the particular place and needs, elaborated to the last detail.
The Villa’s name was given by Eileen Gray also to the most reproduced modernism tables - E1027, which in fact were created by Eileen Gray for her sister, because she liked to have a breakfast in bed.
At the end of the World War II, Eileen Gray ended her activity as the architect and designer, and nothing was known about her till the year 1970, when the lacquer panel LE DESTINI, created by her, was sold by the auction to the American collector for the record price for those time for the 20th century furniture – $36000. Suddenly, Eileen Gray had again become the cult personality.
In the year 1973, Yves Saint Laurent bought Eileen Gray’s work of art, which is known as DDRAGON CHAIR. 36 years later, in February, 2009, the chair was sold by auction for nearly $ 28 millions, which again was the record price for the 20th century design, exceeding the previous record price for about $ 22 million.
Many people considered that this price was caused by the "auction fever" and was inadequate, collector Jose Mugrabi said that the auction was "almost vulgar. In no other place you could sell this chair even for the commission sum of this deal." However, the other people considered this chair to be the icon, almost the object of worship and cult and collectors knew, once it is sold, it may get lost again. The Parisian Cheska Vallois, who bought this chair for the second time in the year 2009 after it was sold in the year 1971, fully agrees with this assumption.
Eileen Gray has devoted two years of her life to the creation of this chair. She rubbed the lacquer layer after layer, each time allowing it to stand for a while in a humid air room, and then she spent several days polishing the chair. Dragon Chair was more like a sculpture than a piece of furniture.
Eileen Gray’s works continue to live also today ..
Having appreciated the classical values, the German company ClassiCon manufactures and sells the exact copies of the Eileen Gray’s design - each of them is licensed, incorporating Eileen Gray's signature and serial number. The value of the objects and furniture of this design increases every year - it is a way for investments, at the same time enjoying the artistic beauty.
In Riga it is possible to buy the ClassiCon products in the design salon Inspira.