The Surrealist, Luxurious Furniture of French Sculptor Philippe Hiquily
Early on, Parisian sculptor Philippe Hiquily was fascinated by the potential of metal. He first began experimenting with mobile sculptures that shared forms with those of Alexander Calder, and then later went on to produce kinetic works à la Jean Tinguely. By 1953, in his late twenties, he earned the Prix de Sculpture, and then finally achieved success across the pond, in 1959, with a solo showing at The Contemporaries gallery in New York, where he met Isamu Noguchi, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jasper Johns, among others. While in Paris, Hiquily was well-acquainted with sculptor César, paid visits to the studio of Germaine Richier, and met Surrealists Georges Bataille and Max Ernst. It was out of this rich artistic milieu that Hiquily’s furniture would evolve—an extension of the marriage of mechanics and erotics that he realized in his brass, iron, and aluminium sculptures.
“Hiquily, Hommage” at Galerie Yves Gastou in Paris pays tribute to the late sculptor (he died in 2013) and the artful furniture he designed, bringing together pieces created for his major collectors, who included philanthropist Marie-Laure de Noailles, poet Robert Hass, and novelist and writer André Malraux, among others.
Hiquily’s signature hammered brass is supremely chic, molded to form striking table legs with geometric protrusions, triumphant-looking candelabras, and a water lily-shaped floor lamp whose leafy head rises from a slender stem. Luxurious brass is stunningly contrasted with non-metallic materials. His tables are topped with slices of petrified wood or panes of glass, while chair seats are covered in soft cowhide, horsehair, and silk. The exaggerated curves of Hiquily’s brass works are formed from voluminous shapes that often gradually transition from thick trunks or voluptuous volumes to thin, elegant prongs. Among the selection of his bent stainless steel pieces is the Robert Hass Modular Table, made from a set of six small triangular tables that can be arranged in myriad combinations, including a crisp hexagon or a long parallelogram.
Yves Gastou celebrates Hiquily’s designs for their nods to Surrealism and unabashed luxury: “They remind me of the great furniture of the tsars, kings, or emperors of past centuries. But there is also a surreal side to this furniture. It could be scenery in science fiction movies,” the gallery owner recently remarked. Hiquily’s works could be understood as what French writer Alain Jouffroy named “la realité érotique”—the eroticism of everyday life, elevating household objects into the stuff of dreams.
“Hiquily, Hommage” is on view at Galerie Yves Gastou, Paris, from Sep. 11–Oct. 31, 2015.