Design Talk/ Jean Prouvé and The Power of Patronage

On Wednesday, June 12, Ginevra Elkann, President of Pinacoteca Agnelli, and Patrick Seguin, Principal of Galerie Patrick Seguin, gave personal accounts of their fascination with Jean Prouvé, and they discussed the significance of private museums in today’s cultural landscape in a talk titled The Power of Patronage. Moderated by the Editor-in-Chief of Crane TV, Horacio Silva, the Design Talk was an in-depth investigation not only of the impact that Jean Prouvé has had on design culture and housing, but also the intimate connections that the two moderators have to the architect of legend. 

The Pinacoteca Agnelli hosted the exhibition A passion for Jean Prouvé, which continues a project that Elkann started in 2006 . It was an apt context for the renowned Prouvé, as Elkann described the genesis of the building itself: 

“The Pinacoteca Agnelli was designed, by the will of my grandparents Giovanni and Marella Agnelli, by Renzo Piano in a suspended structure, inside the historic industrial complex of the Lingotto in Turin. Opened on September 20th, 2002, the gallery marks the final step in the twenty-year-long restructuring process of the whole Lingotto site and it permanently houses 25 masterpieces from my grandparents collection.” 

The idea behind the show A passion for Jean Prouvé was to investigate the theme of collecting in its many facets, and in a way that deeply involves the collectors and reveals their passions to the general public. The main focus of the talk was, specifically, the passion for Prouvé that courses through Patrick Seguin.

Seguin, who is showing a Prouvé house at Design Miami/ Basel 2013, illustrated not only his comprehensive knowledge of Prouvé as a man, architect, and thinker, but also the work that Seguin himself has done to extend and secure the legacy of the self-taught, multidisciplinary designer. In collecting and showing Prouvé’s work, Seguin has also studied and documented Prouvé’s works and processes, and thus the knowledge and discourse surrounding Prouvé’ is expanded.

During the Design Talk, Seguin spoke about Prouvé’s inauspicious start, attempting (and failing) to secure funds from the French government for his “nomadic architecture” following World War II. Still, Prouvé persevered, and was engaged in a “…regime of architecture that left no trace on the landscape, and Prouvé was a visionary in that sense. A ladder, a screwdriver, a few workers – this was all needed to build a house in just a couple days.” Indeed, the house on display here at Design Miami/ Basel, was a model that required only two days of work.

Horacio Silva adeptly moderated the discussion and probed for intimate information, revealing the exceptional importance not only of Prouvé, but of collecting and patronage in broadening the impact of forward-thinking designers. The role that Seguin and Elkann have as collectors and curators is pressing, especially in today’s world.

As Elkann mentioned, “The Prouvé blend of avant-garde spirit and humanist concerns has not lost any relevance.” Silva also attempted to find out some future plans that Seguin might have, asking if he planned to open a Prouvé museum. But this was less easy to pry out, as Seguin responded, “Maybe one day.”

Rob Goyanes

Design Miami/ Design Log