Rare Designs by Maria Pergay, Pierre Paulin, and Sheila Hicks Resurface at TEFAF

The gallery will present three postwar artists, each with a distinctly modern sensibility, at the iconic Dutch art and antiques fair: French designers Maria Pergay and Pierre Paulin, plus American-born, Paris-based artist Sheila Hicks. Featuring surprising pieces and highlights from major commissions, the exhibition shows a side of the era that’s more chic than superfly. 

Among the works on display is a series of furniture pieces representing the scope of Pergay’s longtime interest in sleek forms and cool materials, starting with her groundbreaking Flying Carpet Daybed from 1968. The first expression wholly in stainless steel from one of the first designers to adapt it for interior use, the piece revels in the sensual properties of the metal, translating it from something hard and rigid into an undulating and welcoming form that seems to float on air as it beckons the body. This important piece is complemented by other creations from throughout the designer’s career, including recent works like her Marquetry Desk—also in stainless steel, with inlaid wood elements—from 2005.

Paulin’s contributions to the gallery’s booth come with quite an impressive pedigree. Demisch Danant has brought together rare examples of designs from two presidential collections: a signed Élysee Bookcase—a design conceived in 1971 for President George Pompidou—and two examples of an armchair commissioned by President François Mitterrand in 1984 after the politician discovered the designer’s new spin on French tradition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. Together, these pieces are possibly the only versions of these works outside of the permanent collection of the Mobilier National, the official furnisher of the palaces and presidential residences of France. 

In addition to furniture, the booth also features art in the form of three works by Hicks, including Le Palmier (1984-85), a monumental tapestry woven from wool, cotton, rayon, silk, and linen. Showcasing the artist’s mastery of both color and textile, the piece harmoniously picks up the hues in the design objects around it. Combining art and design into a portrait of an era, the exhibition offers a trip to a very different kind of Belle Époque, one that feels just as fresh today as it did decades ago.

Heather Corcoran