October 12, 2014


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Lot 187: Maria Pergay

Lot 187: Maria Pergay

Flying Carpet daybed

Designed 1968
Uginox stainless steel and upholstery
12" x 117.5" x 29.875"
Provenance: Private Collection, Sarasota, Florida;
Private Collection, Los Angeles, California (acquired directly from the above, 1985)
Literature: Demisch, Suzanne, and Stephane Danant. Maria Pergay: Complete Works 1957-2010. Bologna: Damiani, 2011. np, #15.
Estimate: $100,000 - $150,000
Price Realized: $162,500
Inventory Id: 16187

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Though many in her field aspire to be called an artist, the French designer Maria Pergay (b. 1930) is that rare creator of furnishings who deserves the name. Regarded as a national treasure in her homeland—she was recently awarded the Légion d'honneur—Pergay seems to produce her elegant, spirited designs from an inner source that is equal parts intelligence, imagination, and intuition. Pieces from the relatively small, boutique-level output of her 56-year career are most often described in terms of art movements: some are seen as Minimalist, others as Surreal, still others as Mannerist. Pergay's designs have been called feminine and anti-feminine, and a continual source of surprise is that her primary material has long been that sternest of metals: stainless steel.

Pergay's work features in both private collections and in the collections of such institutions as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. At the same time—while she is avowedly uninterested in the ebb-and-flow of fashion—Pergayhas long been a favorite of the great European couture houses, having received commissions from Christian Dior, Jacques Heim and, most recently, Fendi. The now-iconic "Flying Carpet" daybed was the centerpiece of Pergay's first furniture collection. When that collection was first exhibited in Paris in 1968, Pierre Cardin bought it in its entirety.

Maria Pergay recently spoke with Los Angeles Modern Auctions about her methods, her materials, and more:

Los Angeles Modern Auctions: From your earliest creations on, your work seems to embody such a lightness of spirit. Do you find designing fun?

Maria Pergay: Well, it's not something you do while having tea in the afternoon. No, it is difficult, strong, hard work. But to see an object come to life that did not exist—for a vision in my head to turn into a real thing in steel—yes, that is magic and I am delighted.

LAMA: What is your design process?

MP: It depends. Often, someone asks me a question. They would like something, they talk to me about it, and the idea comes. But in all cases, I don't do research, I don't make sketches.

LAMA: You are an intuitive designer.

MP: An object presents itself to my vision, my eye. I see it, in my mind, and it is finished. Take the "Flying Carpet": it was like giving birth! One morning I saw it—my mind projected the image of this bed. Full stop! Next paragraph! It has always been like this, for fifty years.

LAMA: Why stainless steel?

MP: I had a shop on the Place des Vosges that I opened in 1960. I designed small pieces in silver—jewelry boxes, cigarette boxes. More and more people visited, and I began to receive commissions. In 1967, Ugine-Gueugnon [a major French stainless steel maker] asked me if I would work in stainless steel, and I have ever since.

LAMA: What is the attraction of that material?

MP: Stainless steel does not forgive. It has authority, and it helps me not to make errors. But it also shines and glows; it hints at greater things. That said, I thank all the people in the workshops, who have put their craftsmanship to my service. I am not a metal worker. I am so grateful for their hands—and, of course, for my head, that every once in a while spits out an image.

LAMA: You studied theatre design and costume design. Before you started a design career you were known for amazing store window displays. Do you seek to tell a story in your work?

MP: No. A piece is there, and it tells its own story.

LAMA: Still, it's nice to make an impression. How did you feel when your first collection in 1968 sold out?

MP: I was at the Galerie Maison et Jardin, that's where my first show was. Paris was in an uproar [amidst the tumultuous student demonstrations of 1968]. One of the first persons that walked in was Pierre Cardin. He was a discoverer—a great man of taste and vision. He could see a piece of cloth on the floor and understand how to make it into a dress. I am so flattered that he also discovered me.

LAMA: Does designing still rekindle that feeling?

MP: Oh, yes. A design realized is happiness, pure joy, a delight. I find happiness in creating. It is a need; a need I satisfy as I would satisfy hunger or thirst.

LAMA would like to thank Maria Pergay for her generosity and assistance.