A Passion for Jean Prouvé

Posted on April 12, 2013 by Megan

The Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli presents A Passion for Jean Prouvé, an exhibition devoted to the furniture and architecture by the French designer Jean Prouvé from the collection owned by Laurence and Patrick Seguin.

Laurence and Patrick Seguin discovered the work of Jean Prouvé in the late 1980s through his furniture designs. They were immediately struck by the unique aesthetic of these pieces, where the artistic skill lies wholly in imperceptible technical mastery devoted to enhancing the strength of the materials. While at the time very few people had even heard of Jean Prouvé, their enthusiasm for his captivating lines was immediate, a revelation that became a true passion.

Metropole aluminium house, 26.2 x 40 ft ca. 1949, provenance: France

The couple then began to take an interest in Jean Prouvé’s work as a whole, of which the furniture is only a part, going on to discover his architectural designs. With the idea that ‘there is no difference between constructing a piece of furniture and constructing a building’, he applied the same design approach to both fields, basing all of his work on it.

From the opening of their gallery in Paris in 1989, Laurence and Patrick Seguin began to work in earnest promoting the creations of Jean Prouvé, with the result that the most important international collectors and the most prestigious museums now have works by the French architect and designer in their collections. Indeed today he is held to be one of the key exponents of twentieth century design.

Metropole aluminium house, 26.2 x 40 ft ca. 1949, provenance: France

Laurence and Patrick Seguin are now presenting a number of works from their private collection for the first time: around 40 pieces by Jean Prouvé, most of which are prototypes or extremely rare, from the armchair designed for the University dormitory of Nancy in 1932 to the light armchair created for the University of Antony in 1954, to the furniture produced for Africa.

The Laurence and Patrick Seguin collection

The same principles of functionality and rational fabrication that the designer applied to furniture often destined for the public sector, can also be found in Prouvé’s architectural designs: the same solid structures feature clever mechanisms for assembly and organisation that enable both the furniture and the constructions to be easily moved, disassembled and modified.

The Maison Metropole (8×12 meters) an aluminium construction won in 1949 a Ministry of Education competition for ‘mass-producible rural school with classroom and teacher accommodation’: a masterpiece of nomadic housing, followed the portico principle patented by Prouvé in 1939. The Ateliers Jean Prouvé built two of them, one in Bouqueval, near Paris, and the other in Vantoux in Moselle. This one has been mounted for the first time on the Lingotto track in Turin. Taking four people three consecutive days to assemble, a stop-motion film has been made of the construction process, with video footage streamed on the Pinacoteca website.

Metropole aluminium house, 26.2 x 40 ft ca. 1949, provenance: France

The Laurence et Patrick Seguin collection includes contemporary art that coexist at their home with Jean Prouvé furniture. Some have a liason with Jean Prouvé, as the mobile made by Alexander Calder for Prouvé; and the one by Richard Prince, who has made especially for them an artwork out of a Jean Prouvé table.

They decide to show these works at the Pinacoteca Agnelli together with the ones by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Adam Mcewen and Marc Grotjhan. The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue in Italian and English published by the Pinacoteca Agnelli.