Cultured Magazine

Fall 2014

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T his fall, collectors can peruse an array of Ron Arad's greatest hits and lesser-known works at Paris auction house Artcurial. "Ron is in the Air," the cheekily titled retrospective, will include both handmade one-offs from early in his career and high-sheen icons like the "Bodyguard" chairs of the late aughts. The sale (which takes place on October 27) was proposed by Fabien Naudan, Artcurial vice president and unabashed Arad fan. "We tried to recreate the British mood of the early '80s as well as his huge success in more recent years, so we'll have between 20 and 25 pieces that are representative of his career," Naudan explains. "At the same time, we'll mix Arad's pieces with artworks, paintings, video and photography; we really try to work on the connection and meaning between furniture and art." Grand mélanges like this seem to be an Artcurial specialty. The auction house, headquartered within the 19th-century Neoclassical walls of the Champs-Elysées' Hôtel Marcel Dassault, has a number of traditional sales scheduled this season that will include jewelry, paintings by Old Masters and Art Deco furniture. There will also be quite a few sales in collectibles that don't ordinarily come under the same roof, such as fine wine and spirits, vintage automobiles, Japanese fashion and comic strips. This diversity of specializations was made possible by Artcurial's expert staff and its roots. Originally founded in 1970 as a contemporary art gallery, Artcurial became an auction house in 2002 when it was purchased by entrepreneur and collector Nicolas Orlowski in association with the Dassault family. The new house was a merger between two others: Francis Briest, a specialist in Modern and Contemporary paintings, and Hervé Poulain, an expert in furniture, wine and cars (on 11 different occasions, he's driven in France's 24 Hours of Le Mans in cars decorated by the likes of Calder, Lichtenstein and Warhol). Both Briest and Poulain brought with them their respective fields of expertise and, likewise, their elite clientele. In 2002, the house also brought on Naudan to found its design department. In 2005, he was promoted to associate director; and in early 2013, to vice president. "I was in the fashion industry for 10 years, but I always collected, and I was fascinated by architecture," he says. "As I couldn't buy houses, I bought architect-designed furniture, and I realized that by reselling the pieces that I couldn't store could make a profit." Naudan had already established his own clientele as a secondary-market dealer before joining Artcurial. "I thought it was a fantastic opportunity for me to put my passion into practice; when I was much younger, I was counting all my money to see what Arad pieces I could buy at the Covent Garden shops. I'm proud that I can now present them in a solo auction." The forthcoming Arad sale, in its emphasis on historical context and its multifaceted contents, reflects the particular way Naudan has come to exhibit his sales. When he arrived at the auction house, he had two closely connected goals in mind: to "bring some freshness" to the auction business and to bridge gaps in knowledge, whether they be between established clients and contemporary works, art connoisseurs and collecting design—or ham (in 2011, the house held its first of two gastronomic auctions featuring fine meats, wines and olive oils)—or between novices and the auction world in general. Both goals have to do with education and inclusivity. "Being a club of a happy few doesn't make sense," says Naudan. "My idea was to be completely open and decentralize this business." Consequently, he prefers to explain an object's context without too much text. Rather than heavy literature, he aims to convey the moods and concepts of certain movements through tailored and, sometimes, eccentric exhibitions and catalog designs. He began with lighting, co-curating his first show in 2005 with the legendary lighting designer Ingo Maurer. "Light is More: un siècle de luminaires" featured works dating between 1905 and 2005, from Maurer's high-tech inventions to pieces by Pierre Guariche and Ettore Sottsass. In 2006, Naudan's "Black: le noir dans le paysage domestique" showcased the use of black throughout the word of collectibles, from Philippe Starck goblets in black Baccarat crystal to a pair of 1965 black-lacquered Grundig Audiorama speakers in a completely darkened Hôtel Marcel Dassault. His 2007 "Al Dente! Design, art et art de vivre en Italie" aimed to show a quintessentially Italian approach to design, putting a Carlo Mollino chair next to a pair of Persol glasses to highlight the similarities. The aim, Naudan explains, is for "people to understand that design is part of a larger cultural reflection." Since his appointment to vice president, Naudan relinquished his role as design department director and has taken on responsibilities in 20th-century arts. "I want to give it the same energy as I did in design," Naudan says. "You can take something traditional in a new direction. I'm not going to reinvent the wheel, for sure, but there's different ways to play with the wheel." 154 CULTURED A New Spin Around the Auction Block At Paris auction house Artcurial, Fabien Naudan seeks to breathe new life into the business. BY JANELLE ZARA "The aim is for people to understand that design is part of a larger cultural reflection."

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