Cultured Magazine

Summer 2012

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ArAb Spring Middle East-era Royére has become highly coveted, no doubt thanks to provenances that include a Shah and a king or two. BY LINDA LEE As a designer whose work was never produced in quantity, Jean Royère has developed a reputation as the smart collector's collectible. Royère was a contemporary of Jacques Adnet, Charlotte Perriand and Jean Prouvé, but his aesthetic wasn't industrial or purely French Art Deco. It was, says Michael Formica, a New York interior designer whose book Royère was published in 1991, "decorative, pretty and playful." Formica compares Royère, who designed entire rooms in addition to furniture and lighting, to the society decorator Syrie Maugham. And what a society Royère designed for: the Shah of Iran, King Farouk of Egypt, the royal families of Saudi Arabia and King Hussein of Jordan, as well as wealthy families in South America. So when La Galerie Nationale opened a Dubai branch of its Paris-based gallery in March on Al Serkal Av- enue, Dubai's arts hub, it was perhaps not so much to sell Royère pieces as to buy them. Many of the wealthy from Egypt, Iraq, Iran and Lebanon settled in Dubai and brought their Royères with them. Call the Garlerie Nationale, run by Guillaume Cuiry, a kind of haute design honey pot, with Royère on display along with its other designers—including Joe Colombo, Pierre Guariche, Mathieu Matégot and the American Raymond Loewy. And it worked. In the first month, he found two additional pieces—in Dubai. But one goal is finding pieces that once belonged to the Shah of Iran. "We find pieces everywhere—Tunisia, Morocca, Algeria, of course Iran," said Cuiry. "But when the Shah married the Shabanu in 1959 [Farah Diba, then 21, his second wife], she wanted to put her mark on the palace." She was in love with classic 17th- and 18th-century French furniture, so many of the Shah's Royères were tossed. The price for Royère has climbed in recent years, especially for his iconic, bulbous Ours Polaire sofa and chairs. At Design Miami/Basel in June 2009, Lacoste sold an Ours Polaire sofa, asking price 480,000 euros. Six months later at Design Miami/, Seguin sold another Ours suite for around 610,000 euros. Last June at Design Miami/Basel Lacoste sold an Ours Polaire sofa, chair and pouf for 800,000 euros. "He's not mass, the way Perriand, Prouvé and Mouille are," said Formica. "Connoisseurs know about him. The Ours Polaire sold for a gazil- lion dollars because it's so rare." Equally rare are pieces said to belong to the Shah. Phillips de Pury of- fered a 1962 Royère sideboard labeled Shah d'Iran in May of 2011 for an estimated $15,000 to $25,000. It sold for $35,000. And in April, Cather- ine de Byries, co-author with Jacques Ouaiss of the most authoritative book on the designer, Royère, had a Shah of Iran dining table with two leaves and eight chairs for sale in Beirut. Asking price: $75,000. 88 CULTURED As a designer whose work was never produced in quantity, Royère has developed a reputation as the smart collector's collectible.

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