Peter’s Auction Pick of the Day: Maria Pergay

October 6, 2014

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 awarded the Légion d’honneur in 2012—Pergay seems to produce her elegant, spirited designs from an inner source that is equal parts intelligence, imagination, and intuition. The now-iconic Flying Carpet daybed was the centerpiece of Pergay’s debut furniture collection, and LAMA is pleased to offer this piece in the October 12, 2014 Modern Art & Design Auction.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Flying Carpet daybed (Designed 1968), Maria Pergay, Modern Art & Design Auction, October 12, 2014

 From Peter Loughrey, Director of Modern Design & Fine Art:

“I’ve always thought there is something romantic about a daybed. Maybe because a daybed doesn’t have a backrest, it makes me imagine the sitter in a much more relaxed pose like a reclining figure in a Ingres painting. Maria Pergay’s Flying Carpet daybed has obvious romantic overtones in the title itself, but the stark juxtaposition of the rectangular surface with the fluid shape of the frame only enhances the romantic idea of repose. It’s also interesting to note that the perfectly proportioned leather cushion (which by no coincidence happens to be the exact length of Mies Van der Rohe’s daybed) is somewhat ironically soft and inviting while the more sensual curve of the stainless steel happens to be constructed out of the less forgiving material. There are few designs in the latter half of the 20th century that take us away from function and bring us into a world of imagination, but this is the quality that Pergay has so effortlessly infused in many of her designs.”

When Pergay’s first collection was initially exhibited in Paris in 1968, Pierre Cardin bought it in its entirety. The designer has long been a favorite of the great European couture houses, having received commissions from Christian Dior, Jacques Heim and, most recently, Fendi. 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 work features in both private collections and in the collections of such institutions as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her 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.

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.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Flying Carpet daybed (Designed 1968), Maria Pergay, Modern Art & Design Auction, October 12, 2014

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.

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

For more information, or details on how to bid, please contact a LAMA representative.

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