Peter’s Auction Pick of the Day: Tejo Remy
Tejo Remy’s You Can’t Lay Down Your Memory (c. 1991) chest of drawers occupies a place between art and design: it is at once functional and sculptural. The piece debuted to great acclaim at the 1993 Milan Furniture Fair, as part of the inaugural collection by the famed Dutch conceptual design group Droog, and quickly became an emblem of avant-garde contemporary furniture-making. Remy says of the piece that “you never expect to design an icon.”
Lot 134, Tejo Remy, You Can’t Lay Down Your Memory, Designed 1991
March 1, 2015 Modern Art & Design Auction
You Can’t Lay Down Your Memory combines 20 mismatched salvaged drawers, housed in custom-made maple sleeves that are bound together with a woven jute strap. The present lot is edition No. 55 from the original edition of 200 chests. Examples from this edition feature in the permanent collections of institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; and the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh.
For all its aesthetic brio and air of mirth, You Can’t Lay Down Your Memory has been closely examined by curators, scholars, and other design experts, who have variously interpreted Remy’s work as a manifestation of social, political, and environmentalist commentary.
Remy says one interpretation is that it serves as a metaphor for the human memory system. “Socrates and the other ancient Greek and Roman philosophers had a technique . . . In their minds, they constructed a house, and in each of its rooms they put away special memories so they always knew where to find them. The drawers of the chest are like the rooms. You have a certain drawer for certain things, so you always recollect where they are.”
Another element is environmentalism; with an allusion to how the literary figure Robinson Crusoe built his own “paradise” with leftover shipwrecked debris. In the early 1990s Remy and like-minded designers felt the world was using up its resources. They wanted to use found materials, from their neighborhoods, for example, making do with what they have.
From Peter Loughrey, Director of Modern Design & Fine Art:
“Ten years ago I had the great pleasure of meeting Tejo Remy. Together we searched for drawers for a special commission he was working on in Los Angeles. Tejo, his client, and I hit thrift stores, junk shops, and swap meets across Los Angeles for three days searching for enough drawers to make a special version of You Can’t Lay Down Your Memory. I found Tejo’s process fascinating. When I would point out interesting cabinets to cannibalize for their drawers, Tejo mostly rejected the ones I picked out for a number of reasons: there was not enough color, not enough texture, or simply they were too “tasteful” (for a lack of a better word). He preferred industrial or anonymous cabinets, and of course wanted as many different colors, wood grains, and handles as possible. The diversity of drawer fronts in each of the examples of his iconic design is quite astounding. As for the one on offer at the March 1st auction, Lot 134: there are four different kinds of plastic drawers, nine different wood grain styles, and 20 different handles. This version of You Can’t Lay Down Your Memory is rendered completely unique by the wonderfully diverse mishmash of styles used–from Chippendale to Rococo, and Danish Modern to Industrial Chic.”
You Can’t Lay Down Your Memory
#55 of 200
Signed and with edition stamp; interior of each drawer with edition stamp
54.5″ x 57″ x 24″
Provenance: Mark McDonald, New York, New York;
Private Collection, Los Angeles, California
Literature: Ramakers, Renny. Simply Droog, 10 + 1 Years of Creating Innovation and Discussion. Amsterdam: Droog, 2004. 27.
Estimate: $15,000 – $20,000