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Art Deco Expert to Auction Private Collection

November 24, 1989

PARIS (AP) _ More than 400 Art Deco furnishings and objects from one of the world’s largest private collections go to the auction block next month in what experts are calling the sale of the season.

The collection, estimated at about $10 million includes a pair of gilded bronze fire dogs sculpted by Gustav Miklos, 14 lacquer panels by Jean Dunand and 66 pieces of furniture crafted by master cabinetmaker Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann.

″There is no collection like this in private hands anywhere in the world,″ said auctioneer Jacques Tajan, who is to hold the gavel on Dec. 13 at the Hotel Georges V. The objects can be previewed Nov. 27-30 at the Theatre des Champs Elysees.

The collection was assembled over 25 years by Alain Lesieutre, a 59-year- old former dealer who admits he’d rather buy than sell.

Lesieutre said parting with his treasures - among the world’s rarest and most beautiful objects from the 1930s - is not easy.

″Yes, it’s a heartbreak to see my house emptied of all these things,″ he said in an interview at his Left Bank apartment, which looks more like a museum than a private home. ″But it’s a chance for me to pursue my other passions, which are collecting paintings from 1890 to 1950.″

Lesieurtre was among the first French collectors to appreciate Art Deco. In his ″The Spirit and Splendour of Art Deco,″ published by Paddington Press Ltd., he described the style as ″the last attempt made in Europe to create a full-blooded, perfectly coherent decorative style, with its own completeness, its own internal logic and its own dream.″

″I love the quality of the materials and the purity of the lines,″ he said. ″At its best, the furniture has the clean, simple grace of the Louis XVI style, without the fussiness.″

The collection includes a one-of-a-kind coiffeuse and a roll-top desk in Makassar ebony bordered wtih ivory inlay, both by Ruhlmann.

Art Deco aficionados will love the gold jewelry by surrealist artist Max Ernst, glassware by Galle and Daum, drop necklaces by Lalique and bell-shaped Tiffany lamps.

Art Deco designers were way ahead of their times. The design of Lesieutre’s egg-shaped chairs by Carlo Bugatti was a forerunner of forms that came of age in the 1960s.

Art Deco reached its culmination in the 1925 Exposition des Arts Decoratifs, scheduled originally to take place in 1914 and called off because of World War I. The show also gave the style its name.

The delay gave Art Deco time to mature and prosper. Ebony, ivory, shagreen (rawhide), leather, lacquer, enamel were the preferred materials of Art Deco artists and craftsmen who tried to get rid of the gilded ″prettiness″ of earlier styles as they sought a more massive opulence with a clean-cut simplicity.

Lesieutre admits that he may never get over his passion for Art Deco.

″I’m putting my gorgeous Ruhlmann card table in the sale, but since I’m a gin fanatic, I need another card table. What did I buy? Another Ruhlmann 3/8″ he said.

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