Ernesto Esposito

MILAN — Footwear designer Ernesto Esposito took a page out of Marie Kondo’s book when he decided to sell some of his prized furniture pieces and art works at Sotheby’s Paris earlier this month — although in his case the COVID-19 pandemic certainly had an impact on this choice.

“I have 12 houses around the world, from Rio de Janeiro to London and Naples, but with the pandemic I have not been able to travel and enjoy them,” said Esposito. “I have this beautiful house in a ’20s Deco building in Copacabana, who knows when I will be able to go there. Our lifestyle has changed and I have decided to rent some of these houses. I have three in Rome, usually two are for friends visiting and they have been sitting there unused for the past year and a half. But I wouldn’t want the design furniture to be damaged by passing tenants, so I decided to sell them.”

Esposito worked on Fendi’s shoes with Karl Lagerfeld for 10 years and the designer said the latter’s “curiosity and thirst for change rubbed off on me. Over the years, I bought every single piece led by my own personal taste, but now more than ever I am looking for something different, more contemporary and more comfortable — after all, I am 70 and I want to be able to stretch out on a soft sofa. And I am more into an all-white look. I am also looking for Donald Judd furniture. I really like his style, minimalist yet super comfortable. His furniture is beautiful.”

Esposito has worked for Louis Vuitton and with Marc Jacobs for seven years; designed shoes for Sonia Rykiel for 18 years, as well as for designers Alessandro Dell’Acqua, Veronique Branquinho and Raf Simons, among others. In addition to his namesake line, he has designed for Via Spiga, and until last year, for Geox. He said he will soon be able to reveal a new deal with “an American brand owned by an Italian family,” but was mum on the details.

A collector passionate about art from the ‘50s onward, Esposito was close to artists such as Andy Warhol, Michelangelo Pistoletto and Helmut Newton. The selection of pieces on offer at Sotheby’s celebrated 20th-century art and design from Jean Prouvé to Alighiero Boetti.

The auction of 60 works of design and contemporary art from Esposito’s residence in Rome raised a total of $924,033, or 787,752 euros, above the estimate of 427,800 to 608,900 euros. All the pieces but two were acquired and almost 70 percent of the items were sold above estimates, stated Sotheby’s.

Leading the offers was a 1954 Antony hanging bookcase by Charlotte Perriand and Prouvé, which was sold at double the price of its estimate, at $140,408.

Another item by the architects, the SCAL bed dating back to 1952, brought in $45,817 — three times its estimate.

Sotheby's

The SCAL bed, called Antony, created in 1952 by Jean Prouvé and Charlotte Perriand owned by Ernesto Esposito and sold at Sotheby’s.  courtesy image

Perriand and Prouvé influenced the decorative arts of the 20th century, exploring metal and new manufacturing techniques focusing on the object’s function.

In addition, the auction included a collection of works by members of the Memphis group. Founded in Milan in 1980, the movement brought together several young designers who wanted to change the traditional way of designing objects and furniture. Works by Ettore Sottsass, Michele De Lucchi, Martine Bedin and Nathalie du Pasquier, influential founding members of the group, were represented in a dozen lots.

The sale also included a selection of contemporary art works and photography lots by Boetti, Robert Mapplethorpe, Julian Schnabel and Kiki Smith.

Jean Prouvé

Ernesto Esposito’s Jean Prouvé chairs sold at Sotheby’s.  courtesy image

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