PARIS — Jacques Grange looked right at home at the headquarters of Sotheby’s France on Friday, seated in a circa 1955 ambassador armchair by Jean Royère. That’s no surprise, given it was one of 177 items transplanted from his Palais-Royal apartment, the former home of novelist Colette, due to go under the hammer at the auction house Tuesday and Wednesday.
The sale is expected to generate up to 12 million euros.
“I was thinking of selling some pieces; they proposed that I make a collection and I said, why not? I’m not so young, I’m 72, why not build a new collection and give all of these special objects to people who can look after them. It feels a bit like a midlife crisis,” says Grange. “They have managed to capture the mood of my home and the way I like to mix pieces together,” he added, gesturing to a miniature oil painting of red lips — “Mouth Study” — by Tom Wesselmann hung next to a Polaroid of Liza Minnelli taken by Andy Warhol, circa 1978.
Up for grabs — for those with deep enough pockets — are a mix of modern and contemporary artworks and 20th-century design pieces as well as photographs, antiques, 19th-century drawings and Symbolist works collected by Grange over the past 40 years by names including Jean-Michel Frank, Pablo Picasso, Robert Mapplethorpe, David Hockney, Eileen Gray, Irving Penn and François-Xavier Lalanne. Pieces by the latter designer include the top lot, “Two Moutons de Laine” (“Two Sheep”), estimated to fetch between 700,000 euros and 1 million euros. The lot’s former owner, Yves Saint Laurent, with Pierre Bergé, was one of Grange’s most faithful clients. (Grange worked on six of their homes in France and Morocco and was tapped by Bergé for the interior of the just-opened Yves Saint Laurent Museum.)
Known for his eclectic bohemian-chic style mixing design and art, the French interior designer has worked on the residences of personalities including François Pinault, Paloma Picasso, Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giammetti, Francis Ford Coppola and his daughter Sofia Coppola, and Ronald Lauder and his daughter Aerin. In terms of current projects, he is working on a few major private residences and recently completed the Villa Maïa in Lyon, and a “fantastic” hotel, Hotel Cappuccino, in Palma de Mallorca.
Here, Grange talks about the auction, design and his career.
WWD: Was it difficult for you to part ways with these pieces?
Jacques Grange: No, it felt natural. I kept one Alexandre Noll piece because I love his work; I gave the chair but not the “Magnum” [bottle cabinet]. I also kept two [Alberto] Giacometti pieces.
WWD: Aside from monetary value, which piece here has the greatest value for you?
J.G.: The François-Xavier Lalanne ostrich bar [“Les Autruches Bar,” 1967 to 1970]. It’s miraculous; it’s poetic, graceful, fragile.…In the catalogue, you can read a note from Claude Lalanne saying: “Jacques, you fell in love with François-Xavier’s finest sculpture, ‘Les Autruches.’ I am glad they have lived with you all these years and wish them happiness in their new life elsewhere.”
WWD: Are you sure you don’t want to keep it? There’s still time….
J.G.: I hesitated. My maid is very happy that it’s gone, because it’s fragile. [Laughs.]
WWD: I heard you used to go for hunting for finds with Andy Warhol in the Seventies.
J.G.: Yes, I met Andy when he came to take Yves Saint Laurent’s portrait. He had bought a flat in Paris and used to come here a lot for his social portraits. He lived at the time with an interior designer, Jed Johnson, who ended up dying in an airplane crash during a flight from New York to Paris. Andy was addicted to buying something every day and when he came to Paris he’d call me as he knew I knew where to go for Art Deco objects. That’s how our relationship started.
WWD: You were also close to antiques dealer and interior designer Madeleine Castaing.
J.G.: I admired her work, each week I would go to her gallery on rue Bonaparte, but I was more inspired by the mood of Marie-Laure de Noailles and Jean-Michel Frank. But she had an artistic point of view, she was a magician decorator. I have a Madeleine Castaing portrait I bought from Chaïm Soutine.
WWD: Who rings your bells today?
J.G.: I’m interested in Italian painters from the Sixties and Seventies. For furniture I love contemporary designers like Ron Arad; Italian designers like Gio Ponti, and some American designers from the Fifties and Sixties like Paul Frankel and [Terence Harold] Robsjohn-Gibbings. But it’s more industrial. And you have fantastic contemporary designers now like the Bouroullec brothers, and the Campana brothers, it’s fun. I’m interested in Brazilian furniture designers; Zanini de Zanine is very interesting.
I always remain curious, but I feel anxious about one thing, that today, instead of liking the reality of things, we like things for their image. Look at the sale of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi,” which has only been 70 percent restored. It’s insane.
WWD: Can you share one of your favorite memories from working with Saint Laurent and Bergé?
J.G.: Working on their [Normandy villa] Château Gabriel. Yves, who was already sick at the time, wanted me to do a Moroccan-style garden, but we had just been on a trip to Russia and I persuaded him to go with a datcha.
WWD: What did you learn from working with him?
J.G.: He was the magician of color, with him I felt free. You know when you’re young, you love beige and white and black. Yves [liberated my relationship] with color. It was always very easy to work with Yves because he’d give me the mood that I could develop from. For [the Tangier estate] he told me: “I’m an old eccentric English lady from the Fifties.” He’d give me [starting points] like that.
Through him I also learned to mix things. I learned the poetry of architecture through Madeleine Castaing, classicism of line from Jean-Michel Frank, and from Henri Samuel, classic French style, very Palais-Royal, very pure. I learned my taste for modern art and architecture in America.
WWD: You are known for mixing design with art.
J.G.: Yes, I get contacted by a lot of art collectors as they know I will present their collection in the right way.
Ronald Lauder is a big collector — he contacted me because one day in an auction I wanted an Art Deco table once belonging to my friend Marie-Laure de Noailles. I was bidding away, and the price was going up, and finally I stopped and Ronald Lauder bought it. After that, he asked: “Who’s the guy that made the price go up so high?” When he heard it was Jacques Grange, he said: “He has the same taste as me, I need to work with him.”
WWD: How was it working with Francis Ford Coppola?
J.G.: It was very easy to work with him, because he, too, is an artist, and he’s used to working with teams. He had bought this palazzo in Italy, the Palazzo Margherita, where his grandmother had worked as a servant, to turn into a hotel. It was a back-to-roots project for the family. He asked me to furnish his bedroom and to evoke Orientalism in homage to his grandmother, who was from Tunisia.
WWD: Do you follow any social media platforms?
J.G.: I look at Instagram. There’s actually an account in my name created by Architectural Digest and I cannot believe how many followers I have. They never asked my permission, but when I saw the numbers I said, wonderful! I think it helps a lot, it’s fantastic, no? You can learn everything in five minutes today.
WWD: What would you recommend to aspiring collectors with no budget?
J.G.: Buy with your heart.