Maria Pergay | The Captor of Ideas

Maria Pergay | The Captor of Ideas

We are thrilled to be offering an example of Maria Pergay's 2007 ‘Broken Cabinet’ in our January Design sale. Join Head of Department, Otto Billstrom to explore the backstory to this iconic piece. 

18 December 2023

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Emerging alongside the cohort of French post-war modernists, Maria Pergay’s early design was defined by the ethos of function and utopia, driven by an energetic desire to bring France into a new age of prosperity. Yet throughout a career spanning nearly seventy years, she has never identified as belonging to the male-dominated modernist cohort of minds which included the likes of Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret, Jean Prouvé, or Serge Mouille, instead stating that she pursued her own creative impulses, rather than serving a manifesto.


Maria was born in Moldova to a Russian intelligence officer, but once his cover was blown, she was forced to flee with her mother to Paris in 1937, when she was just seven years old, where she would remain for much of her life. Following the end of the war, she studied costume and set design under Ossip Zadkine, raising four children at the same time.

 

Maria Pergay (French, 1930-2023) Broken Cabinet, 2007, a sculptural stainless steel side cabinet, the two cabinet sections set with faceted and polished stainless steel sheets, raised on a stretcher, from an edition of 8, 155cm wide 57.5cm deep 106.5cm high (£12,000-15,000)

Maria Pergay (French, 1930-2023) Broken Cabinet, 2007, a sculptural stainless steel side cabinet, the two cabinet sections set with faceted and polished stainless steel sheets, raised on a stretcher, from an edition of 8, 155cm wide 57.5cm deep 106.5cm high (£12,000-15,000)


Whilst she is known to us today as one of the pioneers of stainless steel, in 1957 she started off working in silver, creating window displays for Parisian boutiques - work which would see her noticed by titans of the fashion industry, including Christian Dior. The immense popularity of her work saw her open her own shop for her designs in 1960, but it wasn’t until 1968 when her first major collection would be unveiled and change the landscape of design forever. Featuring simple, yet effective, shapes in stainless steel, the collection was an overnight success that would see her written into the history of design and initiate a relationship with the material that would last for the rest of her life.


Following her inaugural exhibition at Galerie Maison et Jardin, she showed her collection at the Biennale des Antiquaires where it was instantly purchased by Pierre Cardin, who would come to be a lifelong admirer and patron of her work, for whom she made several important commissions. These included her, perhaps, most surrealist work – The Turtle Sofa – the leatherclad frame of which featured a hinged lid of layered tortoise shells.

 

Maria Pergay (French, 1930-2023) Broken Cabinet, 2007, a sculptural stainless steel side cabinet, the two cabinet sections set with faceted and polished stainless steel sheets, raised on a stretcher, from an edition of 8, 155cm wide 57.5cm deep 106.5cm high (£12,000-15,000)

Maria Pergay (French, 1930-2023) Broken Cabinet, 2007, a sculptural stainless steel side cabinet, the two cabinet sections set with faceted and polished stainless steel sheets, raised on a stretcher, from an edition of 8, 155cm wide 57.5cm deep 106.5cm high (£12,000-15,000)


We are thrilled to be offering an example of her 2007 ‘Broken Cabinet’ in our January Design sale. Raised on a simple stretcher are two cabinet components, each with varyingly polished stainless steel fronts and panels, giving off the illusion of broken glass. It is indicative of her continuous
relationship with the material, and her ambition to bend it to her will in whatever shape possible
– choosing not to yield to it, but rather making the steel yield to her.


‘Stainless Steel’, she is known to have said, ‘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’. She enjoyed success throughout her life and continued to work into her late nineties, designing for private commissions around the world, ranging from palaces in Saudi Arabia, to the penthouses of Manhattan and Paris. For almost seventy years she was guided by her impulse - creating when
inspiration struck, without inhibition or manifesto to guide her – and, in so doing, created alegacy that will be greatly admired by design historians in the years to come.

 


 

 

Tuesday 16 January | 10am

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