"There is not one week that goes by where I don’t receive a few demands from interior architects in America asking for this sofa," says Benjamin Paulin of the couch his late father designed for France’s Elysée Palace under President Pompidou in 1969. Less than 100 were ever produced, and today they command well over $100,000 at auction. Louis Vuitton creative director Nicolas Ghesquiere showcases a pair in his Paris apartment. The Elysée sofa is one of 14 pieces Benjamin and his wife Alice Lemoine, who oversee the Pierre Paulin archives, are producing commercially for the first time through Ralph Pucci in New York beginning May 22nd. The occasion also marks the debut of Pierre Paulin at Pucci. "I am so excited to carve the path that makes 'new' work by Paulin available in the US," says Pucci.
Adds Benjamin, "Our interest was to reproduce pieces for the first time, pieces that make sense." These include furniture Paulin made for the French ministry of culture Mobilier National and the entirety of his proposal from the Pierre Paulin housing program, which was originally presented to Herman Miller in 1972 but never came to fruition due to the impending oil crises. Only a first presentation of the prototype for that sofa was made for Miami Art Basel in 2015, with the support of Louis Vuitton. And while it will now be commercially available, so to speak, it is not commercially viable for all: The 2015 prototype was purchased by architect Daniel Libeskind, who, according to Benjamin, "had to knock down a wall and destroy part of his apartment to be able to bring it in." It will also be missing from the Pucci opening. "We prepared the sofa, sent it to New York, and when it arrived in the building it was not possible to put it in the elevator," Benjamin explains. The couch will instead be displayed at the expansive new Pucci showroom in Los Angeles.
The furniture pieces are being shown as Pierre Paulin designed them, but custom fabrications are available. So what do these reissues mean for collectors of the vintage editions? "I am happy you are asking me this question," says Benjamin. "People are always saying 'is it vintage,' 'it is not vintage,' and when you are looking in a vintage gallery, on almost every item they’ve changed the foam; they’ve change the cover; they’ve changed everything. So what is vintage? You change the foam, you are changing the design. When I am reproducing an archival model, I am producing it exactly based on the design of my father. I have the original design. You know, my father was not in the factory to make the sofa in ’72 or ’78, so those are no more 'real' than one made today.
" Fans of Paulin might be holding out hope for seeing his designs in a certain political setting in the near future, too: "We have a very good hope that Emmanuel Macron will put it back in the salon," admits Benjamin. "Because my father worked for President Pompidou, who was a man from the right, the French Republicans, but he was also a very big symbol of culture in France and very modern. Then in the 80s, he worked for President François Mitterrand, who was democratic, but was more a symbol of a real politician with strategies. I think that Macron is kind of a mix between those two, so it would be highly symbolic for him to use the same pieces as both Democratic and Republican presidents before him."
Written By Jane Keltner De Valle
Photos Courtesy of www.architecturaldigest.com