LUXURYCULTURE.COM - Yonel Lebovici: Grizot’s Perpetual Passion


In the wake of their major exhibition to be held in Paris this November, art dealers Marie and Cyril Grizot share their passion for the spectacular yet recondite talent of the late Yonel Lebovici.

Cyril Grizot’s Definition of luxury:
For me, Luxury is something out of the ordinary, something that makes us desire it. Luxury has to be difficult to get, but something that pushes you to obtain it, but it is not a dream because dreams remain out of reach.

If luxury were an object…
It’s to be able to spend an amount of money on something that we don't necessarily need, but which represents something that we desire. It’s to realize our desire.

If luxury were a moment…
Take time to think of doing nothing.

If luxury were a place…
A beach or the bank of an estuary where I could collect a lot of shells.

If luxury were a person…
To have as many friends as fingers on my hand.

On the northern periphery of Paris stands the Marché Saint-Ouen, one of the worst-kept secrets among the world’s leading collectors, connoisseurs and interior designers. For more than three decades Marie and Cyril Grizot have established a name as leading purveyors of modern antiques, counting Charlotte Perriand, Jean Prouvé, George Jouve and Jean Royère among their collection. However, it is not these 20th century icons that have brought the world’s leading galleries and institutions to the Grizot’s door, but an impressive collection of works by the late 20th century French artist Yonel Lebovici (1937-1998), whose catalogue raisonné has become highly covetable among in-the-know art aficionados.

Known for his creative contribution to lighting, he took the standard lamp to the level of artform, from his 1978 Fiche Màle, which transforms the plug, volte-face into an illuminated showpiece, or the Sputnik and Soucoupe lamps, inspired by his aeronautical studies. However, his imagination extended beyond, to the design of functional works, such as desks, bookcases and his celebrated Thon Bar.

The couple’s first meeting with the Parisian sculptor was in the 1970’s. “Lebovici was passionate about markets, he was a collector. He knew almost all the brokers who sold 20th century objects,” recalls Cyril Grizot. “Every fortnight he came to look around the market, he adored the atmosphere. That’s how I came to know him. We had on our stand, by chance, one or two of his works, then we discovered other works. Later we went to his workshop and became friends, but unfortunately at that time we had no means of buying his pieces as they were too expensive, but he already had some very wealthy clients who were collectors, many of whom were in show business. He was very à la mode.”

Fast forward to the eighties, while on a buying trip to New York to acquire an important collection of pieces by Jean Royère, the couple stumbled upon a collection of 11 sculptures by their friend and the couple were resolute - the entire collection had to be theirs.

In 1999, the couple attended a dinner in Paris, where a chance encounter with Yvon Poullain, a wealthy French industrialist and a personal friend and client of Lebovici, who had passed away one year previously, led to the founding of 15 square de Vergennes. This four-storey artspace, with two floors dedicated to a permanent collection of the late artist’s works, included the 11 pieces previously purchased in New York by the dealers. “We told Poullain that we wanted to make an important exhibition of Lebovici’s work in Paris and he said: ‘Listen, I have a project, a museum, and I would like to make a permanent Lebovici collection.’ At the end of the evening he accompanied us to our car and told us that he would like to purchase some pieces from our collection, but I told him ‘I cannot sell some of the fingers from my hand, if I sell it, it has to be all the collection.’ A month later he called and told me ‘I agree. I have the means to buy all your collection’ and we sold the entire collection to Yvon Poullain,” explains Cyril.

However, just as the Grizot’s collection grew from a passion, the couple felt a sense of loss from relinquishing their prized collection, and resolved to track down remaining Lebovici works. As Cyril recalls, “That same day, we looked up all the people that we knew who had pieces throughout the world and in two months we had bought all the pieces that we had heard about and rebuilt our collection. We paid over the odds for it, but it didn’t matter. Now there is always a minimum of about 30 pieces.”

In January 2003, Poullain’s museum project saw realization. Housed in the 1930’s atelier of master glass blower Louis Barillet, designed by the celebrated architect Robert Mallet-Stevens and Barillet, 15 Square de Vergennes is home to the permanent collection of works by Yonel Lebovici, as well as a gallery for temporary exhibitions and Artelab, an experimental laboratory created by the artist’s offspring, Yorane and Delphine.

Following the success of their 2007 exhibition in New York, this November Marie and Cyril Grizot plan to present their collection, an unprecedented sale of no less than 30 works. Ranging from 30,000 to 200,000 Euros, this is one of the biggest sales of the artist’s work, surpassing the New York sale that initially ignited the couple’s passion. “Lebovici was a work in progress that continued over many years, so if at the end of November, we sell many pieces, obviously we will start a new thing, but for now, we will concentrate solely on the exhibition, as it’s a long, slow work. We are now recognized by many professionals for his work, which is good. Now that we provide works for very large national and international collections, this gives us credibility. Lebovici did very beautiful work for over 30 years, from the 1970s until his death in 1998. He was an important decorative artist, but many were not aware of his work, so our job was simply to awaken them to it, to show him to the people. That’s why we exhibited for so many years at the Pavillon des Antiquaires and solo Lebovici shows,” says Cyril. As the collectibility of Lebovici’s work increases, so does its rarity. The November sale promises to be a high point among fans of French decorative arts, as well as die hard aficionados such as master jeweler Lorenz Bäumer, an avid Lebovici fan.

As Cyril concludes, the work of Yonel Lebovici remains as fresh and relevant more than two decades on. “He had a great imagination and was very inventive. Everyday objects such as a plug, a safety pin or even an iron table became sculptures. Each object corresponded to an era, the safety pin represented the punk movement, while the electrical outlet marked the pop period. Although he followed trends, he always gave his own personal twist, creating his own universe.”

The exposition will begin November 15 at Galerie Jacques Lacoste, Rue de Seine, 75006, Paris. T. +33 (0)1 40 20 41 82

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