A small brown leather armchair once owned by Yves Saint Laurent was sold for £19.4 million, making it the most expensive piece of 20th-century design to ever be auctioned.
The armchair, by Irish designer Eileen Gray, was only expected to reach around £3 million at Christie’s in Paris.
But despite the global recession, frenzied bidding between the world’s richest furniture collectors pushed the price to more than six times the estimate.
The chair, just 24 inches high, 61 cms was the highlight of a £90 million sale of decorative art, paintings and silver collections of Yves Saint Laurent and the founder of his couture house, Pierre Berge.
It was bought by specialist Paris art gallery Robert and Cheska Vallois.
The unique piece – known as the “dragons’ armchair because of the ornate sculptures on its sweeping armrests – was created between 1917 and 1919 by Miss Gray, who moved to London in 1898 to study at the Slade School of Fine Art.
She became renowned for the luxurious finish of her lacquered furniture.
The chair was originally owned by Suzanne Talbot, Eileen Gray’s first and most important patron.
Philippe Garner, Christie’s international head of 20th Century Decorative Art and Design, said yesterday: “It is a fabulous price. The sale was a homage to the great personalities, designers, collectors, and patrons who so marked their era in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s and to the pioneering vision of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge as collectors.”
“They were the great tastemakers of their age. The extraordinary price shows that collectors still have a fierce appetite when presented with an opportunity to buy something unique and of the very best quality.”
History of Eileen Gray: http://www.eileengray.co.uk/