When a sculptor makes furniture the decorative arts of Louis Cane

When a sculptor makes furniture: the decorative arts of Louis Cane

Infused with the revolutionary spirit of May 1968 yet inspired by the Ancien Régime, statement pieces from Cane’s workshops in Paris and on the French Riviera embody his unique vision. Offered online until 27 November

‘The war of taste is the only valid war, because it renders those who practise it civilised,’ says the painter and sculptor Louis Cane, whose remarkable collection of furniture and decorative art objects is celebrated by Christie’s Paris in an online sale, Louis Cane: Meubles et objets décoratifs, until 27 November.

Bringing together works from 1989 to 2019 that have been sourced from Cane’s own workshops and residences in Paris and on the French Riviera, the sale spans the range of his production, from desks and floor lamps to consoles and lanterns — in wood, bronze, resin, marquetry and trelliswork.

Louis Cane, painter and sculptor

Born in 1943, Cane studied interior design and both fine and decorative arts before embarking on a career in painting and sculpture. He belonged to a generation of artists who reached maturity in the revolutionary atmosphere of May 1968 and later formed the Supports/Surfaces movement — a short-lived but influential group that rejected the second School of Paris, pursuing a theoretical approach to painting.

Louis Cane (b. 1943), Lanterne aux singes jardiniers, le modèle créé en 2001. 151 x 55 cm  59½ x 21¾ in. Estimate €18,000-22,000. Offered in Louis Cane Meubles et objets décoratifs, 12-27 November 2020, Online
Louis Cane (b. 1943), Lanterne 'aux singes jardiniers', le modèle créé en 2001. 151 x 55 cm / 59½ x 21¾ in. Estimate: €18,000-22,000. Offered in Louis Cane Meubles et objets décoratifs, 12-27 November 2020, Online

Cane’s iconoclastic abstractions sought to free painting from its traditional constraints through the creative use of materials and a blurring of the lines between painting and sculpture. This exploration of materiality, and Cane’s in-depth knowledge of art history, would later inform his work as a designer.

‘While my main focus has been painting and sculpture,’ he says, ‘they have always fed my appetite for and interest in furniture and the decorative arts.’

‘Having my own workshops not only allows me to work directly with the best craftsmen, but they are also an opportunity to approach new materials and challenges’ — Louis Cane

In much the same way as he probed art historical references in his art, Cane’s furniture designs are steeped in their own past, particularly ‘the conspicuous and enlightened beauty of French 18th-century taste’.

Louis Cane, furniture designer

In bringing together historical forms and techniques, Cane has always been alert to the use of figuration and colour, and he has a deep admiration for the work of master craftsmen.

Louis Cane in his workshop, with Christie’s specialists Simon de Monicault (left) and Flavien Gaillard

Louis Cane in his workshop, with Christie’s specialists Simon de Monicault (left) and Flavien Gaillard

He set up his furniture workshops to employ the top practitioners in their fields: bronze workers, marquetry experts and cabinetmakers — and the sale celebrates them, too. 

‘I feel very privileged to have my own workshops,’ says Cane. ‘Not only do they allow me to work directly with the best craftsmen, but they are also a great opportunity to approach new materials and challenges.’

Louis Cane (b. 1943), Lampadaire adjustable ‘Perroquet’, le modèle créé en 2006. 153,5 cm  60⅜ in. Estimate €6,000-8,000. Offered in Louis Cane Meubles et objets décoratifs, 12-27 November 2020, Online
Louis Cane (b. 1943), Lampadaire adjustable ‘Perroquet’, le modèle créé en 2006. 153,5 cm / 60⅜ in. Estimate: €6,000-8,000. Offered in Louis Cane Meubles et objets décoratifs, 12-27 November 2020, Online

In their juxtaposition of materials and techniques, the lighting, furniture and decorative objects in the sale are both contemporary and timeless. ‘I often wonder about the reasons for the incredible wealth of creation in the 18th century,’ says Cane, ‘when cabinetmakers and sculptors created works that were both beautiful and easy to live with.’

Furniture and decorative art objects have always been an ‘essential part’ of his work, he says, and the partnership with Christie’s has enabled him to create a retrospective of his output.

Louis Cane: Meubles et objets décoratifs offers a distillation of Cane’s practice,’ says Simon de Monicault, head of European Furniture and Works of Art at Christie’s in Paris. ‘It is an opportunity to look at the many exciting aspects of his work — his creativity combined with perfection of execution; rigour combined with imagination.’

Sale highlights

Among the highlights of the auction is Cane’s Lanterne ‘aux singes jardiniers’  from 2001. A white-coated bronze lantern adorned with gardening monkeys, it is part of a group of neoclassical lanterns and standing lamps created in the spirit of the picturesque plaster and bronze furnishings of Diego Giacometti (1902-1985).

Louis Cane (b. 1943), Console Ruban, le modèle crée en 2008. 92,5 x 124 x 27 cm  36⅜ x 48¾ x 10⅝ in. Estimate €8,000-12,000. Offered in Louis Cane Meubles et objets décoratifs, 12-27 November 2020, Online
Louis Cane (b. 1943), Console 'Ruban', le modèle crée en 2008. 92,5 x 124 x 27 cm / 36⅜ x 48¾ x 10⅝ in. Estimate: €8,000-12,000. Offered in Louis Cane Meubles et objets décoratifs, 12-27 November 2020, Online

The sinuous Console ‘Ruban’ (‘Ribbon’ console, above) in sanded oak, from 2008, exemplifies Cane’s desire to celebrate ‘the sensuality of the surface long since lost in art’, while his Bureau ‘aux papillons’ (‘Butterfly’ desk, below), created in ebony and marquetry in 1998, recalls the ‘harmony of line, colour, proportion and distribution of materials’ of the Ancien Régime furniture Cane so admires.

Louis Cane (b. 1943), Bureau aux papillons, le modèle créé en 1998. 75 x 105 x 47,5 cm  29½ x 41⅓ x 18¾ in. Estimate €12,000-18,000. Offered in Louis Cane Meubles et objets décoratifs, 12-27 November 2020, Online

Louis Cane (b. 1943), Bureau 'aux papillons', le modèle créé en 1998. 75 x 105 x 47,5 cm / 29½ x 41⅓ x 18¾ in. Estimate: €12,000-18,000. Offered in Louis Cane Meubles et objets décoratifs, 12-27 November 2020, Online

In their graceful silhouettes, refined craftsmanship and use of exquisite materials, other lots in the sale echo the work of 20th-century French designers including the Art Deco masters Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann (1879-1933), Armand-Albert Rateau (1882-1938) and Eugène Printz (1889-1948).

Louis Cane (b. 1943), Console ‘aux joncs’, le modèle créé en 1994. 93,5 x 151 x 28 cm  36¾ x 59½ x 11 in. Estimate €8,000-12,000. Offered in Louis Cane Meubles et objets décoratifs, 12-27 November 2020, Online
Louis Cane (b. 1943), Console ‘aux joncs’, le modèle créé en 1994. 93,5 x 151 x 28 cm / 36¾ x 59½ x 11 in. Estimate: €8,000-12,000. Offered in Louis Cane Meubles et objets décoratifs, 12-27 November 2020, Online

Cane’s botanical caprices — the Console ‘aux joncs’ (‘Rushes’ console, above) of 1994, for instance, or his Saule pleureur  (below), a bronze rendering of a weeping willow from 2018 — conjure the playful spirit of works by François-Xavier (1927-2008) and Claude Lalanne (1924-2019).

Louis Cane (b. 1943), Saule pleureur, pièce unique, 2018. 32 x 23 cm  12½ x 9 in. Estimate €2,000-4,000. Offered in Louis Cane Meubles et objets décoratifs, 12-27 November 2020, Online
Louis Cane (b. 1943), 'Saule pleureur', pièce unique, 2018. 32 x 23 cm / 12½ x 9 in. Estimate: €2,000-4,000. Offered in Louis Cane Meubles et objets décoratifs, 12-27 November 2020, Online

Elsewhere, works such as his bench in teak and bronze and his ‘Clavette’ console in steel and glass from 1998 clearly demonstrate Cane’s ability to render exquisite simplicity of form.

Louis Cane, curator

Running alongside the sale of Cane’s own furniture, Christie’s Paris has invited Cane to curate two upcoming auctions, The Exceptional Sale on 24 November and The Collector: le goût français on 28 November.

‘We are placing the sales under his artistic gaze as a painter, sculptor and designer,’ says de Monicault — and it seems Cane couldn’t be more delighted with his role as creator, curator and tastemaker.

‘These challenging times have been a wonderful opportunity for new and unexpected projects,’ he says.