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Over the course of nearly 50 years, Marc Corbiau has cultivated a pioneering architectural practice renowned for its geometric purity, linear elegance and exquisite visual harmony. His buildings combine classical simplicity with a modernist economy of means, playing with the symbiotic relationship between form and function.
Corbiau has described himself as an ‘architect of walls’: an assertion borne out in the finely-calibrated interplay of structural divisions within his buildings. At the same time, his constructions are conceived holistically, with consideration given to the building’s natural surroundings and interior décor.
A home designed by Marc Corbiau
In this vein, Corbiau has worked closely with a number of celebrated designers, including Claire Bataille, Jean De Meulder, Axel Vervoordt, Christian Liaigre, Raoul Cavadias and Jean-Jacques Hervy, as well as landscape architects such as Jacques Wirtz, Claude Rebold, André Van Wassenhove and Jean Delogne.
Art has always played a central role in Corbiau’s outlook, not only adorning the walls of his creations, but also informing the development of his architectural language. ‘As a young boy, my father surrounded me with books on art and I have been very lucky’ he observes ‘always to have been immersed in beauty’.
Left: Robert Mangold, Untitled, 1973. Acrylic and pencil on canvas. 72 x 72 in. (182.8 x 182.8 cm.) Estimate: £300,000-500,000. Right: Richard Serra, C.C. III, 1983-1984. Paintstick on paper. 80 1/8 x 96 1/8 in. (203.5 x 244 cm.) Estimate: £250,000-350,000. These works are offered in the Post War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction on 11 February at Christie’s in London. Both photographed in Marc and Frederique Corbiau’s Brussels home © PHDPH.com
He bought his first work of art at the age of 23, when he also acquired his first clients. This was a statue by Yves Klein titled La victoire de Samothrace and he and his wife Frederique still have this work. It cost Corbiau a month’s wage.
His first clients, the Delvilles, were a great influence on him and his engagement with art. Working on this first project nearly 50 years ago, Marc explains that he ‘learned from them that art is a very important element within architecture.’
Coming to prominence in the 1960s, as he did, Corbiau was deeply inspired by the rise of minimalism; the works offered in Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction chart the changing currents of the movement from precursors such as Lucio Fontana and Yayoi Kusama to international artists such as Donald Judd, Robert Mangold, Richard Serra, Frank Stella and Jan Schoonhoven and their contemporary heirs; Rudolf Stingel and Christopher Wool.
Donald Judd (1928–1994), Untitled (Menziken 87-52), 1987. Anodized aluminium and Plexiglas. 10 × 40 × 10 in. (25.5 × 101.6 × 25.5 cm.) Estimate: xxxxxxxx. This work is offered in the Post War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction on 11 February at Christie’s in London
Marc Corbiau describes his collection as a ‘a kind of total happiness; I try to have a coherent collection and strive to have unity within this collection and within my house. I want to live among my works, and they live together with me’. This is why he doesn’t have any storage for his art… everything he has is displayed in his house.
All were handpicked with a penetrating eye for quality and his collection bears witness to the crystalline aesthetic vision that has come to define Corbiau’s architecture.
Jan Schoonhoven (1914–1994), Relief, 1971. Painted cardboard relief. 43 7/8 x 33 7/8 in. (111.5 x 86 cm.) Estimate: £180,000-250,000. This work is offered in the Post War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction on 11 February at Christie’s in London
‘There hasn’t really been an evolution in my taste or in the collection’ he points out; he strives to create a sort of dream world, a very cerebral world. He likes more powerful art but prefers to look at it in places other than his own house: ‘I prefer the pleasure of the spirit rather than reflection.’
He says, adding that he has never liked the idea of ‘possessing’ works of art. For him, a collection is something more abstract, not so much the possession of a work, but the experience of ‘a little moment of joy and I always looks for a sense of ‘chic’ in the art I choose for my architectural projects and for myself.’
And now? ‘Art today is more difficult than it used to be’ he says. ‘It is more destructive and less focused’, or as he puts it ‘Tout va dans tous les sens’.
Main image at top, left: Marc and Frederique Corbiau in their home in Brussels © PHDPH.com. Right: Lucio Fontana (1899–1968), Concetto Spaziale, Attese, 1964. Waterpaint on canvas. 25 3/4× 21 1/2 in. (65.5 × 54.5 cm.) Estimate: £1,200,000-1,800,000. This work is offered in the Post War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction on 11 February at Christie’s in London
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