By 1958 Arbus was established as the preferred architect-decorator for official state commissions and could include the Washington D.C. offices of the French ambassador to the United States, and the Paris offices of the Secretary-General of NATO amongst his recent appointments. It was therefore appropriate that Arbus should be invited to design, together with Jacques Adnet, the 'Appartement d’un Collectioneur’ that would represent a focal point of the French Pavillion at the International World’s Fair, Brussels, April - October 1958. For this platform, Arbus assembled artworks by the leading artists and sculptors of the day, to include sculptures by Braque, César and Alberto Giacometti, amongst others.
The centerpiece of this exhibition was to be a work of Arbus’s own design, a salon suite that comprised of a pair of lounge chairs and a corresponding, asymmetric tête-à-tête settee. The brief that Arbus set himself was to dispense with traditional techniques of cabinetry, to utilize only metals in the execution of his design. The furnishings were executed by Mercier Frères and the bronze platforms cast by Susse Fondeur – one of France’s oldest foundries, established in 1758. The dramatic sweeping styling of the seat-form was able to fluently synthesize references to the Antique, notably the Klismos chairs of ancient Greece, with the modern, soaring profiles of progressive contemporary architecture. With a seat-shell of hand-formed aluminum, sheathed in perfectly smooth-grained cognac leather, and resting upon a tripod base of patinated, rough-cast bronze, the design offers a uniquely exceptional vision of futuristic fantasy underscored by Ancient memory, and delivered with bespoke, couture luxury.
The suite was never produced for retail, and the exact numbers delivered is not recorded. Contemporary photographs illustrate that the suite exhibited in Brussels, 1958, was finished in white leather. A pair of lounge chairs, finished in white leather, came to market in 2006 from the estate of Madeleine Thorel-Arbus, the designer’s daughter. Another suite, finished in cognac leather as these examples, was sold Phillips New York, 10 June 1998, lot 294. It is also recorded that in December 1958, Mercier Frères presented an example of this suite at their faubourg Saint-Antoine, Paris, showrooms, to celebrate the hundred-and-thirtieth anniversary of their establishment, however the specifics of the leather upholstery to that example are not documented.