In all, Touchaleaume spent almost six months locating the structures, negotiating their sale, dismantling them and spiriting them from Brazzaville through rebel territory to the coast. After a $3 million restoration, the dealer unveiled the larger of the two on the banks of the Seine last September, during the Paris Biennale; he is putting it up for sale at Christie’s New York on the fifth of this month.
The burly, balding and bestubbled Touchaleaume roars around Paris on a 1973 Kawasaki motorcycle. “His appearance matches his personality,” says Art Deco expert and longtime acquaintance Jean-Marcel Camard. “Strong, massive, robust, reliable—no diplomat, but a friend you can trust. Eric’s not afraid of making investments and taking risks. He’s a great dealer,” Camard continues, “and he has really exploded on the scene over the last four or five years.”
Touchaleaume appreciates Prouve’s creations for their streamlined elegance and use of metal. “Furniture bores me,” he says, referring to traditional pieces. “But Prouve’s work is more like sculpture. And I’ve always been passionate about metal. I like the industrial aesthetic, the rigor with a hint of folly.”
The son of Victor Prouve, a founder of the Ecole de Nancy, Jean Prouve was born in that eastern French city in 1901 and trained as an ironworker before founding his own workshop there, in 1929. He practiced as both an architect and furniture designer, often collaborating with Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand who, along with Prouve, Touchaleaume likes to call the “four musketeers of Design.”