Andrée Putman: War against symmetry

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Reviewed on 11/7/2010 | 2 Reviews


The interior designer has died aged 87

She was tall, she was straight, she had allure. Andrée Putman, one of the contemporary world’s leading interior designers, looked a bit as if she had designed herself. Last Saturday, Putman died at her home, aged 87.

Photo: © AFP, Catherine Kugelman

Her funeral was hold yesterday, Wednesday, at the Eglise Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

When I met Andrée Putman a couple of years ago, she still looked beautiful for her age, classical and extravagant at the same time. She was the kind of women that made turn around heads when she entered a room, even at the age of 84.

Last time I saw her, it was on the Eiffel tower, a press lunch. She just had redesigned the Morgan’s Hotel in New York that she had done for the first time in 1983, what had brought her worldwide recognition. It was acclaimed as “a revolution in beige and grey”. It was her breakthrough.

Putman herself looked like being a sight

More than two decades later, in Alain Ducasse’s restaurant Jules Verne, Putman was posing for the photographs. It was an easy game for them. In front of the steel girders and the urban landscape of Paris in miniature down to her feet she looked as if she herself would be a sight. The hair cut a bit asymmetrically, always lipstick on her lips, the chararcteristic nose proudly presented to the observer. This day, she was wearing black Rayban glasses and bicolour shoes from Chanel. It’s an art in itself to look that cool at that age.

From the Concorde to the Guggenheim

Putman was une touche a tout, how she put it, somebody who tries everything, like a child. She designed furniture, grand pianos, the houses of celebrities like Karl Lagerfeld, Bernard-Henri Levy and much other. She designed flagship stores, hotels, she transformed the Guggenheim museum, did the interiors of the Concorde airplane and even filmsettings for Peter Greenaway.

Some years before this lunch at the Jules Verne, I had a long conversation with Putman in her office, a beautiful townhouse in the 14th. She was wide-awake intellectually, talking about her loves and her allergies. About Samuel Beckett, a friend of hers, and the painters she adored. She hates, she said, le bon gout, the good taste. “I was fighting”, she said, “a lifelong war against the good taste.”

Modernity is a state of mind

She hated also symmetry: “one lamp on the right side of the fireplace, the other on the left side, gosh”, she shuddered with disgust.

Putman changed French aesthetics. Philippe Starck without her is unthinkable. She actually liberated the French of their rococo plush. She was radically modern. But she understood modernity as something out of the time. As a state of mind. I guess she has won her war.

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User reviews

  1. fiona sullivan 28 April 2011 Reply

    Andree Putman is extraordinary and fascinating.

  2. Erich 20 October 2011 Reply

    Her 1980’s firm was called Ecart which backwards is ironic, Trace. Was there a reason for that? I was reviewing a few books with friends and we clearly noticed the design for the Levy apartment in Paris in the book Paris Style compared to Mario Botta’s design for a Swiss loft shown in the 1983 book Il Colore, and they are nearly identical spaces to us from the kitchen right down to the fireplace. We had to look twice because one almost looked like the other in reverse. Was one, the other, or both collaboration? We did not see collaboration stated in either publication.

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