We meet Didier Teissoniere in his apartment in the Marais quarter in Paris. On the doorbell an iconic name: Francis Bacon (1909-1992). The flat is the old atelier of this Irish-born figurative painter. Needless to say we were entering a very special place.
Since when do you live here? And how do you find a place like this?
I’ve been here for 4 years now. I found this apartment trough someone I know in real estate. It’s owned by Francis Bacon’s biographer who knew Francis during 10 years of his life. Francis Bacon bought this atelier in 1974, the same year as his retrospective.
It must be special to live in the old place of such a master.
It’s very special. In the beginning it was strange even. If you see his work, he was a troubled, dark soul. It was strange to be here by myself. A friend of mine, Mathias Kiss, redid the place. In 4 years a lot of things have changed, except for the kitchen. My interior changes a lot. It’s been like this for 4 months now.
The eye catcher must be the Charlotte Perriand library.
Absolutely, it’s the Tunisian model, one of Perriand’s most rare pieces. Even more so than the Mexican model. It’s such a strong piece. I love to see it when I wake up in the morning. I’m lucky to have room enough to place it. That’s the one thing that I won’t change.
Since when do you have it? Was it hard to get it?
I’ve had it since 3 years. And it’s been quiet a journey to get it. There are only 25 pieces in the entire world, so it’s very rare. It’s the most important piece of my career. I don’t know if I’ll keep it forever, but it will take a lot for me to let it go.
Is there a certain piece that might make you want to trade it in?
I’m not sure. Lately, I like the work of Pietro Fornasetti a lot. But for now the question does not arise. In the first place ofcourse I’m a dealer, not a collector. Like you Lenz! (turns to Lenz, City-Furniture, who’s busy taking pictures) We are not collectors, we are fucking dealers!
What makes you a dealer?
The love for the quest, to find a certain piece. The Perriand library is a piece I always wanted to have. But you need 3 things to make it happen: you need to find it, the owner needs to want to sell and you need the money to buy it. In this case the 3 elements came together perfectly.
I also see a lot of Corbusier elements in your interior.
True, I love the great masters like Le Corbusier, Prouvé, Perriand,..
Which designer has been most significant in your career?
The subject of my work is Gras a French lamp designer. I wrote a book about him and I’m currently working on a new one: on Le Corbusier vs. the Gras lamp. I’ve started collecting the lamps since 1998. I had a lot of them and wanted to do an exposition. I did some research and found some connections with Le Corbusier and other architects like Mallet-Stevens. After researching I wanted to make a small catalogue, but it became a book.
How long did it take you to write it?
10 years! It’s a lot of work, but it’s a passion. We couldn’t find a lot about Gras. We had to start from scratch. We new Ravel was the manufacturer, between contacting them and receiving the info 1 year went by. I had a student who helped me researching one day a week. Sometimes weeks would go by with no result. It was very frustrating at times. But then we found a picture or document and that kept us going. We also went to take some pictures in the Le Corbusier house Maison Guiette (Antwerp) now owned by Anne Demeulemeester. The Gras lamps remained untouched, they are still there at the exact same spot since the 30’s
What was your motivation to dedicate yourself to the Gras lamp?
I believe that the Gras lamp is the most forgotten design piece of the 20th century. Prouvé, Le Corbusier and Perriand got their recognition, but the Gras lamp was there long before. A lot of people know it, but not its history. The Gras lamp is an important piece in the French, industrial design heritage.
I can see your library is filled with a nice art book collection.
Yes, I bought a lot of books to do research for my book. My books are my real wealth, even more so than my furniture.
Because they are really mine. I didn’t buy them to sell them. I read them all and I love them. I’ve been collecting books since 14 years.
And the only book missing in your collection was about the Gras lamps, so you decided to write it yourself.
Something like that yes (laughs)
When did you know you wanted to be a design dealer?
Since I was 7. My father was an army collector. I used to love to go to flea markets with him, see the dealers at work and the old furniture. I knew that that was what I wanted to be. I opened my first shop at age 29. I bought it together with a stock of antique furniture. After selling that stock I stared selling Prouvé, the Gras lamps,.. I sold my shop 2 months ago, after 13 years. I prefer to be free and not tight down to a location.
Who’s your biggest inspiration?
My wife Louise. She’s from Sweden and moved to Paris 4 yeas ago. I met her shortly after moving in in this apartment. It was a new beginning on all levels.
She’s also in design, she represents Design House of Stockholm in France.
DIDIER TEISSONIERE : http://galerieteisso.com/
BOOK >> ‘LA LAMPE GRAS’ on AMAZON