The furnishings come from the French Riviera residence he shared with his wife, Betty—an Yves Saint Laurent muse
Immediately prior to his death in November 2020, legendary designer François Catroux completed his last interior—an apartment for himself and his wife Betty Catroux in Nice, France. (Betty, notably, was a muse to Yves Saint Laurent.) Earlier today Sotheby’s revealed that it will sell that residence’s art, antiques, and contemporary collectibles in a dedicated auction scheduled for February 24.
Located within the Palais Maeterlinck in Nice, the residence was something of a balm to Catroux, who “thought of it to end his days calmly,” says Florent Jeanniard, the Paris–based worldwide co-head of 20th-century design for Sotheby’s. Jeanniard, who recalls hand-delivering auction catalogs to Catroux’s office, adds, “Life decided otherwise, so Betty and her daughters decided to sell the apartment, because François was no longer there to take advantage of it.”
In addition to an enviable roster of dynastic clients, Catroux was widely admired for an era-spanning eclecticism that, while always striving for freshness, favored electrifying contemporary gestures and discipline. Jeanniard says the Palais Maeterlinck apartment was largely emblematic of Catroux’s design perspective. Combinations of objects as chronologically unrelated as a 12-panel coromandel screen and various works by Ron Arad offer “a wonderful lesson in integration,” Jeanniard notes, adding that the Arad pieces as well as artwork by Tom Wesselmann and two Catroux-designed consoles are highlights of the upcoming sale.
Yet the apartment also contained idiosyncratic items that distinguish the project as Catroux’s personal domain. Among them are the famously “terrifying” portraits of François and Betty shot by Horst P. Horst in 1970, artwork by Luis Tomasello, and an Indonesian armchair. The catalog accompanying the upcoming Sotheby’s auction will include in-situ photographs of multiple lots, Jeanniard says. “I know the idea of showing this work pleased the Catroux family,” she says.
Today’s news comes on the heels of Sotheby’s surpassing its 2020 design sales by 164% in 2021, achieving a record-breaking $264 million in global sales in the category. Auctions of private collections generated $179.7 million of that total. When asked whether February’s Catroux event is poised to harness that momentum, Jeanniard expresses a cautious optimism: “This sale reflects a taste, a style, which I believe corresponds to a certain desire of the moment [for a] mixture of styles, eras, and genres… Only great decorators or personalities with a strong aesthetic sense can achieve this.”
The auction will comprise approximately 100 items, and other talents represented include Christian Bérard, Jean Cocteau, Lucio Fontana, Serge Manzon, Ingo Maurer, Zoran Mušič, Ettore Sottsass, Martin Szekely, Victor Vasarely, and Xavier Veilhan. In a press statement, Sotheby’s said that additional details are forthcoming.