Rediscovering the work of Andrée Putman

In France, the Fondation CAB Saint-Paul-de-Vence and Villa Noailles reinstate the creative and unconventional image of the French curator of interiors with an exhibition that runs until 29 October 2023

Andrée Putman, 1978 – Photo © Deidi von Schaewen
Andrée Putman, 1978 – Photo © Deidi von Schaewen

“Sometimes it takes courage to make a decision that could upset someone but that turns out to be the right one”. This peremptory declaration from Andrée Putman, the talented interior designer who died ten years ago, succinctly defines the attitude that guided her throughout her career.

Apartment of Andrée Putman in Paris, 1980. Photo © Deidi von Schaewen
Apartment of Andrée Putman in Paris, 1980 – Photo © Deidi von Schaewen
Bathroom at Morgan's hotel, New York. Photo © Deidi von Schaewen
Bathroom at Morgan’s hotel, New York – Photo © Deidi von Schaewen

An exhibition at the Fondation CAB Saint-Paul-de-Vence that runs until 29 October 2023, describes her through previously unseen works and archive material. The daughter of a bourgeois family, with an intellectual father who chose an austere life in response to the wealthy social setting from which he came, and an extravagant pianist mother, Andrée Putman (born in 1925) couldn’t help but display an early taste for rejecting convention.

Experience as a journalist was followed by work as a fashion designer, then a fruitful period at the Mafia agency and the creation of the innovative Créateurs et Industriels together with friend Didier Grumbach, specialised in the development of ready-to-wear.

Le Bon Marché department store, Paris, 1989
Le Bon Marché department store, Paris, 1989

Finally the founding of the company Ecart International that brought back into the light some of the great names of the 1930s such as Eileen Gray, René Herbst, Jean-Michel Frank, Pierre Chareau, Robert Mallet-Stevens. These are all life experiences that go to make up the puzzle that represents the multi-faceted and non-conformist universe of the ‘grande dame’ of French design.

Office Ecart International, Paris – Photo © Deidi von Schaewen
Office Ecart International, Paris – Photo © Deidi von Schaewen
Ministère de la Culture,  Paris, 1985
One of Putman’s most high-profile interventions: the Ministry of Culture in Paris, 1985

The exhibition, that has arisen from a three year partnership between the Fondation CAB and Villa Noailles in Hyères, a centre dedicated to contemporary creation, pays homage to Putman’s characteristic monochromatic graphics as well as to her insightful connection between art, fashion and design, present in the interior design projects that are curated with great taste and refinement.

An impressive intuition led her to grasp – ahead of everyone – the social transformations concealed behind the furniture and architecture born out of the Modern Movement, and also to invent the concept of the “boutique hotel”, so fashionable today.

Concorde interior by Andrée Putman
Reconstruction of the interior of the Concorde, designed by Andrée Putman

Andrée Putman designed hotels, private houses, offices and shops all over the world as well as objects and furniture, always taking an approach that aimed to democratise design, creating modern pieces at an accessible price. “I like the beautiful and the useful, and even more the beauty of the useful” she said. It is this notion that led her to set up Studio Putman in 1997, specialised in interior architecture, design and scenography. In 2007 she entrusted it to her daughter Olivia, a cumbersome but also wonderfully fascinating legacy.