Downsizing prompts designer Kenzo to auction art

Kenzo is a worldwide brand, as evidenced by this Shanghai billboard. Wikipedia image.

Kenzo is a worldwide brand, as evidenced by this Shanghai billboard. Wikipedia image.

PARIS (AP) – Japanese fashion designer Kenzo Takada will auction off some of the art that inspired his East-meets-West style, as he trades his plush Paris mansion for smaller digs on the Seine River.

From Hopi Kachina dolls to bronze Buddhas, more than 1,000 pieces acquired over the past two decades will be on the block at the June 16-17 sale organized by Aguttes auction house, the designer and his auctioneer said Tuesday.

The catalog isn’t finished yet because Kenzo is hesitating about which objects to keep.

But most of the collection will have to go. Kenzo has sold the12,000-square-foot Japanese-style wooden house that he built in 1987 in the courtyard of an apartment building near Paris’ Place de la Bastille, and will move into a Left Bank apartment about one-quarter that size this summer.

“After 20 years in this house, I wanted to turn the page and live lighter,” Kenzo told The Associated Press in an interview after a guided visit through the sprawling house. “For parties, it was great, but sometimes when I’m here alone, it’s far too big.”

But not too big for his collection: Every conceivable surface is covered with objects that, displayed just so, give the house a museum quality. Paintings, photographs and engravings cover nearly every wall. Vases, sculptures and curios sprout from tables and chests of drawers.

Most of the pieces are from Asia, but the collection also includes 19th-century Kachina dolls from the American Southwest, masks made by the Punu people of Gabon and a hatchet from a remote Pacific island.

Star lots include a set of 16th-century red lacquerwear from a Japanese monastery and an 8th-century goddess statuette from Thailand made of 21 ounces of near-pure gold – estimated at $81,000 to $135,000. A Chinese wooden sculpture of a horse dating from the 2nd century B.C. is estimated at $108,000-$135,000.

Many other items will be offered for less, starting around $300.

In total the auction is expected to fetch $2 million-$2.7 million, sale organizer Claude Aguttes said.

“This is not your typical collection built with European taste around big, prestigious pieces,” Aguttes said, alluding to the collection of late, great designer Yves Saint Laurent, which netted a $484 million at a Paris
auction last month.

“Kenzo’s guiding principle in buying art was beauty, not prestige. He bought what caught his eye,” the organizer said.

Kenzo said he started collecting in the early 1990s as a way of filling up the house, which was built upon the foundation of an empty warehouse.

“For years, I spent my weekends hunting all the galleries in Paris,” he said, adding that he will likely be making the rounds again after he sells the collection.

“I’ll have a new place to decorate,” he said with a laugh.

The new apartment in the tiny Saint-Germain-des-Pres neighborhood will havea distinctly European flavor, he said: No more wooden paneling, no more bamboo garden or koi pond, made from rocks imported from Japan.

A family has bought the mansion – which has two kitchens, a super-size walk-in closet, a skylight-lit artist’s atelier and an indoor pool – and is to move in June, Aguttes said. He declined to name the buyers or the price,
but media reports have put it at around $13.5 million.

Kenzo, who was born in Himeji, Japan, in 1939, leapt to fame in the 1980s with his perfumes and a high-end ready-to-wear line known for giving Western garments an elegant eastern touch. He sold the line to French luxury goods giant LVMH in 1993 and retired from the company six years later. Since then, he has taken up painting and interior design.

“I discovered Japan only after I had moved to Paris,” Kenzo said, sitting pool-side in a dapper houndstooth suit. “Now I’m going to rediscover Paris.

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