Design Masterworks 19 May 2016

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Jean Claude Dresse

Rare and Important coffee table

Belgium, c. 1970
applied and etched brass tiles, brass, agate
56 w x 54 d x 14¼ h in (142 x 137 x 36 cm)

estimate: $30,000–50,000

Incised signature to edge: [Dresse].

provenance: An Important Parisian Collection

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An Interview with Jean Claude Dresse

February 2016

How are the tables made? How many did you make?Can you explain the technique?

The tables are built on an engineered wooden structure that makes the forms solid and rigid. Then the frame is circled with a copper welded ring and the pre-cut and hammered mosaics are assembled using polyester glue. The tables are all made by hand from scratch. The only tools used are shears for cutting the mosaics and a polisher to finish the works.

Our workshop achieved renown through the work of metal mosaics, an exclusive technique which requires extraordinary patience and thoroughness. The hand-hammered mosaics enrich the forms by making each work more precious. The mosaics are often underlined by the inlay
of an agate stone or a fossil wood, which transforms a piece of furniture
into a true work of art.

What is the context for this transition from furniture to painting? Were they simultaneous pursuits?

I started my professional life as furniture designer and producer. Together with my father Marcel, we produced multiple items for Belgian and international designers. At the end of the 1980s the market trend was going down and the need for designer furniture was reducing. In addition, the production of tables was a two man operation. When my father passed away I decided to move towards painting, unable to handle the workload alone.

Where did you train, and what were your influences?

I spent five years at Charleroi School of fine arts where I learned drawing and all required techniques to become an artist. I am from an artistic family; my father was a sculptor and several other relatives were musicians or artists.

What is the context for brutalism and materiality in Belgium among all of the artists and designers who work in this vein?

The design was at that time influenced by regional market players and international design trends that focused on the use metal and stones in the fabrication of furniture. The shapes and overall designs were influenced by the trends. But, keep in mind that we were the first to produce metal based mosaic tables.

What makes these works masterpieces?

These three works of art are some of the workshop’s best and they were made for an important interior by a prestigious Parisian decorator.

How prolific were you at the time?

The production was ad-hoc based on designer and client orders or projects. It could vary from one to several pieces a month depending on the size of the projects or number of projects handled by the designers. Metal mosaic was not the only technique we employed, we worked with semiprecious stones, lacquer or metal engravings were also shaped in a very original and exclusive ways.

How were the pieces shown or retailed? Direct to client or through designers?

All pieces were sold through designers. We had no direct contact with the client or end user. The designers gathered requirements based on client desires related to the interior and the ambiance within.

And distributors outside Belgium?

We were working with several distributors. Some were in Belgium and others were abroad, mainly in Paris. They were part of our distribution channel helping us to identify customers.