There has recently been renewed interest in the sculptor and ceramist, who died last year at 96. The price of her works is rising steadily, as witnessed by the sale of her studio contents—with a world record to boot.
Valentine Schlegel (1925-2021), pair of polished gilt bronze andirons with wrought iron log holders and head supports, 1968, edition of three, 37 x 13 x 24 cm/14.6 x 5.1 x 9.4 in.
The auction took place in the intimate world of the sculptor's studio-house on the Rue Bezout in Paris, which she had shared since 1976 with Yvonne Brunhammer (1927-2021). The sale of its contents, totaling €697,379, began with some 40 bas-reliefs and models, which garnered €230,146 in all. Schlegel, born in Sète, the daughter of a restorer and granddaughter of a cabinetmaker, had adopted plaster as her favorite material starting in 1959 with a series of custom-made "sculptures for living" ("sculptures à vivre"). With her assistants, she modeled a hundred-odd interiors using a trowel and reinforced plaster, including the one in her studio-house in the Alésia district in Paris. Her free-form works were the most sought-after, like the one in stripped redwood (see photo), made for her house in Sète, which smashed its high estimate of €500/700 when it soared up to €27,940. The everyday objects she made herself were also highly popular. Her free-form Maison lamp (h. 47 cm/18.5 in.) in plaster with a red-tinted patina on the inside and polychrome glass fragments, a unique piece dating from 1986, fetched €25,400: again, far above its estimate (€1,000/1,500). An admirable rectangular dining room table (109.5 x 60.5 x 72.5 cm/43.1 x 23.8 x 28.5 in) went for €53,340. But it was a pair of bronze andirons (reproduced here) that literally set buyers ablaze: they went to a new hearth at €86,360, earning the artist a new world record (source: Artnet) since her Coeur (Heart) was sold at Drouot on June 3 for €74,240. The Musée des Arts Décoratifs exercised its right of preemption several times, notably for a small plaster model of a fireplace (10 x 20 cm/3.9 x 7.8 in) at €3,077, and a pedestal table model 203 aka Kyoto (h. 72.5 cm/28.5 in) in white terrazzo and chrome-plated metal by Shiro Kuramata (1934-1992), at €7,948.