On the occasion of the auction of the Sentou Collection, we have the opportunity to rediscover the emblematic objects that have shaped the image of this French design house... whose adventure is just beginning.
Roger Tallon (1929-2011) designer for the “Crypto Café” by Sentou éditeur, Cryptogamme, model initially designed in 1969, series created for the exhibition in the furniture company's showroom for the 50th anniversary of the creation of the model, set in lacquered polyester resin and methacrylate, comprising two high tables (h. 73 cm/28.7 in), a coffee table (h. 43 cm/17 in), a side table (h. 42 cm/16.5 in), a stool (h. 52 cm/ 20.5 in), a tall lamp (h. 92 cm/ 36.2 in) and a low lamp (h. 62 cm/ 24.4 in).
The 164 lots in this sale have been carefully selected. Here we find the very essence of Sentou, the furniture and objects emblematic of this French design house, which is proudly celebrating its seventy-fifth anniversary. When Pierre Romanet took over the management of the company in 1990, upon the retirement of Robert Sentou (1922-2008), he discovered in the original workshop of the company, in the town of Lalinde, in the Périgord, "the historical basis of this collection": the prototypes of the designers who participated in the emergence of the brand in the 1950s and 1960s. Among the most famous is Charlotte Perriand, with notably a suite of three Chamrousse armchairs in ash and straw-based on the famous Fauteuil n° 21, estimated at €5,000/8,000, and Roger Tallon. There are several TS chairs by Tallon in laminated veneer and white melamine that will be within your reach (€200/300 each). Each one of these chairs was kept by Sentou as "benchmarks" to serve as models for potential new editions. Therefore, here we will not find pieces currently sold on the Sentou website, nor furniture produced in large series, but designs from the catalog, first editions and limited editions.
Limited Editions and Exhibition Pieces
For thirty years, Pierre Romanet worked to enrich this collection with exhibitions organized by the gallery—nearly forty in twenty-five years dedicated to designers or highlighting particular themes, such as time periods or voyages; in one exhibition, he selected a chair, in the other a light fixture, all of which are reminders of the gallery's rich past. "We were the first to represent Droog Design in the 1990s, which was a very avant-garde choice," he explains. Founded in 1993 by Gijs Bakker and Renny Ramakers, this Dutch firm has collaborated with a number of designers to create innovative pieces with a highly polished industrial finish. It is with the very experimental Rody Graumans that they developed 85 Lamps in 1993, of which a copy of the very first generation, exhibited at Sentou Gallery in 1996, is estimated at €600/800. Among the rare editions is the Copacabana lounge chair, designed around 1964-1965 by Mathieu Matégot and produced by the company run by his sons, presented exclusively in 2007 at the time of the exhibition devoted to the artist by the Sentou Gallery (€800\200). Also noteworthy are two Cité armchairs by Jean Prouvé, designed in 1930 for the Cité Universitaire in Nancy and here specially made for an astonishing collaboration between the denim brand G-Star RAW and the furniture design company Vitra in 2011. Displayed during an exhibition dedicated to the designer in 2016 at the Sentou Gallery, they are expected to be priced at €1,500/2,000 each. Note that Sentou was the first exclusive retailer in France of this special edition G-Star.
Straw: The Origin of Sentou
The history of the Sentou firm goes back to the aftermath of the Second World War, when, from the depths of his native Périgord, in Lalinde near Bergerac, Robert Sentou also decided to change the course of his life. He was only 25 years old. In 1947, thanks to the encouragement of his famous cousin Roger Tallon, but also thanks to a reintegration project for the prisoners of the Mauzac penitentiary, Sentou founded his first workshop: La Chaise paillée (The Straw Chair). Furniture made of wood and straw was the focus of the small company, which sought to make furniture at affordable prices, using natural materials and clean lines, demonstrated here by the four chairs by Robert Sentou, symbolically named Dordogne, designed in 1960 in ash and straw (€800\200). The 1950s were marked by the expansion of the company's line of products and by exhibitions at the Paris Furniture Fair. The order book filled up, important designers knocked at the door, including Roger Fatus (b. 1926), who is represented by his stained pine bench, Ostende, estimated at €800/200. Quite naturally, Charlotte Perriand found herself in the hands of Sentou. In the 1960s, she turned to him to produce her straw seats for ski resorts, which were then in full swing. €1,000/2,000 are to be expected for a Sapporo tripod stool in black lacquered ash, and €500/800 for a Méribel chair in ash and straw.
From Périgord to Paris, a National Scale
The 1970s saw the opening of the first store in Paris, in 1977 on rue des Francs-Bourgeois; Sentou Galerie was inaugurated in 1986 on rue du Pont-Louis-Philippe. This presence in the nation’s capital was accompanied by new collaborations with designers using new materials and promoting more playful designs. Lionel Morgaine, creator of the modular Seat Table - at times seat, at times desk- in red lacquered tubular metal (€300/500), is one such design. But Roger Tallon also continued to work. The man who never stopped imagining new prototypes for Sentou created the iconic M400 spiral staircase in polished cast aluminum in 1966 for the Syndicat professionnel des fondeurs (Professional Union of Foundrymen): "a piece between industrial design and a work of art, created at a time when Tallon was close to César," says Pierre Romanet. After the Lacloche Gallery, Sentou produced it exclusively from 1986, as evidenced by a suite of twelve red-lacquered steps, dated 1996 (€2,000/3,000), but also a remarkable bronze step, the only one made in this material, created for the exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in 1993-1994, presenting the culmination of his artistic production (€800/200).
Sentou, Talent Scout
Working for Marc Held, Pierre Romanet contacted Robert Sentou to create screen panels. The two men immediately hit it off, and Romanet was chosen to take over the management of the company at the end of 1990. Although the company has long manufactured primarily chairs—"a furniture company"—without seats is not a good company" says its director—it will now diversify its production, opening up to tableware, textiles and lighting. In this last category, the Israeli designer Arik Lévy stands out with his six India Night Lights, in black lacquered metal and colored glass bangles, designed in 1999 and produced in small series by Sentou (€200/300). Claudio Colucci will also offer the full extent of his talent, whether at the heart of the RADI group or later as a solo artist, designing both seating and ceramics. €600/800 is the estimate for his Tatami armchair and footrest produced by the Japanese company Idée, of which Sentou was the exclusive dealer in France. In the same vein, the designers Tsé-Tsé associates entered the catalog at the end of 1992 with creative and poetic projects, such as the Épouvantail shelf (€400/600) or the suite of four chairs with extravagant shapes and bright colors, aptly named Enthousiaste, coquette, entêtée et discrète (Enthusiastic, Coquettish, Stubborn and Discreet) (€300/350). So much furniture and decorative objects at affordable prices have brightened our interiors over the past decades. " "Being in this profession, selecting furniture to improve people's lives, is a source of pride.” “Knowing that we provided enjoyment is the most important thing, even if we didn't always interest buyers," says Pierre Romanet, before concluding: "defending designers and seeing that institutions are now interested and celebrate our work, is a real satisfaction!"