“I knew very early on that this was it for me and nothing else: drawing and my art collection.”
So said the late illustrator and set designer Pierre Le Tan (1950-2019), a statement borne out by his Parisian apartment, full to the gunnels with works of art from East and West, photographs, Chinese and Western ceramics (including a Picasso owl), glass, silver, sculpture, antiquities, Islamic and art, books, manuscripts and fabrics from across the world.
Born in 1950 in Neuilly-sur-Seine near Paris, Le Tan was the son of the Vietnamese painter Lê Phổ and Paulette Vaux, a French journalist for Time and Life magazines. He was a precocious talent—after sending some of his drawings to the New Yorker aged 17, by the age of 19 the magazine had published two of his covers. There started his 50 year career—his work was to be published by New York Times Magazine, Vogue, Tatler Magazine and The World of Interiors among others, and used in advertising campaigns for fashion magazines such as Lanvin and Gucci.
Le Tan talked of "nostalgia for past periods" and that informs both his collection and his whimsical, pastel-hued Chinese ink and watercolour drawings, imbued with a dash of Surrealism.
Le Tan died of cancer in 2019 and now 40 of his drawings and over 500 lots from his collection are to be offered in a dedicated sale at Sotheby's in Paris on 16 March (accompanied by an online auction from 9 to 17 March). Estimates range broadly, from €100 to €150 for a 1930s plaster cast of the "Bright Young Thing" Stephen Tennant’s left hand, €800 to €1,200 for a pair of toe-curling 1980s shoes by Pierre Cardin in the shape of feet (niche audience for those perhaps) and €30,000 to €50,000 for a portrait of Le Tan by David Hockney.
This is the sale of an incurable collector—Le Tan started buying at the age of seven, visiting Paris's Les Puces de Saint-Ouen antiques market with his father. He once wrote: "I collect cracked pieces of porcelain... It may be a bit ridiculous. I went to museums to see exhibitions, to antique shops... I followed my parents. I frequented the friends of my parents, and all that plunged me into this environment. And I have not changed."
Here is a selection of highlights from the sale