Art historian Tim Benton will speak on the restoration of Eileen Gray's Villa E-1027 at Cap Martin on the Côte d'Azur. After years of campaigning to organise the restoration and preservation of this modernist villa, Gray's masterpiece finally opened to the public since 2015. Benton will focus on the restoration of the furnishings and the various controversies that affected the concept of the house.
Eileen Gray designed the house together with her partner, architect Jean Badovici, as a holiday home for the two of them. It was furniture designer Gray’s first architectural work. The villa, completed in 1929, stands on a steep cliff descending to the sea. While the building appears solid, it forms a bridge between the landscape and the sea with its calculated use of levels, routing and stairs. This lends the house a certain lightness and subtlety which critics have often found lacking in the work of other modernist icons. Gray designed many of the furnishings in the house herself, both inbuilt and loose, and these create a sense of space giving the impression that the house was created from the interior.
When restoration work started in the late 1990s, the house was in a deplorable state. Its proximity to the sea had resulted in considerable damage to the materials, while the original furniture had been sold and successive owners had marred the property with a mixture of vandalism and neglect. In the late 1930s, Le Corbusier had stayed at the house at the invitation of his friend Badovici and had decided without being asked to paint various walls, to the chagrin of Gray. Tradition has it that he could not abide that a woman had created such a significant and critically acclaimed structure in a style which he considered his own. The murals are still there: although they are not part of the original design they have since acquired the status of protected art.
Tim Benton (b. 1945) is professor emeritus of art history at the Open University, and a leading scholar of modernist architecture, specialising in the work of Le Corbusier. He has many major publications to his name, among them his classic study of Le Corbusier’s Parisian villas: 'The Villas of Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret 1920-1930' (2007). He has contributed to exhibitions at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, such as Art Deco 1910-1939 and Modernism Designing a New World (2006), as well as one of the first shows about Charlotte Perriand at the Centre Pompidou in Paris (2006).
The lecture will be followed by the screening of the film E-1027 Restoration by Vincent Cattaneo. The film documents restoration work carried out by the Association Cap Moderne. The film lasts 55 minutes and is French spoken with English subtitles.
Like Het Nieuwe Instituut’s museum home Sonneveld House, Villa E-1027 is part of the Iconic Houses Network. Iconic Houses provides an overview of modern museum houses and architectural houses around the world which are open to the public. It is also an organisation for professionals involved in managing museum houses, focusing on sharing knowledge and expertise relating to conservation, programming and public outreach
Iconic Houses Lecture Tours
This lecture is part of the fourth lecture tour of speakers invited by Iconic Houses to appear in various European museums and museum houses. Previous speakers have included Henry Urbach, director of Philip Johnson’s Glass House, Lynda Waggoner, director emeritus of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and Tal Eyal, restoration architect of Erich Mendelsohn’s Weizmann House.