Kalle Gustafsson’s Galerie Maison Première is home to an extensive collection of furniture by mid-century designer Pierre Jeanneret. Jeanneret is only now getting the recognition he deserves for collaborating with his cousin, Le Corbusier, on the design of the Indian city of Chandigarh.
What draws you to the work of Pierre Jeanneret of all the 20th-century furniture designers?
I’ve always been especially interested in design from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, and when I saw Jeanneret’s designs for the first time, I was totally hooked. My love for his work keeps growing. I’ve had his furniture for some time now, so I see it every day if I’m not traveling, and I haven’t tired of it yet. The design is remarkable. But I guess it’s different from person to person: Some people will look at this furniture and say it’s just wooden pieces.
Can you trace an Indian influence on Jeanneret’s work?
When Jeanneret was assigned to design furniture for Chandigarh with his cousin [architect Le Corbusier], he wanted to employ a technique that was in use in India at that time to save costs and ensure easy reproduction. The rattan that he uses in much of his work is a direct result of that.
How do you feel Jeanneret and his contemporaries influenced each other?
Charlotte Perriand, Jean Prouvé and Jeanneret were really good friends. When Perriand was young, she went to Le Corbusier and asked if she could work for him. He said no because, in his opinion, women couldn’t design. Someone eventually persuaded him to take her on, and I imagine he was glad, because she was an amazing designer.
Together, Perriand, Prouvé and Jeanneret revolutionized the design of furniture; the three of them carry the same approach to their work. If you look at the legs of their chairs and tables, for example, the similarities are eminently clear.
Are there parallels between your photography and working with Jeanneret’s pieces in the gallery space?
When I go on a shoot, I try to solve a problem for a client. I really like the idea that Le Corbusier and Jeanneret went to India and said, “Let’s use what they use here.” Jeanneret solved his client’s problem by designing pieces that were easy to put together, easy to make and easy to reproduce.
A number of the great modern artists had well publicized rivalries. Was there a rivalry between Le Corbusier and Jeanneret?
Definitely. They started to work together in the ’20s. Le Corbusier was already big by then, because he was older, and the thing about architects is that they are often selfish. Jeanneret just wanted to make furniture. They worked together in the’20s, then they had a fight, broke up and started to work together again in the ’30s and ’40s, and then they had another fight, and on it goes. Rumor has it that Le Corbusier was really hard to work with because he was so demanding, and he loved himself so much. I think Jeanneret was a shy guy who just wanted to make nice design, and work for someone else. He didn’t aspire to become some huge designer, so he remained relatively unknown until six or seven years ago. He was in the shadow of his cousin all the time. It was hard for him to get his name out there. I think it was a wonderful story when some contemporary furniture dealers went to Chandigarh, found the buildings there in ruins, and found that the furniture was designed by Pierre Jeanneret. No one knew until then.
Stockholm’s Galerie Maison Première is a gallery space specializing in iconic 20th-century furnishings. Gallerist Kalle Gustafsson is one of Sweden’s most lauded photographers. Through his gallery, he seeks to inspire creatives from around the world and share his love of 20th-century design.