The Collection of Pierre Durand
I never met Pierre Durand but reading about him recently has made me wish I had known him. The late financier who co-founded The Chinese Porcelain Company lived an exquisitely elegant life out of the glare of the spotlight which is no easy feat in our online obsessed world and now his beautiful collections are coming up for auction at Christie’s. He did relent to one interview and tour of his apartment for New York Social Diary in 2011 and Christie’s actually used a portrait of him from that feature in their catalog since there are so few photos of him. So just who was this mystery man.
Pierre Durand was born in Lima, Peru to an Italian mother and a Peruvian father of French descent. He grew up there until he came to the United States to study Industrial Engineering at Cornell at the age of 17. After two years at business school in Columbia getting his MBA, he got his first job in finance at Chase. “It was at Cornell, however, that he met Khalil Rizk, who became his business and life partner, and ultimately, a key figure in further cultivating Pierre’s artistic expression. In 1984 the two opened The Chinese Porcelain Company, where in 2001 after Rizk passed, Pierre became more directly involved while balancing his own investment firm”
As his sister Giselle told Christie’s, “He was born with a unique eye, but he was also very cultivated. He would read a lot and get input from everywhere. You never knew when he was doing it, but he was always learning.”
“I would love when we would travel together because Pierre could see what no one else saw, whether it was about an antique store or modern art. He would take things from one place and put them somewhere else in his home, and it would look fantastic, and everybody had something to say about it.”
“He collected stones, shells, fossils, and stamps from a very young age. As we got a little older, he would buy ceramics with his pocket money. He had a calm personality and was so methodical, but he never bragged about collecting — it was just his passion. He was a kind and special person who collected great friends, too.”
In order to better appreciate the items up for auction at Christie’s, I think it’s important to look at them in situ. I couldn’t find a floorplan of Pierre’s exact Fifth Avenue apartment but I did find one for the apartment directly below his. In New York, apartments in the same line usually share the same exact layout unless they’ve been drastically renovated. Based on the photos, it looks like his was the same as this one except for the door from the gallery into the dining room that is missing in this floorplan.
I’ve mixed the photos from Jeff Hirsch of New York Social Diary with a few from Christie’s. I’ve decided to let you go to New York Social Diary to read the complete interview with Pierre Durand instead of paraphrasing here.
‘The spaces Pierre created and the way the objects spoke to each other were really special because they were not combinations that one would normally think of, for example, a little contemporary painting beside a Japanese basket,’ says Margaret Gristina, Christie’s Senior Specialist, Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art. Having worked at The Chinese Porcelain Company for nearly 15 years, Gristina became a close friend of Durand’s. ‘You couldn’t absorb all of what was in his home. You would have to focus on one spot then move to another, but somehow, it all blended together and worked.’Via Christie’s