The Private Collection of Pierre Le-Tan Comes to Auction

Shreeya Maskey
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“Like drawing, I’ve been collecting since I was very young. My apartment is a mess, but it’s filled with all the things—inherited things, bought things, my children’s things— that I love,” said French illustrator Pierre Le-Tan about his private collection. He began collecting at the age of seven, a hobby that continued well through his 60s. Le-Tan filled his Parisian apartment with lacquered Japanese boxes, Chinese porcelain, Turkish carpets, Greek antiquities, and paintings from David Hockney, Andy Warhol, and Alberto Giacometti. Many identify Le-Tan’s avid passion for collecting in his illustrations, his attention to detail, and his depictions of grouped objects.

Sotheby’s will offer over 500 items from the Pierre Le-Tan collection on March 16th, 2021. 40 of his drawings will also be available. A timed auction offering pieces from the Pierre Le-Tan collection will run through March 17th. 

Le-Tan's Parisian apartment full of Asian and European art, fabrics, and antiquities. Image from Sotheby’s.
Le-Tan’s Parisian apartment full of Asian and European art, fabrics, and antiquities. Image from Sotheby’s.

Native to Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, Le-Tan was born to the Vietnamese painter Lê Phổ and Paulette Vaux, a French journalist. Surrounded by his father’s artwork, he developed an interest in drawing as a child. “My father gave me the taste of drawing and being a collector,” Le-Tan once wrote. At 17 years old, he collaborated with The New Yorker for his first cover. This marked the launch of a decades-long career. Often drawn in cross-hatched India ink or painted in watercolor, his illustrations became a defining feature of The New Yorker. Le-Tan worked with a number of prominent American publications over the years, including Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.

Pierre Le-Tan's La Cravate Bleue (est. €3,000-€4,000). Image from Sotheby’s.
Pierre Le-Tan’s La Cravate Bleue (est. €3,000-€4,000). Image from Sotheby’s.

Mostly depicting everyday objects, Le-Tan’s work emphasized observation and detail. The artist used intersecting lines of ink to demonstrate textures, shadows, or tonal variations.

The upcoming auction will feature Pierre Le-Tan’s La Cravate Bleue, offered with a presale estimate of EUR 3,000 to €4,000 (USD 3,645 – $4,860). This watercolor piece displays the artist’s signature style. In the painting, a blue tie rests on an upholstered couch. The viewer can see the bottom corner of a picture frame against a pastel wall in the background.

Pair of shoes in the shape of feet by Pierre Cardin (est. €800-€1,200). Image from Sotheby’s.
Pair of shoes in the shape of feet by Pierre Cardin (est. €800-€1,200). Image from Sotheby’s.

Other featured lots in this event include Pierre Cardin’s pair of toe-curling 1980s shoes. Cardin designed the maroon shoes to look like bare feet. Estimates for this lot range from €800 to €1,200 (USD 970 – $1,460). A portrait of Le-Tan by David Hockney and Stephen Tennant’s Bright Young Thing will be available as well. 

The auction of Pierre Le-Tan’s collection, as well as his artworks, will begin at 8:00 AM EST on March 16th, 2021. Visit Sotheby’s for further details.

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James Ardis
James Ardis
Senior Writer and Editor

James Ardis is a writer, editor, and content strategist focused on the auction industry. His company, James Ardis Writing, has partnered with auction houses, galleries, and many clients outside the art world.

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