Installation view of Masterworks: César, Maria Pergay, Joseph-André Motte, January 8 - 29, 2018
Installation view of made in France, September 17 – November 11, 2016
Archival images Décoration Internationale, 1982
Expansion Table, 1977
Base: 28.35 H x 40.16 x 86.61 inches
Base: 72 H x 102 x 220 cm
Glass top: 102 x 59 inches (259.08 x 149.86 cm)
Edition 4 of 8, with 4 APs
Signed "César, 4/8"
This table is in the Archives of Madame Denyse Durand-Ruel as No. 3789.
Private collection, Switzerland
We first learned of the existence of César's Expansion Table in 2014 through the Fondation César. We were collaborating with the foundation’s Chairman and President Stéphanie Busuttil-Janssen on the exhibition Paris Match: Henri Samuel and the Artists He Commissioned, 1968-1977.
At that moment, the unparalleled career of the celebrated French artist César, a founding member in 1960 of the Nouveaux Réalistes group, was just beginning to be rediscovered in the United States. The discovery of this table made us ecstatic for several reasons. First, the table is, in and of itself, an astonishing object. Second, while we knew of César’s iconic Console, commissioned by Samuel, and of Expansion Lamp, the table was a monumental find. Editions of the work had been hidden in private collection for decades.
The Expansion Table exemplifies the period between the late 1960s and mid-1970s, when a new era of artistic expression took hold in France and transformed design. It was an exciting moment marked by leaps of creative daring in every field, and rich with an eagerness to know and experience different mediums and forms of expression and artistry beyond the old, accepted boundaries; César’s radical approach was duly celebrated.
We sold the Expansion Table immediately and began searching for another one from the edition of 8 editions (+ 4AP.)
When an extraordinary piece surfaces, it is not uncommon for other examples to come out of hiding. Thus, we discovered two more examples of the Expansion Table and quickly sold them to leading collectors. Meanwhile César’s market in the US was escalating. In 2017, the Centre George Pompidou in Paris presented a retrospective of the late artist, attracting historic crowds to the museum. Several solo exhibitions were presented by Luxembourg & Dayan gallery in New York as well.
We actively searched for another Expansion Table while immersing ourselves in the life and influential career of a man known around the world only by his first name; and, we were able to acquire a number of artworks and objects made by César. Then we struck gold (rather bronze), locating and ultimately acquiring another Expansion Table. Now, this table is one of the most important works in our collection to date. A common question we hear: Is it a table or a sculpture? It’s both and on a par with César’s most celebrated Expansions.
Some background on César’s Expansions: One of the artist’s great breakthroughs in the late 1960s, took the form of sculptural spills called Expansions. Realized with liquid polyurethane foam, a novel material at the time, each spill involved actively pouring specifically tinted foam, allowing it to expand, and then leaving it to set in a process that resulted in soft forms several times larger than their original liquid volume. César was moved by this material’s freedom and energy—rather than conforming to the matrix of a mold, it actually spread and expanded in what would famously become a critically admired analog for the new spirit of liberation that marked the era. As Pierre Restany noted in 1970, “César’s expansions reveal a new phase in his work, the phase of maturity: the mastering of the technique allied to the freedom of form.”
The Expansion Table (1977) is one of the rare works in which César applied his Expansion technique to a functional object. Whereas he also created a handful of bronze ashtrays, lamps, as well as the console commissioned by Henri Samuel, the Expansion Table is the object in which César philosophy—his belief that life and art are one entity, indivisible—achieves its apex.