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Andrée Putman
Andrée Putman only began her career as a designer and interior architect at the age of 53, © Serge Lutens 1982

As Philippe Starck puts it at the beginning of Saléha Gherdane’s documentary, she was “an eccentric”, a “high priestess” whom no one could hold a candle to. Andrée Putman (1925 to 2013), born Aynard, came from the upper middle class. As a child, she spent summers at the family-owned Fontenay Abbey in Burgundy. In 1958, she married Jacques Putman, a successful gallery owner and collector of modern art. She was friends with Samuel Beckett, the painter Bram van Velde and the artist Niki de Saint Phalle, among others. Putman first worked as a journalist, then for the department stores’ chain “prisunic” (“beautiful at the price of ugly”). Her own loft in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, which she moved into in 1978 after her husband separated from her, set standards with its unusual stylistic eclecticism and made her famous. She appreciated the style of the 1920s, reissued forgotten designs by Eileen Gray and Robert Mallet-Stevens. In the 1980s, she was part of the happening culture in New York, friends with Basquiat, Warhol, Mappelthorpe and Harring. Bathrooms in a chequered pattern became her trademark. Not to be forgotten: Andrée Putman is the inventor of the design hotel. Following the motto “simplicity as the new luxury”, she also transformed the Water Tower in Cologne into a boutique hotel. She designed a crescent-shaped desk for the French Minister of Culture Jacques Lang, an extravagant escalator for the Bon Marché department stores’ in Paris – and last but not least, the elegant interior of the legendary supersonic passenger plane Concorde in 1993.

Andrée Putman, the “black and white checked woman”, was one of the first French designers and interior designers to achieve worldwide success. With her eccentric style and bold chic, focused on simplicity and clarity, she broke the conventions of her time and her industry and revolutionised the codes of interior design. The documentary Andrée Putman – A Juggernaut of Design portrays the “ambassador of French taste” through her most famous works, archive footage and interviews with friends and family members. The 52-minute film is well worth seeing and will be broadcast on Arte on 15 January 2023 at 16:40. It will be available online in the media library until 13 February.

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