Lot Essay I.M. Pei was one of the century’s most influential and respected architects. Internationally renowned for his iconic glass pyramid at the entrance to the Louvre Museum in Paris, he designed over 100 buildings around the world, ranging from large-scale corporate headquarters to smaller, more intimately scaled dwellings. Emerging from the Modernist tradition, Pei’s work evinced an intelligent combination of the cutting-edge and the conservative. He rigorously crafted buildings remembered for their crisp forms, luminous interiors and elegant materials designed to engage and please the public. He became one of the few architects whose inventiveness and erudition appealed equally to real estate developers, corporate chairmen and museum boards. In addition to his project for the Louvre, Pei is well known for the National Gallery of Art’s East Building in Washington, D.C. (1978), the Bank of China Building in Hong Kong (1989), the Miho Museum in Shigaraki, Shiga, Japan (1997), and one of his last cultural projects, the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar (2008).
Integral to an understanding of I.M. Pei and his stature on the stage of international architecture is a fascinating art collection that Pei and his wife Eileen had quietly assembled during their 72-year marriage. It is a unique collection that speaks not only to the sophisticated breadth of their interests in both Eastern and Western artistic traditions, but also to the deep friendships they forged with artists in their milieu. Artists such as Barnett Newman, Jean Dubuffet, Zao Wou-Ki, Henry Moore and Isamu Noguchi, many of whom epitomized the major movements of post-war and contemporary art history, and whose bold and assertive works are represented in the collection, were personal friends with whom the Peis maintained longstanding and warm relationships. As such, The Collection of Eileen and I.M. Pei is an intensely personal collaboration reflective of the couple’s shared vision and brilliant insight, their artistic circle and an aesthetic sensibility that celebrated a culture of creativity.