April 07, 2015
For almost fifty years, Parisian designer Maria Pergay has blazed a trail for stainless steel, creating magnificently quirky yet functional furniture. Now, in her eighties, this designer of timeless pieces with a fantasy-like quality, is still at the height of her creativity. Since the 1960s, Pergay has favoured nickel-containing 304L (UNS S30403) stainless steel, admiring its qualities of strength, durability and formability. “There is a reciprocal charm between us. I am charmed by what it can give me. In return, stainless steel allows itself to be transformed into something extraordinary.”
Born to Russian parents in Moldavia, Maria Pergay emigrated to Paris as a child in 1937. She started out by creating window displays in the 1950s and went on to design small scale objects in silver for French luxury accessories manufacturer, Hermès. Impressed by this work, stainless steel producer Ugine Gueugnon approached her to broaden the appeal of ‘inox’ and show consumers that it wasn’t just a material for ‘everyday pots and pans’. Despite initial scepticism, Pergay convinced them that she could make stainless steel furniture and the following year, her first full exhibition received instant acclaim. Pieces including the Flying Carpet daybed—immortalised in a 1970 photograph of a reclining Brigitte Bardot—and the Ring Chair have since become recognised as design icons.
During the 1970s and 1980s Maria Pergay enjoyed much success with commissions from the likes of the Saudi Royal family, fashion designer Pierre Cardin and Salvador Dali. In 2004, she was persuaded to start exhibiting again by New York gallerist Suzanne Demisch. And for her first New York show in 30 years, at the Demisch Danant gallery in 2006, she revealed 15 new stainless steel pieces. Since then she has been producing seven to ten new designs annually and exhibits regularly.
Maria Pergay’s pieces are one-offs or limited to just a very few editions—they come up for auction rarely and have become collectors’ items. When asked to describe her work, she simply says “My pieces, like the Flying Carpet and Invisible Table are about making dreams materialise.”