PARIS - President George Pompidou called it the “only good thing the communists have ever done.” Listed as an historical building in 2007, the French Communist Party Headquarters in Paris was designed in 1967 by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer.

Fleeing Brazil’s military dictatorship, Niemeyer was welcomed to Paris in 1967 by the novelist Andre Malraux, then Minister of Culture. The Communist Party’s political secretary, Roland Leroy, chose Niemeyer to build the new headquarters that same year.


Oscar Niemeyer’s (1907-2012) Communist Party Headquarters in Paris, opened in 1971, and was completed in 1980. Notable architects, such as the Frenchman Jean Prouvé, also worked on the project.


Oscar Niemeyer played an important role in the history of modern architecture. He is Brazil’s most famous architect and designer, well known for the construction of Brasilia, Brasil in 1960.

Though he designed many buildings in France, this is without a doubt the building for which he is most popular in Europe. For me, the curved building evokes a flag floating in the wind. The interiors are simple and sober, a mixture of cement and wood.

Niemeyer illustrated every piece in the building, from the lobby to the conference rooms. He then designed the furniture to go with it.


Acquired in 1973, the sofas in our sale are the steel models with low seats, in their original leather.


For the lobby, he created a set of sofas made of large steel blades, with large leather seats and backrests, inviting the sitter to lay back and think. Their simple curves and stainless steel were typical of 1970’s modernism. Two variations of this model were completed: one in wood and the other in steel, and with the choice of a low or higher seat.

One of my favorite Niemeyer quotes reveals the vision behind these sofas: “It is not straight angles that I’m drawn to, nor the straight line—hard, inflexible, created by man—but the free and sensual curve”.


From the French magazine Connaissance des Arts, February 1972. Sotheby’s sold a pair of sofas from this series in 2004 for $36,000.


In 1972 Mobilier International produced a series of these sofas in France. This was a small set, and as such its pieces are quite rare, as is the original leather. Though comfortable and extremely fashionable, they were nonetheless very expensive, and few people were keen to own Communist Party furniture.

The sofas will be on offer at the Decorative Arts of the 20th Century and Design sale at Sotheby’s Paris, May 22 2013.

Tags:Auction Previews, 20th Century Design, Paris