SPHÈRE D’ISOLATION, MODEL NO. S2
outfitted with a secondary power system, integrated fluorescent lighting, integrated shelving system, later smartphone-controlled Pioneer HI-FI speakers, a portable table lamp, two seat cushions and a window
produced by Plastiques de Bourgogne, Saint-Rémy, France
fiberglass-coated polyester, methacrylate, clear polyresin, painted steel, with leatherette foam cushions
75⅞ in. (193 cm) high including base
70⅞ in. (180 cm) diameter
Overall in very good condition. This iconic and multifunctional piece emblematic of futuristic 1970s design presents with a solid white shell within which two benches and a shelving unit are incorporated. When seen in person, the lighting system presents with a slightly cooler, whiter light than pictured in the catalogue photography. The painted steel surfaces present with surface and textural irregularities throughout which are inherent to production. The outer surface has been sensitively repainted to reproduce the original droplet-like surface. The sphere’s exterior with occasional and very minor instances of discoloration, flecks to the paint and light indentations. The sphere was originally conceived with a door which was removed at some point in the history of the piece. The outer edges of the doorway with more concentrated indentations and abrasions, possibly from prior contact with the original door. One area to the right side of the doorway with blue paint stains covering a surface measuring approximately 3 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches. The electrical switch unit at the bottom near the base is original. One aperture near the unit inherent to production measuring approximately 1 x 3/4 inch. The base of the sphere with scattered light scratches and spotty areas of minor discoloration to the white coating consistent with use and installation. The white coating to the interior of the sphere presents with occasional irregularities in paint application, most visible to one area under the window aperture with a slightly different coloration, which is partially visible in the catalogue photography. The original tabletop is provided but lacks hardware for installation. As seen in the catalogue photography, the sphere includes a transparent polyresin window, which can be adjusted using a later hinge in working condition. The cushions have been replaced in a manner which is consistent with the originals, and present with two instances of faint black paint marks to the surface. Protective rubber strips cover the edges of the shelving units and are stable overall and present with inherent surface irregularities. The diffusing polyester floor piece has been sensitively replaced and is clean and stable. A later system of LED strips is included and installed at the bottom of the piece under the polyester flooring, as well as inside the shelving units. The portable table lamp (Vico Magistretti’s “Eclisse” table lamp designed in 1966) with very small flecks to the white paint and one dimple to the shade. One bulb is provided. The original Blaupunkt radio has been replaced by a stereo system which is Bluetooth-operated and can be controlled with a smartphone. The stereo system together with an adjustable microphone. The electric installation of the piece made to support 220 volts. For additional information on its function and usage as well as a full list of the provided equipment, please consult the cataloguing and footnote for this lot. Sotheby's does not guarantee electrical equipment including HI-FI and bluetooth components and recommends having all wiring inspected by a licensed electrician.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.
Private Collection, Normandy, France, 1970s
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2015
Plastiques de Bourgogne, commercial brochure, Saint-Rémy, France, 1971, n.p.
L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui, no. 155, April-May 1971, p. 54
Technique et Architecture, no. 33, April 3, 1971, p. 39
“Womb with a View,” Time Magazine, May 7, 1971, p. 44
"Philippe Decelle, La Mémoire du Plastique," AD Magazine, October 2007, pp. 86-88
Anne Bony, Alexandra Midal and Richard Thommeret, The Plastic Collection, Brussels, 2015, pp. 129-131
Maison Gerard booth, Design Miami, 2017
Another example of the model is held in the permanent collections of the Art and Design Museum Atomium (A.D.A.M.), Brussels.
Few designs may be as emblematic of 1970s style as Maurice-Claude Vidili’s Sphère d’Isolation. Designed circa 1971, this multifunctional work made primarily of polyester is equipped with all the necessities of a modern office, including seating space, lighting, storage and electric outlets. The sphere was designed as a quiet and comfortable room-within-a-room, allowing its user to find shelter in a peaceful and insulated environment. In addition to serving mainly as a private office space, the sphere was meant to embrace a variety of uses, including as a quiet zone on construction sites, an independent work room in a noisy open office, a private meeting space for sales pitches in crowded exhibition halls, and even as study in a small apartment.
Described as a “retreat from the world” in a Time magazine article from 1971, the design of the sphere evokes a futuristic cocoon that very much fits into the avant-garde aesthetic of the time. In the world of architecture and design, events such as the moon landing and space exploration combined with the increasing popularity of new, widely available materials like polyester popularized a new sci-fi aesthetic. The work of up-and-coming designers like Vidili reflected their optimistic outlook on science through an exploration of the concepts of multifunctionality and plasticity. The Isolation Sphere might be the artist’s most celebrated work, whose tremendously modern concept participated in reinventing one’s approach to the private sphere and life at home in the 1970s. Its significance still resonates with the popular conscience today, at a time where many are embracing in-house retreats and imagining new ways to work from home.
Vidili's Isolation Spheres were produced starting in 1971 by Les Plastiques De Bourgogne, a company specializing in limited edition designer furniture. Three iterations of the design were conceptualized. Model No. S1, a slightly larger version of the present S2 offering, can accommodate up to four people and includes a small table and additional storage space. Model No. S3 is the outdoor version of the design, with a waterproof exterior and a closing door. Only about 28 Isolation Spheres are known to have been made, making this present lot a particularly rare opportunity for collectors to acquire an iconic and timeless work of 1970s design.