By  | 


Jørn Utzon’s relative obscurity is an enigma. Here was a Pritzker Prize-winning architect who designed one of the world’s most iconic buildings, the Sydney Opera House, a UNESCO World Heritage Site recognizable even to children (and those not in the business of caring about architecture). Here was also a roving creative who traveled the world to meet and occasionally collaborate with some of the twentieth century’s most celebrated architects and designers, including Arne Jacobsen, Charles and Ray Eames, Alvar Aalto, and Le Corbusier. Finally, here was a prolific collector who not only acquired artworks by Fernand Léger, Georges Braque, and Pablo Picasso, among others, but purchased many directly from the artists. And yet, mention of Utzon’s name might elicit only a polite “gesundheit.”

An upcoming sale of works belonging to Utzon promises to bring more posthumous renown to the architect even as it disperses his collection. From June 9 to 11, Denmark’s Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers will offer pieces including a pair of rare and early Aalto armchairs, a 1953 pitcher by Picasso, and—the high- light of the sale—a magnificent 1960 tapestry by Le Corbusier. Titled Les de?s sont jete?s, it was given to Utzon by Le Corbusier while the two collaborated on a suite of tapestries for the interior of the opera house (a scheme that was unfortunately never realized) and held a place of prominence in Utzon’s home. Soon it may endow someone else’s home with, as Utzon wrote Le Corbusier, “a beauty so exquisite that I am at a loss for the proper words to describe our feelings about it.”

Editor’s note: Earlier this month the Utzon tapestry sold to the Sydney Opera House for DKK 2.1 million, setting a record for Le Corbusier’s tapestries, and ensuring its return to Sydney.