Pei and Eileen, an infinite love…for design.

This autumn 3 auctions at Christie’s (in New York, Hong Kong and Paris) with the extraordinary collection of Ieoh Ming Pei and his wife Eileen Loo

From New York to Hong Kong, with a stop in Paris. A tour around the world in the name of what is going to be the most anticipated event of this year for all design, art, collectibles and modern antiques lovers.

A few days ago Christie’s announced the 3 auction events that will take place in New York, Hong Kong and Paris the next Fall where some of the most unique pieces from the extraordinary collection of  Ieoh Ming Pei and his wife Eileen Loo will be exposed for sale.

It’s useless to say that collectionists, design passionates and design workers are already thrilled because we are in front of one of the most influent architects of the last century (and also of the current one). 

In the collection of Pei there are some of the greatest names such as Henry Moore, Jean Dubuffet, Zao Wou-Ki, Franz Kline and Zhang Daqian.

To explain correctly who Pei is a lot of us would probably start by remembering one of his major master pieces, the Louvre glass pyramid from 1989. This wouldn’t be a mistake because it is indeed an amazing project that comes with a quite curious story. 

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It looks like the initial project was to restore the famous parisian museum. After this request the architect gasped and said something like: no way, you don’t touch the Louvre, it’s a sacrilege! 

Words that show his respect and humility towards a sacred historical and cultural place. From here comes then a revolutionary idea: building a pyramid made of glass in the square of the museum. 

But to explain more about Pei we want to try something different. The very anticipated auction of this Fall indeed has 2 signatures, Pei’s and his wife’s Eileen and their story is, first of all, an incredible love story.  

He is a brilliant architect and she is the daugher of the chinese ambassador in the US: connected by a big passion for architecture and mostly by a love that has been lasting for 72 years.  

They met during their studies. Pei graduated at the School of Architecture of MIT and Eileen was an art student at the Wellesley College.

While he attended M.I.T. Pei met Eileen Loo, also chinese, who moved to the US in 1938 to study art at the Wellesley College in Massachusetts. It was love at first sight and they got married as soon as he graduated in 1942. Eileen Pei followed him few years later and graduated in landscape architecture in Harvard in 1946.  

Even though they both came from very prestigious families they did not live some easy years because of McCarthyism and the fear of comunism of those years. The US citizens were afraid of communist spies in the country and China was a communist country. 

But the talent of Pei won over prejudices, and with Eileen he had 4 children: 3 sons, T’ing Chung Pei, Chien Chung Pei, Li Chung Pei; and a daughter: Liane Pei. The children followed the father’s passion, indeed both Chien Chung and Li Chung attended the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Chien Chung Pei also helped the father to design the Louvre project and Li Chung  worked with Pei in the making of the tower of the Bank of China and Hong Kong in 1989.

But what does connect I.M. Pei and his wife with the most popular american president killed the 22nd of November in Dallas? Two identical love stories, but at the same time so different. 

Because the famous American dinasty seems “cursed” while Pei and Eileen lived happily for many years. 

And the two couple met. Or at least Pei met Jackie.

In those years indeed Pei quickly became famous in the architectural world with many different projects assigned to him, like the National Airlines terminal that is today the John F. Kennedy airport in new York, the Newhouse School of Communications at the university of Syracuse and the Cleo Rogers Memorial Library in Columbus. 

But the project that really brought Pei the fame he deserved was that of a builiding that took 15 years to be built and that was his glory but also his frustration. The John F. Kennedy Library.

It was Jacqueline Kennedy who in 1964, few months after the tragic accident that changed American history forever, made his name for the project. Jackie and Pei were the same age, born only one month apart, and everybody liked the idea of giving the job to such a young professional.

But actually the buidling that is in Boston, in the Dorchester area, and that covers 4 hectars,  was started only in August 1977 and ended 2 years later in October 1979. 

Bureaucracy, politics and hitches (for example the orignally chosen place was another one in the Cambridge neighbourhood, in Boston) belated the project for years.

The library and the museum opened officially the 20th of October 1979, in front of the president Jimmy Carter and the Kennedy family, and it costed more than 20 million dollars.

So let’s be prepared because the auctions that will take place in November will not be just events with many art pieces, they will be the tale of a long and extraordinary love story. 

Photo by https://www.christies.com