In 1986, French-born entrepreneur/photographer/art collector/playboy Jean Pigozzi was wedged in a “small apartment with a fabulous view” in Hampshire House on Manhattan’s Central Park South. “I’m a big man, I’m six-foot, four-inches, I need big spaces,” he said in a recent phone interview. “Otherwise, I get kind of claustrophobic.”
Pigozzi set about finding an apartment—technically a pied-à-terre, given that his primary residence is in Switzerland—and after looking at a few apartments on the Upper East Side, he walked into the Hotel Des Artistes building on West 67 Street, right off Central Park West.
“It took me about 12 seconds to say, ‘This is the one I want,” he said. “The proportions of the apartment were so fabulous.“
When Pigozzi bought the apartment, it was two-story home owned by “a guy who was a painter and also, maybe, a scientist?” Pigozzi said quizzically. “Also, I think he collected old stones. It was really weird.”
The man, Pigozzi added, “was not a great painter, either.”
After purchasing the apartment, Pigozzi asked Ettore Sottsass, a designer and founder of the influential Memphis Group, to look at the apartment and decide if he’d be willing to redesign it. At the time, Sottsass was at the height of his fame—he died in 2007, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art will open a retrospective of his work in July—and “he fell in love with it,” Pigozzi said.
Sottsass threw himself into the design, meeting with Pigozzi multiple times in Milan to work out a floor plan and a design scheme. “He designed 100 per cent of everything,” Pigozzi said. “Every table, every sofa, every book shelf, every sink, every doorknob.”
When the penthouse above Pigozzi’s duplex came up for sale a few years later, Pigozzi bought it and got Sottsass to integrate the penthouse into his existing design; most prominently, Sottsass added a glassy solarium with curved walls. With the addition of the third floor, the apartment comprises 5,377 interior square feet and an 827-square-foot terrace.
Now Pigozzi, who also has homes in the southern France and Los Angeles, is selling the apartment for US$19 million, co-listing it with Roberta Golubock and Mark Thomas Amadei of Sotheby’s International Realty and with Deborah Grubman and David Adler of Corcoran Group.
An Extravagant Use of Space
The first floor of the apartment is composed of a 55-foot-long “great room” with a 19 foot high double-height ceiling, a 24-foot-wide dining room (also with double-height ceiling), a bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom. The second floor contains a mezzanine, another bedroom, two bathrooms, and two walk-in closets that together take up more than 560 square feet.
The top floor has a master bedroom, the solarium, roof terrace, a kitchenette, full bathroom, and a sitting room that’s illuminated by skylights. Every floor is filled with Pigozzi’s massive collection of African art and is accessible via an elevator and/or an internal staircase. In total, there are three bedrooms, five full bathrooms, and three half-baths.
Pigozzi happily admits that the apartment is decadent in its use of space. “I took out one bedroom for the enormous closet,” he said. “You could put that back in, easily, and make it an en-suite bedroom.” The great room, he added, was where he threw legendary Christmas parties, which easily fit “more than 120 people,” he said. “When I couldn’t do the party one year, Michael Douglas and Larry Gagosian and Mick Jagger said,’Why aren’t you doing the party? That’s crazy!’” (Pigozzi’s rule for entertaining: “My trick was to invite a lot of pretty girls and a lot of waiters and waitresses who are models; and the food was always unpretentious.”)
A Jewel of An Apartment
He is giving up the apartment, he said, because his business increasingly keeps him in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and he has fewer occasions to be in New York. And while he occasionally lends the apartment to his friends—“Mick Jagger stayed sometimes,” he said—it was empty for so long that he can no longer justify owning it. “I’m selling it with big tears in my eyes,” he said. “I spent 30 happy years in it.”
Prospective buyers, he added, can buy the house with the Sottsass interior. “If they like him, they’re getting a jewel, a complete jewel,” he said. “But if somebody wants to do something completely different, I’m more than happy to take the furniture with me and put it in my house in LA.”