|Media: RFI, 30-11-18||•||Calendar||•||Topics||•||•||←||•||→|
On 27 November, another section of a staircase from the Eiffel Tower in Paris sold for 169,000 euros, around three times the pre-sale estimate. More than two dozen steps from the original spiral structure, from between the second and third floors of the Paris landmark, were sold to a collector from the Middle East after a fierce bidding-war in the French capital.
Door Jan van der Made
The 24 step segment is part of a tall staircase made of cast iron that was replaced in 1983 to make place for an elevator that was lighter. 1000 tons of excess iron and concrete were removed - 15 percent of the total weight of the “Dame de Fer,” and replaced with a floor of steel, polyurethane, epoxy resin, and fiberglass. The structure, originally engineered by Gustave Eiffel in 1889, was meant as a temporary monument to dominate the 1889 Paris Exhibition.
Until 1979, the original structure, including 18,038 iron sections and over 2,500,000 rivets was still in place. But the legs started to show signs of fatigue, and the Société Nouvelle Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel, that was in charge of the renovation, started works that would last several years. The circular stairs between the second and the third floor were to be replaced by lighter elevators, and cut in 24 segments that varied from two to over nine meters.
Staircases remain popular in auctions
“My father was in charge of the first auctions,” says François Tajan, the CEO of Art-Curial, the auction house where the latest staircase specimen was sold. “At that time I was already in this business, so it is funny to see one of the pieces which is back on the market.” The stair-segments were immediately popular. There have been dozens of auctions to date, prices varied from 80.000 to over half a million Euro. “It is mythical,” says Tajan. “Just having a not-so-small- piece of Paris, when you love Paris, and to have the opportunity to have a piece of that, it is priceless.”
Buyers from across the globe
While some of the 24 segments travel around the auction houses of the world, others found a more permanent home: one segment ended up in the desert-like History of the World open air museum in Granite, Felicity Californa. Another one was installed in the Kiyohari Art Colony in Japan, flanked by a statue of Gustave Eiffel by César Baldaccini.
One businessman is known to have bought a stair segment at an auction, to cut it down in small pieces and to sell the separate bolts and segments as individual souvenirs. “Why not?” says Tajan. “But I think the reason [of existence] for a staircase is to remain a staircase. Of course it has already been divided into 24 segments, but they remain staircases. With four meters, you can link two or three floors of a building, or you can organize it in a duplex. If it’s just loose steps, it is another story.”