Another Wright auction means another dazzling display of design objects. Although we may have seen a lot of it before, it never gets old.
The showroom at the pre-sale preview seemed more crowded than it had in the last few iterations.
And indeed, this sale had 433 lots — about 15 percent more than in December’s “Important Design” sale, with 378.
The merchandise was, as is typical, pretty fabulous: the usual representation of Nakashima, George Nelson, Eames and Jeanneret items
[how can there still be — sale after sale — that many pieces from the High Court at Chandigarhh? Yet Wright’s intrepid staff keeps on finding them.]
Stuff I liked particularly:
a collection of Fornasetti boxes
a couple of Ruth Duckworth items
plus of course objects from designers I’d never heard of :
like Pedro Friedenberg [this kooky anthropomorphic table that reminds me of John Dickinson sold for $18,750, within its estimated range]
and Stilnovo — actually a manufacturer, which made this incredible wall mounted light fixture
[shown here with a Paul Frankl bench (estimated at 3-5K, it went for $9,375) and Wright’s Clare Warner (priceless)] that was estimated at 7-9K but sold for $15,000
As in the last sale, a major Gio Ponti piece — a breakfront that I liked enough to photograph — went unsold
but some other Ponti pieces sold for way over their high estimates.
The one big question mark about this sale were the roughly 40 or so lots that Jordan Mozer had designed for a single Glencoe residence. I am an unabashed admirer of Mozer’s work, I think he’s under-appreciated in his hometown for his interiors because most of his projects are far away from Chicago. His objects — furniture and lighting, mostly — are splendid displays of creativity, even if they’re a little quirky for your particular environment [which they would be for mine]. And while I think many observers may share my awareness of his special talent, he’s a largely unproven commodity in the auction arena. Also, I wondered whether there was a market for all of it at once.
Well, my bad, as the kids like to say. Although a couple of the lots went unsold, most of them went for way above the high estimates. If this experience is any indication, collectors are really interested in objects by living designers, and it all bodes pretty well for the contemporary design market.
My favorite item was the zigzag bench, estimated 3-5K, sold for $5,938.
The Horta/van de Velde-inspired four-poster bed frame, estimated at 5-7K, is spectacular — the kind of piece that, when you put it in the room, it becomes the room. So I wasn’t sure it would find a buyer.
Wrong again: it brought $13,750.
The “Potato Chip” chair [estimated 1-1.5K] went for $5,625;
the matching “Pouf” footstool [estimated 1-1.5K] went for $8,125.
The overall take — approximately $2.5 million — was slightly less than at last March’s Modern sale, which brought in about $3.1 million. But still pretty impressive overall.
The last sale of the year — the auction world follows an academic year calendar — took place at Wright on Saturday. Its “Mass Modern” sale is supposed to include stuff that’s generally less rarefied than what the house has in its regular design auctions. But you do find that some of the lots are items that went unsold at previous sales.
Some of the items that I would have loved to have, if I had the space and money for them:
This George Nelson wall-mounted cabinet, estimated $1-2K, sold for $1,118 [condition isn’t great — much of the painted surface is worn]
This “in the style of Arredoluce” easel lamp, estimated $500-700, sold for $2K
A pair of “Paul Frankl attribution” chairs [with down upholstery] and coffee table, estimated $200-300, sold for $500.
A really comfortable Bruno Mathsson “Eva” chair, estimated $500-700, sold for $688.
I hadn’t known Hugh Newell Jacobsen designed outdoor furniture, but it doesn’t surprise me. This pair of chaises longues, estimated at $1 - 1.5K, sold for $2.125.
The “After Alexander Calder” hammock, estimated $2-3K, sold for $5,313.
I have always coveted the Yanagi stool, estimated at $1-1.5K, sold for $1.5K
I have said many times that going to the preview for one of Wright Gallery’s design auctions is like going to a design museum, except you get to touch everything. You can even sit on the furniture.
It’s fun to look at the catalog online, of course, but nothing beats going over to Wright’s place on Hubbard Street and seeing it all in their display room. You’ve really got to give props to Wright’s Michael Jefferson, who procures spectacular consignments for these design sales, and arranges them in very appealing vignettes.
I like this selection: a leather-topped coffee table by Jacques Adnet and a pair of chairs by Pierre Jeanneret, with a Jean Prouve bed behind it and a pair of Gilbert Rohde chests to the left.
There were some great dining/conference tables. I like the Paul Frankl cork piece to the right, and the Edward Wormley table to the left, with Scarpa chairs.
Also love the big Nakashima table. [The Brno chairs are a separate lot].
Several lots in the auction are from George Nelson’s own collection, including some of his own designs and some from his contemporaries. Two in particular interested me:
The Eames Aluminum Group swivel lounge chair and ottoman
and his [pretty beat-up] Eames Hang-It-All.
Both of these carried what I would consider kind of lowball estimates: the chair/ottoman at $300-500, and the Hang-It-All at $500-700. I’m guessing that, with the provenance, they’ll go for many times more than that.
But my favorite piece in the sale has to be this item from Ettore Sottsass from his high Memphis period
which, although it looks like a cabinet on wheels, is actually called “S vase from Twenty-seven Woods for a Chinese Artificial Flower.” [estimate $3-5K]