1912 ARTS AND CRAFTS IN CALIFORNIA
The brothers Charles and Henry Greene were associated architects, based in Pasadena. These contemporaries of Frank Lloyd Wright conceived architecture as a whole. The building had to be harmoniously integrated into the landscape, and luxurious furnishings should be of the best taste.
They designed five residences that were later grouped under the designation of "ultimate bungalows". In December 2008, I discussed here a beautiful chair from the hall of Blacker house. Estimated $ 300K by Sotheby's, it had not been sold.
We meet Greene & Greene, again at Sotheby's, in New York on December 16, this time with a major piece of their art: the desk of Pratt house accompanied by its chair. They were made circa 1912 by the usual cabinetmaker of these architects, Peter Hall.
The dimensions of the desk are perfectly balanced: 1.19 m wide and 1.22 m high equally distributed between the cabinet body and its legs linked by a standoff.
The simplicity and efficiency of forms and the superb workmanship make it a typical example of American Arts and Crafts, and the auctioneer expects a result around $ 4M.
Sotheby's devotes a separate catalog to this lot exceptional in its origin and quality, which is shown on the releaseshared by Artdaily.
1917-1919 EILEEN GRAY'S MERMAID
The designer Eileen Gray did not like creating twice the same furniture. We know only two models of lacquered armchairs wich figurative pattern, which indeed do not resemble each other: aux Dragons and à la Sirène.
For such pieces intended for private clients, it is difficult to know the actual date of creation. Our two models of armchairs may have been created between 1917 and 1919.
The date of sale of the Sirène armchair is recorded on the ledger of Eileen Gray. In January 1923, Miss Gray sells it to Miss Damia. She had fallen madly in love with this mermaid (sirène), a realistic singer who was then enjoying an immense popular success. This piece of furniture will appear in the Damia estate sale in 1978.
In 2005, the Paris auction world was astonished. Six more seats à la Sirène arrived to be sold on June 1 by Camard at the Hôtel Drouot. They were unknown to all experts. Damia had managed to convince her girlfriend to make some extra chairs, which she eventually did not keep. They were slightly different one another. Sold separately, they fetched € 9M including premium. The most expensive of them was sold € 1.75M.
Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé owned the comfortable armchair aux Dragons, which was one of the stars of the sale at Christie's in February 2009: € 21.9 million including premium on an estimate of € 2M.
The Sirène armchair that was in the Damia estate comes again at auction at Christie's in New York on December 14, with an estimate of $ 2M.
< 1920 Lacquered Furniture by Eileen Gray
She opens a workshop for lacquered wood in Paris in 1910 with the specialized Japanese craftsman Seijo Sugawara. They develop together new colors. In 1913 the refinement and originality of their Japan-inspired panels are praised by fashion designer Jacques Doucet, instantly making Eileen Gray a pioneer of the Parisian Art Déco.
During the war Gray and Sugawara work in London. In the auction of the Saint-Laurent Bergé collection in February 2009, Christie's sold for € 4M including premium a highly rare lacquered enfilade cabinet made in that transition period. At the end of the war they restart the Parisian workshop.
On November 27 in Paris, Artcurial sells a lacquered console table made before 1920 with a 124 x 39 cm top and a total length of 169 cm including the retractable side shelves. It is entirely lacquered with various colors and the lacquer of the top is inlaid with silver powder. It is estimated € 1M, lot 77.
The only known similar table, with slightly different dimensions, was also in the Saint-Laurent Bergé collection. In its auction already referred above, it was sold for € 2.3M including premium over a lower estimate of € 1M.
1921 AND 1923 LACQUERED FURNITURE BY DUNAND AND GOULDEN
2014 BOTH SOLD 340 K€ INCLUDING PREMIUM
Jean Goulden was a doctor. Traumatized by the Dardanelles campaign, he however took enough time to discover the beauty of Byzantine enamels. Jean Dunand, coppersmith (dinandier) also specialized in precious materials. He learned the art of lacquer with Seizo Sugawara as early as 1912.
In the group of artists created in 1921 in Paris to design the decoration of a better world, Goulden acts as a sponsor and Dunand is the foremost designer. With the illustrators François-Louis Schmied and Paul Jouve, they regularly exhibit their art at the Galerie Georges Petit. The sculptors Gustave Miklos and Jean Lambert-Rucki are close to the group.
Goulden did not need money and produced little. The offer at auction by Sotheby's in Paris on March 11 of two lacquered pieces by Dunand and Goulden is an event. They come from the Félix Marcilhac collection.
The detailed share of each of them in these furniture signed by both is inseparable. However the lacquers were made by Dunand and the sumptuous stylized landscapes were designed by Goulden. The aesthetic quality of these creations is far ahead of their time.
Lot 13 of the catalog is a commode à portes (commode à l'anglaise), 90 x 135 x 63 cm, estimated € 300K. Made in 1921, it was included in the first exhibition of the group.
Lot 30 of the catalogue is a bureau de pente, 98 x 99 x 45 cm, also estimated € 300K. Exhibited in 1923, it was offered in 1925 by Goulden to his new wife, Schmied's daughter.
POST SALE COMMENT
Both pieces by Dunand and Goulden were each sold for € 340K including premium.
As often in this specialty, some lots were granted the preference of the buyers far beyond theirestimates.
A Nautilus armchair by Paul Iribe was sold for € 780K including premium. Made in 1913, it is a very rareexample of early French Art Déco before the First World War.
A shagreen table made by Groult in 1925 was sold for € 445K including premium.
1924 Pheasants for Jeanne Lanvin
2020 SOLD for $ 2M including premium
Trained at the Ecole Boulle, Rateau is both a decorator and a sculptor, he creates a bronze bestiary with simple shapes and smooth lines in the style of François Pompon, not following the modernist style of Rembrandt Bugatti.
Rateau features several birds in Lanvin's apartment. The legs of the guéridon are the very long tails of small birds. The copy which he had kept for his personal use, made circa 1922, was sold for € 3.04M including premium by Christie's on June 8, 2006.
The floor lamp is mounted on a base of four pheasants with their heads raised. Each pheasant is mounted on a ball. For the low table that can serve as a coffee table, the pheasants with their heads bowed, perched on the same balls, are at the four corners in a caryatid position, facing one another. The balls and tails are placed on the floor.
Rateau reuses for the Duchess of Alba the models of the floor lamp and of the low table. Her table, made in 1924, is similar to the Lanvin variant, with a hollow top and separate heads. It is 33 cm high with a floor area of 102 x 50 cm between the tails. It was sold for € 1.66M including premium by Christie's on May 23, 2013. In the same sale, the two floor lamps of the same provenance were sold for the same price, € 1.66M each.
A table made in 1924 in the Lanvin-Alba type was sold for $ 1.2M including premium by Christie's on December 17, 2015, lot 105. It is estimated $ 1M for sale by Sotheby's in New York on December 9, lot 8.
The table exhibited in 1925 at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs is a variant with a flat top. The bird's heads are closer to each other and joined by a daisy. An example was sold for € 2.03M including premium by Christie's on June 8, 2006.
#AuctionUpdate This masterful “Oiseaux” Low Table by Armand-Albert Rateau achieves $2 million to kick off #SothebysDesign Week auctions in #NYC. Only 2 other examples of this specific table are known to exist, created for famed couturier Jeanne Lanvin & the Duchess of Alba. pic.twitter.com/qWyKzCDIih— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) December 9, 2020
1924 and 1921-1925 Rateau reminds about Pompeii
2013 SOLD 1.66 M€ including premium
Around 1920, Armand-Albert Rateau gets three important orders of apartment furnishings, almost simultaneously. Jeanne Lanvin's is the best known, but his work for the palace of the Duchess of Alba in Madrid is based on the same models.
Inspired by Pompeii, Rateau's bronzes in 'antique green' patina are highly original. The bird as his preferred figurative theme is an opportunity for stunning curves in table legs and around the cups of the floor lamps. Some of them hold a sinuous snake in their beak.
The Alba family had retained some pieces from the bathroom. This set will be sold in eight lots at Christie's in Paris on May 23.
The coffee table dated 1924 is estimated € 1.5 M. Here is the link to the catalogue. This model is very close to the piece of the Dray collection, sold € 2M including premium on 8 June 2006, which had a lovely attitude of the four pheasants.
1.85 m high, the two floor lamps 'aux oiseaux' are rarer, and perhaps even more spectacular. They are dated between 1921 and 1925 in the catalogue. They will be sold separately, each one with an estimate of € 1.5 M.
In 1925 in Paris, the Exposition internationale des Arts décoratifs et industriels exhibits all the new trends. These developments financed by wealthy customers for their personal needs are presented to the public and generate new orders.
POST SALE COMMENT
The three lots discussed above were sold at the same price, each one at € 1.66M Including premium.
1926 THE REPLY OF RUHLMANN TO THE CENTRAL HEATING
Art history is inseparable from life. With Sotheby's, we see today how the generalization of comfort has impacted the work of Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann.
A century ago, the central heating is widespread in buildings. This progress was a threat to the conservation of old wooden objects, because it changed the heat balance and generated cracks. I do not teach you anything, as everyone knows it well today, but in 1926 Ruhlmann already worked on the consequences, admirably.
The bookcase that Sotheby's sells in Paris on June 4 is made of wood, but all the pieces of support are in silvered steel. It is constituted with four rows of five mobile boxes in mahogany. The panels are in Macassar ebony.
Ruhlmann combines wood and metal for a harmonious and aesthetic result. The master designer of the Art Déco, who was not himself a carpenter, helped enormously in these important and irreversible changes in the art of furniture which characterized the twentieth century.
Back to conclude with our sale: this furniture, 153 cm high, 196 cm wide, 40 cm deep, is estimated 300 K €. It is a unique piece which was presented the year of its creation at the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs.
POST SALE COMMENT
The piano designed by Ruhlmann was sold 500 K € premium included, around its low estimate.
Of more simple (perhaps too simple) shape, the bookcase has not been sold.
1928 The Cabinetmaker and the Dinandier
Their skills are complementary and their fruitful collaboration lasts from 1928 until the death of Dunand in 1942. Their joint production consists mainly of sideboards : buffets, enfilades, bahuts. The style meets the canons of Art Déco : geometric simplicity of forms, beauty of surfaces.
On November 26 in Paris, Sotheby's sells an enfilade 133 x 220 x 40 cm, lot 47 estimated € 400K, which had dazzled the visitors of the Salon d'Automne in 1928 beside another important sideboard in.kekwood combined with lacquered metal doors.
The piece for sale is a bahut in palmwood veneer with an interior in Brazilian rosewood. It is raised on two elegant arch centered metal stretchers. The facade entirely made of fire-blackened metal is made of silver stripes of unequal length on a patinated background. The four doors and the concave drawer are barely perceptible in this glossy surrounding.
By the same team, a cabinet 125 x 160 x 30 cm made in 1930-1931 was sold for € 1,26M including premium by Christie's on November 27, 2007 over a lower estimate of € 350K. An enfilade 93 x 200 x 44 cm made circa 1937 was sold on June 4, 2019 for $ 5.5M including premium over a lower estimate of $ 300K, also by Christie's. Both furniture also use palmwood.
1926-1928 Mahogany and Shagreen
2016 SOLD for $ 1.45M including premium
This ambitious exposition is open from April to October 1925 on the model of the World Exhibitions. Its success with the public is considerable. France appears as the promoter of a new luxury. Architecture and furniture are inspired from the artistic avant-gardes. The shapes are simplified, the proportions are balanced and the use of rare woods and leathers is encouraged.
One of the pavilions simulates a French Embassy under the patronage of the Ministry of Fine Arts. Each room is entrusted to another decorator, selected among the best in their specialty : Mallet-Stevens, Jourdain, Chevalier, Groult, Chareau, with the active participation of Ruhlmann.
André Groult conceives the Chambre de Madame of this imaginary ambassade. His anthropomorphic cabinet frees this type of furniture from the constraints of straight lines. The commode is in mahogany entirely covered with white shagreen. Mahogany was chosen because this wood is strong enough to withstand the shrinkage of the ray skin.
An American woman living in Paris is seduced by this achievement and orders to Groult a similar set that will be realized between 1926 and 1928. The commode 90 x 131 x 47 cm realized by Chanaux and Pelletier is covered with large grain green shagreen arranged on each piece of wood in a pattern of radiant triangles which is a sumptuous example of pointillist abstract art.
This green chest of drawers was sold for € 1,25M including premium by Christie's in the sale of the prestigious Dray collection on June 8, 2006, over a lower estimate of € 250K. It is estimated $ 700K for sale by Sotheby's in New York on December 14, lot 259.
1929 An Interior furnished by Ruhlmann
2010 SOLD 1.5 M$ including premium
The beauty and simplicity of shapes and the luxurious materials identify Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann as the top master of Art Déco style.
An American family did no mistake: in 1929 and 1930, they ordered to the Parisian atelier the furniture for the dining room and the master bedroom. The correspondence related to this transaction has been preserved, and shows the care taken by the client to express his needs. Each delivered piece remained close to the model, but with little details that customize them.
This consistent set is essentially made of oak with Macassar ebony or walnut veneer and inlaid with ivory. It will be dispersed into nine lots on December 16 in New York by Sotheby's.
The lower estimates range from $ 100K to $ 300K. The highest price is expected on a very elegant secretary 1.37 m high with a drop front over two drawers and a synthetic finish that imitates the tortoise shell.
The press release shared (with an incorrect date of sale) by AuctionPublicity is illustrated with a photograph of a chest which gives a good idea of the quality of the whole.
POST SALE COMMENT
There are still treasures, and this interior was one. The sale of the 9 lots totaled $ 6.6 million, and some of them deserve to be remembered.
The two sideboards (1929), whose images were almost identical and could form a pair, were sold separately $ 1.5 M and 1.17 M.
The set of 12 cannelée chairs was sold for $ 990K.
The dining table was sold for $ 860K.
The walnut veneer chiffonier was sold for $ 840K.
The drop-front secretary was sold for $ 620K.
The above prices include fees.
It must be noted that the secretary, which had the highest estimate, is in sixth position in the results.This piece was atypical. Instead, the two sideboards, one of them being visible through the link included in the above article, are typical of what is best and most renowned in the work of Ruhlmann.They are veneered in macassar ebony and ivory inlaid.
1930 THE GAMES TABLE OF MADELEINE VIONNET
One year ago, Christie's sold the collection of the "château de Gourdon", one of the most outstanding Art Déco setsthat ever went to auction. This sale was a success, but some lots were estimated too high. The games table made byDunand for Madeleine Vionnet is one of the unsold lots that are now proposed at Artcurial in Paris on June 12.
Last year, this lot was estimated € 3M. It is illustrated and shared on the Artvalue database. Here is the description that was published in this group before Christie's sale:
While Ruhlmann designed the most beautiful furniture of the twentieth century, Jean Dunand offered to the Art Décostyle its top sophistication of interior decoration. His wide-ranged art focused on two specialties, dinanderie (brassware) and lacquer.
On March 29 (2011) in Paris, Christie's sells a games table with four matching chairs. This set designed in 1930 for the apartment of Madeleine Vionnet wisely reminds the strong link that existed for twenty years in Paris between high fashion and luxury furnishings.
It is a small square table 94 cm on each side, 76 cm high. In black lacquered wood, it features a chessboard inlaid with crushed eggshells. The four chairs with metal studs, which retained their original yellow leather, just fit under the table to close the stylish black box.
ADDITIONAL PRE SALE INFORMATION
I am grateful to Artcurial auction house, organizer of the Art Déco sale in Paris on June 12, for their information concerning the estimate of the games table made by Jean Dunand for Madeleine Vionnet: € 2 to 3M.
1931 RATEAU, SCULPTOR OF FURNITURE
In Paris between the two world wars, the creativity of interior designers is unlimited. These artists in furniture are looking for originality and balance of the shapes and take high care on the quality of the materials. It is the Art Deco period.
When discussing seats, it is tempting to draw a parallel between the work of Eileen Gray and that of Armand-Albert Rateau. And it is fun to venture a comparison between the armchair of Yves Saint-Laurent and the pair of Rateau armchairs which are sold by Camard in Paris (Hôtel Drouot) on March 31.
These models are skillfully carved chairs of normal sitting height, with low curved back and carved armrests. The wide Dragon armchair by Eileen Gray, dating from 1920-1922, has been sold € 21.9 million charge included by Christie's and Pierre Bergé last year during the memorable sale of the Saint-Laurent estate.
The pair of Rateau armchairs is more recent. Ethnic bronze figures enable to date the model around the Colonial Exhibition of Paris in 1931. The oak wood is carved with motifs of feathers and beads. They are filled with a red silk velvet. This lot is estimated 500 K €.
Camard auction house is a specialist of Art Deco style. On 1 June 2005, they had splitted the six Mermaid armchairs of Eileen Gray, for a total of nearly 9 million € including charges.
1932 THE DESKS FROM THE ATELIER B
In 1929 Ruhlmann innovates at the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs. His desk with a large top is no longer a simplefurniture but a full functional unit equipped with a leather writing surface, a lamp, drawers, and a wastebasket.
A client is specifically targeted: the wealthy son of the Maharajah of Indore, then in a European trip for imagining amodernist palace.
French ministres are also welcomed. The prototype presented in this exhibition, executed in Ruhlmann's Atelier B, is known as "bureau Tardieu" from its first owner. Accompanied by its armchair, it was sold € 2.3 million includingpremium at Christie's on March 29, 2011.
This new line of products is promising. The young Maharajah orders a copy.
Another desk from the same design, made in 1932 in the atelier B, presented without chair, is estimated $ 2M, for saleby Christie's in New York on December 12. It is comparable in width, 2.70 m, to the bureau Tardieu, but the depth of the fan-shaped top, 1.74 m, is greater.
Ruhlmann showed the way to a new style of operational furniture that was still compatible with lavish materials. His untimely death in 1933 will be a disaster for the development of the French furniture of the highest quality.
1937 an art déco sideboard by printz and dunand
Printz was offering highly functional furniture. He converted a sideboard into a bookcase by equipping it of revolving panels that provided the access to the shelves. The panels were decorated with abstract patterns made by Jean Dunand in silver oxidation.
Like the other Parisian masters of his time, Printz enjoyed working fine wood. His favorite timber was the palm tree, beautiful in its striped ochre but whose fiber is very difficult to work.
On February 23 in Paris, Artcurial sells a luxurious sideboard by Printz and Dunand, lot 618 estimated € 800K, illustrated in Chapter 4 of the press release dedicated to that sale dispersing a large collection.
This palm tree furniture can be designated as a bibliothèque or a meuble de collectionneur. It is 3.10 m wide with a height of 1.46 m and a depth of 46 cm and is composed of seven adjacent cases. The front is adorned in dinanderie by Dunand and the back in palm tree veneer.
This model is extremely rare: only one other example is known, with a more regular decorative pattern. It is owned by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts that plausibly dates it to circa 1937. The catalog of Artcurial prefers to indicate a date ca 1940. Anyway this nice furniture is a feat from the later Art Déco period.
1938-1939 CATHEDRAL OF THE WAX
The SC Johnson and Son company, specialist of wax, is rich and powerful. In 1936, the manager decides to make a new building of offices for the headquarters in Racine WI.
Johnson appreciated that the employees will be proud to work in a modern environment whose functionality is designed down to tiniest details. He entrusts the project to Frank Lloyd Wright, author in the same year of the house over the waterfall that is rightly regarded today as the most significant masterpiece of American architecture.
Johnson accepts with complacency the budget overruns of Wright. He is right. The result, based on the removal of right angles, is an icon of modernism and prefigures the Guggenheim Museum which will be the ultimate work of Wright two decades later. The large working room in open space of the Johnson building was highlighted as a Cathedral of work.
Wright also designed the furniture. The chair with three legs is a failure but the desk in metal and wood designed in nine versions to accommodate the tasks of the staff is very successful. Its three overlapping slightly asymmetrical oval surfaces remind also the geometric boldness of the waterfall house.
The Johnson company proudly retained much of their furniture, except a few pieces sent to museums. The availability on the market of such furniture made in 1938 and 1939 is extremely rare.
Around 1950, an executive's desk and its armchair (which had not the instability of the basic chair) are presented by Johnson to a subcontractor. Kept in very good condition, they are for sale by Sotheby's in New York on December 18. The desk is estimated $ 400K and the armchair $ 80K. Here is the link to Sotheby's magazine.
POST SALE COMMENT
Both lots have been withdrawn from the sale following a complaint from SC Johnson company.
LUXURY IN THE DESKS OF DUPRE-LAFON
2008 SOLD 420 K$ INCLUDING PREMIUM
In the 1940s, Paul Dupré-Lafon is a designer of top furniture. The previous generation had lived, with Ruhlmann, the triumph of the Art Déco style. The luxury was embedded in the choice of materials and the beauty of forms. There already was another trend known as Purist, that would include the simplicity of design.
Why going to New York to discuss a desk of Dupré-Lafon, whose productions often highlight the sales of twentieth century furniture in Paris?
Simply because lot 35 of the auction sale 2101 of Christie's on December 15, estimated $ 400 K, is the most elegant and harmonious in the work of Dupré-Lafon. It is a flat desk with two compartments of three drawers each, made of parchment, mahogany, leather and bronze. It is sold with its chair. The desk is relatively small (1.30 m long), thus undoubtedly justifying that the estimate is not higher.
If one reminds that Dupré-Lafon worked with Hermès, including (but not only) for leathers, he is worth of one of the top positions in the history of luxury in the twentieth century.
I add as a reference a very recent result: on December 10 in Paris Tajan sold 620 K € fees included a large flat desk covered with parchment, without compartments, of a beautiful geometric purity.
POST SALE COMMENT
This set has been sold successfully, at 420 K $ including fees.
It was so typical of the work of Dupré-Lafon that we should not have expected a surprise. The desk very well sold by Tajan a few days before was of a much rarer model.
1946 JEAN PROUVE REFURBISHED FRANCE
2009 SOLD 34 K€ BEFORE FEES
Architect, industrialist, designer, Jean Prouvé was all along his life in service of the popular classes. Member of the Resistance during World War II, he helped rebuild France.
Since the 1930s, he promoted logic, balance and purity. Specialist of metal, particularly aluminum, the originality of his style is that he preferred the bent metal to the tube.
Taking up his activities at the end of 1945, he designed the model of armchairs known as "Visiteurs," among other pieces of furniture he wanted accessible to many. Three of these seats in oak are presented in the sale of Pierre Bergé et Associés in Paris, salle Drouot, on January 28: a pair of 1946, estimated 40 K €, as lot 187, and the third from 1949, estimated 20 K €, lot 188.
As a logical continuation of this model, Prouvé produced from 1954 the furniture of the student residence of Antony, near Paris: bookcases, chairs, beds, desks. This set is the best example of functional French furniture in the second half of the twentieth century.
POST SALE COMMENT
The estimates were too optimistic. The pair of seats, Lot 187, was sold 34 K € before fees, and Lot 188 was not sold.
1948-1949 Noguchi, Sculptor of Tables
2012 SOLD 2.9 M$ including premium
Noguchi was also a precursor of utilitarian sculpture. Too far ahead of his time, he first had trouble developing his projects for park decorations. Fortunately, in 1947, the agreement with the U.S. company Herman Miller, design specialist, brings him a considerable and sustainable success.
Herman Miller publishes several coffee tables of Noguchi. The most popular type, of free shape with a wooden base and a glass top, will be produced along several decades. Other materials are also available. An early copy of IN-62 model, 68 cm high, was sold $ 630K including premium by Wright on December 6, 2005. It is made of marble, birch wood and steel.
Apart from his association with Herman Miller, Noguchi exploits this new industry by making abstract sculptures-tables on request. He remembers that his preferred material is stone.
Made in 1948-1949, a luxurious and unique specimen made in marble is estimated $ 800K, for sale by Christie's in New York on June 14. This table measures 34 cm high with an oval top 125 cm wide.
I invite you to play the video shared by Christie's.
POST SALE COMMENT
This table made by a sculptor could well be sold for the price of a sculpture. The result, $ 2.9 million including premium, is excellent.
1948-1949 The Joints of Isamu Noguchi
2018 SOLD for $ 1.65M including premium
In 1939 his art caught the attention of A. Conger Goodyear, director of the MoMA, who orders a table. Noguchi places a glass top on an assembly of two free shaped pieces in rosewood. This is his first piece of furniture. It was sold for $ 4.5M including premium by Phillips on December 16, 2014.
In 1945 George Nelson was appointed Director of Design for the Herman Miller furniture company. Nelson is a modernist visionary for whom furnishing must have simple shapes and fit harmoniously into the living environment. Noguchi's small coffee table inspired from the Goodyear table enters Herman Miller's catalog in 1947. It is one of the most sustainable successes of design.
Encouraged by this achievement, Noguchi accepts custom orders for unique pieces. A large 34 x 124 x 112 cm coffee table in marble ordered in 1948 and delivered in 1949 was sold for $ 2.9M including premium by Christie's on June 14, 2012 over a lower estimate of $ 800K.
On June 7 in Chicago, Wright sells a dining table of the same dates, 196 x 145 x 66 cm in marble and oak, lot 114 estimated $ 1M here linked in the LiveAuctioneers bidding platform. The spectacular pink Georgia marble was also used by Noguchi for his most important sculptures.
The asymmetrical shape on three legs is innovative and the rather low height reminds the Japanese tables. Near the center a removable aluminum bowl is recessed, inviting to install a pot of flowers.
This table was part of a special commission from the young fashion photographers Milton and Evelyn Greene, along with a sofa and an ottoman. Remaining in close relationship with Noguchi, Milton Greene used this set to attract celebrities in his pose sessions with a playful and modernist atmosphere. At first the best known were Marlene Dietrich and Lisa Fonssagrives. Later he hosted for two years Marilyn Monroe in what was perhaps the most stable period of her life.
1953 CARLO MOLLINO RESURRECTED
Carlo Mollino loved the scenery of Piedmont, skiing, photography, women. He devoted his career to functional creation, as an architect, interior designer, creator of furniture and of racing car bodies.
His passion for the occult gives a first key to his art: he wanted that his work reflects his view of the world. And like the Italian Futurists of the previous generation, he accepted no limit to his imagination.
Mollino had many reasons to be forgotten. He worked in Turin, far away from the capitals. His work was so versatile that it has become rare in all categories, and unlike other architects designers, he never wished to industrialize his furniture, preferring opportunity creation.
On the art market, his resurrection happened on 9 June 2005. An oak table with a glass top made in 1949 had been estimated $ 150K. Christie's sold it $ 3.8 million including premium. Creations by Mollino still had keen followers.
On October 23 in London, Christie's will disperse an exceptional set in ten lots: all the furnishings of a mountain lodge created by Mollino in 1953.
Sold in a single lot, the dining suite is composed of a large table in oak and chestnut coated with a linoleum and of its ten modernist chairs inspired from Alpine stools. This lot is estimated £ 500K. The other top piece is the light ceiling estimated £ 150K. Both lots are shown in the same photo in the press release shared by AuctionPublicity.
The other key to the art of Mollino is provided by an unexpected activity at the end of his life. When he finally decided to focus on a specialty, he photographed in polaroid the prostitutes of Turin.
Mollino's furniture were abstract, but their subtle arabesques had an undeniable carnal nature. The result is a remarkable integration of each of them in the atmosphere of the apartment, with a presence that makes them the real characters in the room.
1964-1966 The Table of an Artist
2018 SOLD for € 750K including premium
The Lalanne are sculptors. Their career was launched by the exhibition titled Zoophites in 1964 at the Galerie J. Zoomorphic works can be used as pieces of furniture. The major items in this exhibition were François-Xavier's rhinocrétaire and Claude's choupattes.
The world of fashion is charmed by their inventions. Beside the zoomorph, François-Xavier offers custom furniture in which the unconventional position and shape of cases and pots meet a functional need.
The bar in metal supplied in 1965 by François-Xavier to Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé is equipped with an ovoid bottle rack, a shaker in the shape of a cornucopia and a spherical ice bucket. It was sold in February 2009 by Christie's and Pierre Bergé et Associés for € 2.75M including premium over a lower estimate of € 200K.
The drawing board prepared from 1964 to meet the demands of Karl Lagerfeld was delivered to him in 1966. In an inspiration very similar to the YSL bar, this tray with adjustable inclination is equipped with glass and metal containers for pencils and brushes, an adjoining surface for preparing colors, a spherical storage box and a light source.
Relinquished by Lagerfeld to the decorator Jacques Grange in the 1970s, the KL table is estimated € 500K for sale by Sotheby's in Paris on May 3, lot 156.
For furniture in series, François-Xavier Lalanne remains a friend of animals. In 1967 he designs a bar whose tray centered on a removable ice bucket egg is carried in the beak by two ostriches in Sèvres porcelain. A copy assembled in 1970 was sold for € 6.2M including premium by Sotheby's on November 21, 2017 over a lower estimate of € 700K. It came from the Grange collection.
1970 Bars by François-Xavier Lalanne
2018 SOLD for $ 1.64M including premium
In 1964 the exhibition titled Zoophites displays the know-how of the Lalannes in functional furniture and zoomorphic figures, in both cases with humor and with rejection of all traditions. The rhinocrétaire is already a hybrid between these two types of objects. Before them Fornasetti had changed the decoration of the furniture but not the shape.
Yves Saint-Laurent is not mistaken. He orders a bar to François-Xavier. The elements of an ordinary bar are there : the bottle rack, the ice bucket and even a shaker. They are assembled with a tubular structure that is not zoomorphic. Supplied in 1965 to Saint-Laurent and Bergé, this unprecedented piece of furniture was sold by Christie's in February 2009 for € 2,75M including premium over a lower estimate of € 200K, lot 348.
Despite this first success, this product remains confidential. In 1966 François-Xavier delivers another bar, similar in structure but less compact, to a couple of Belgian collectors. The Mayersdorff Bar was sold by Christie's on May 17, 2018 for $ 4.6M including premium over a lower estimate of $ 2.2M, lot 3 B.
With Lalanne the animals could not stay away for long. The Bar à Autruches was edited in six copies in 1970. The tray is held on both sides by ostriches made in 1967 in a newly developed white Sèvres porcelain and carries in its center an egg shaped ice bucket. One of them was sold for € 6.2M including premium by Sotheby's on November 21, 2017 over a lower estimate of € 700K.
The ostrich bar is original and prestigious but its functionality is rudimentary. A fully closed bar will better meet user's needs. François-Xavier creates in 1970 the Bar Sauterelle. The body is in porcelain and the posts are made of brass and steel. This grasshopper finally offers the whole comfort of a modern bar, including a compartment for bottles and another for glasses.
Only two copies were made in white Sèvres porcelain. One of them was offered in 1972 by Président Pompidou to the English royal couple. It is still in their ownership. The other one is estimated $ 800K for sale by Sotheby's in New York on May 24, lot 449. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
1974 The Rocking Bird
2009 SOLD 550 K€ before fees (possibly unpaid)
2010 SOLD for € 360K including premium
François-Xavier Lalanne gives utility to zoomorphic art objects. Sometimes he adds movement. In 1974 he created an Oiseau de jardin à bascule (bird see-saw).
This piece is a rocking chair 120 x 130 x 190 cm in polished and copper-plated steel sheets. It has the shape of the "piaf", the friendly sparrow which was a symbol of the streets of Paris. The user is invited to sit in the cavity between the wings, resting his back behind the head of the bird, his elbows on the wings and extending his legs over the tail.
This bestiary-furniture, announced as a unique piece, was sold on June 17, 2009 in Brussels for € 550K before fees by Pierre Bergé et Associés, lot 338, below its estimate of € 600K. It was sold by a Belgian collector who had acquired it in 1974. I narrated it before that sale.
An identical lot, advertised as coming from an edition of two, was sold by Sotheby's for € 360K including premium on December 7, 2010, lot 18. The provenance is consistent with the information for the 2009 sale, but without reference to Belgium. This could be the same unit that would have remained in the family of the original owner after being unsold or unpaid in 2009.
The bird sold at Sotheby's is now estimated $ 1.3M for sale by Christie's in New York on December 4, lot 605. The first owner, from 1974 until 2010 by descent, is identified. He lived in Brussels, which is consistent with the provenance announced in 2009. In the meantime, the price of Lalanne's art has taken flight, like a real piaf.
1992 Hippopotame Bathroom by François-Xavier Lalanne
2020 SOLD for € 2.1M by Sotheby's
A bathtub, a bidet and a toilet are required. François-Xavier objects to the two small equipment because hippos do not have twins, but he finally accepts. All of these three pieces made in 1992 were sold in a single lot for € 2.1M by Sotheby's on June 25, 2020, lot 115. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
This set is usable. The beasts are in patinated bronze, copper and gilded metal, with removable elements. Here are the dimensions : 122 x 75 x 245 cm for the mom bathtub and 61 x 40 x 123 cm for each of the two babies.
1993 Well being in a Lounge
2019 SOLD for £ 515K including premium
Made in 1988, the prototype of the Lockheed Lounge was sold for $ 2.1M including premium by Phillips de Pury on May 13, 2010. It is made of foam reinforced with fiberglass and covered by riveted aluminum sheets. One of the ten copies of the 1990 edition was sold for £ 2.43M including premium by Phillips on April 28, 2015.
The next improvement is to remove any separation in the aluminum layer. Inspired by the molding techniques used for surfboards, Newson creates from 1989 the Orgone range of products. In the disputed theories of the psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich 'orgone' refers to the force that brings well-being.
In 1993 the Orgone Chair is equipped with a backrest. It is followed in the same year by its low version, the Orgone Stretch Lounge, which looks a bit like a Formula 1 car. After the prototype, this lounge chair is edited in six units plus two artist's proofs.
The second artist's proof of the Orgone Stretch Lounge was discussed in this column before being sold for £ 420K including premium by Sotheby's on October 18, 2008. It is estimated £ 300K for sale by Christie's in London on March 6, lot 124. In the meantime the other artist's proof remained unsold at Phillips de Pury on December 15, 2010 with a lower estimate of $ 350K.
1998 the promenade of the dinosaurs
2017 sold for $ 540k including premium
In 1989 Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne realized six monumental fountains in stainless steel and copper for a public promenade in Santa Monica. Each one is another model of dinosaur with however some liberty compared to the scientific truth. Each sculpture is also used as a flower box, allowing a seasonal decoration covering the entire surface excepted head, crest and claws in accordance with the gardener's fantasy.
One of the six is an intruder : the dimetrodon that lived 280 million years ago is anterior to the dinosaurs and closer to mammals. Indeed the exuberant ornament of its back can make him look like a stegosaurus. This dorsal sail served to regulate its temperature during an exposure to the sun. Wikipedia in French adds not without boldness that this organ also served for seduction during courtship display.
Dimetrodon II was made with the same materials on a commission from a collector in 1998 and can also be used as a fountain. With its 5.30 m long it is larger than the prehistoric animal which did not exceed 3.50 m. It is adding to the seductive power of the original beast an elegant frontal horn.
Numbered 1/1 this artwork which enters the very rare category of the topiary installations is estimated $ 500K for sale by Sotheby's in New York on June 6, lot 127.
2006 Computer Assisted Chairs
2019 SOLD for £ 710K including premium
Computer modeling opens a new path. In 1998 Opel creates a software based on the algorithms of nature to lighten the mount of the engine in its cars. Impressed by Opel's results, Joris Laarmanoperates similar softwares in furniture. In 2003 he realizes a radiator whose shape is based on the optimization of thermal conduction.
To design his chair on the principle of bone growth, he defines the position of backrest and seat and the points of contact to the ground, and then let the computer calculate the details of the structure. The aluminum construction of these complex shapes is solved for small series by one-piece casting in a technique of lost ceramics. Industrialization is still today a challenge that deserves to be studied : Laarman's computer-assisted chairs have a robustness far superior to classical furniture.
After his chair, Laarman creates an armchair and a rocking chair based on the same principle of nature, a bookcase inspired by the branches, a table using the classic calculations of bridge pillars and many other pieces of furniture.
The aluminum Bone Chair is edited in 12 units in 2006. It immediately becomes an icon of contemporary furniture. Four of them are kept in museums, including the Rijksmuseum and the MoMA.
The serial number 4/12 was sold for £ 345K including premium by Phillips on April 27, 2016. The 8/12 is estimated £ 400K for sale by Christie's in London on March 6, lot 115.
2007 Crocodiles in the Lounge
2018 SOLD for € 750K including premium
Over the years Claude Lalanne gradually edits a suite of crocodile seats in gilt bronze and copper with leather cushions. On December 13, 2017 a pair of armchairs made in 1997 is separated by Sotheby's with a lower estimate of $ 300K each. With results at $ 980K and 1,15M including premium, Claude's reptiles can valuably swallow the sheep of her husband.
The bench designed by Claude in 2006 is more spacious, 79 x 140 x 74 cm compared to the 78 x 61 x 64 cm of an armchair. There is now the place for two crocodiles in a similar position. The tight composition has become airy.
This Banquette is edited in 2007 in eight copies plus four artist proofs with the mark of the Figini foundry. The number 4/8 was sold for € 460K including premium by Sotheby's on May 24, 2016 over a lower estimate of € 200K. The number 2/8 is estimated € 600K for sale by Tajan in Paris on April 4, lot 9.
The Bureaux Croco by Claude Lalanne are another design with the bronze skin spreading on the top. One of them dated 2009 was sold for $ 2.17M including premium by Sotheby's over a lower estimate of $ 350K in the same auction as the pair of armchairs mentioned above.
2008 Grand Mouflon de Pauline
2019 SOLD for € 2.4M by Sotheby's
The bar is an important element throughout his work. His first major client, Yves Saint-Laurent, had custom made a non-zoomorphic bar. A tablet bar held by two ostriches using a new technique of Sèvres porcelain was sold for € 6.2M by Sotheby's on November 21, 2017. The most recognizable work by the general public remains however the sheep-shaped bench.
Designed in 1993, the Grand Mouflon de Pauline is a synthesis of these two trends. In 2006 the original edition is a 132 x 122 x 47 cm desk made in eight copies plus four artist's proofs. One of them was sold for £ 1.45M by Christie's on March 6, 2018 from a lower estimate of £ 400K.
The 2007 version, made in gilt bronze in the same quantities as the original edition, offers a refinement : two sliding doors open on a bar cabinet. One of these sheep, 128 x 117 x 43 cm, was sold for $ 1.93M by Christie's on June 4, 2019 from a lower estimate of $ 1M.
A Grand Mouflon de Pauline coming directly from the home of Les Lalanne was sold for € 2.4M by Sotheby's on October 23, 2019, lot 38 from a lower estimate of € 600K. This piece of furniture 130 x 120 x 54 cm comes from the 2008 edition of eight copies, which extended the depth of the bar compared to the 2007 edition. François-Xavier Lalanne died in December 2008.
2009 The Skin of the Crocodile
2017 SOLD for $ 2.17M including premium
The event occurs. Lalanne narrated its act of transmission by the director of the zoo at midnight on moonlight. We may believe her or not about such highly romantic details. What is certain is that the corpse immediately metallized by electroplating was used in a whole range of Lalanne furniture.
Dated 1972 and made of copper, bronze and brass, Fauteuil Crocodile I is probably the prototype of these armchairs where the complete crocodile in the round is rolled halfway within the back of the chair. The seat rests on supernumerary legs. It was sold for € 1.35M including premium by Sotheby's on June 6, 2012 over a lower estimate of € 150K.
Several editions follow with slightly different positions of the animal. In 1997 a pair edited in 8 copies is composed of an armchair where the tail is placed on the seat and another where it is raised. One of these pairs is separated by Sotheby's in New York on December 13, lot 52 and lot 53 estimated $ 300K each.
Ten years later Claude Lalanne diversifies her range of bronze crocodiles, including a Crococurule stool, a bench with two crocodiles and a small bench where the complete beast is positioned as a spacer (entretoise).
The desk is made at the same time. The crocodile skin in high relief partially covers the top while head, two side legs and tail are hanging. A Bureau Croco dated 2008 was sold for € 850K including premium by Christie's on September 12, 2017 over a lower estimate of € 120K.
In the same next sale as above, Sotheby's sells as lot 54 a Bureau Crocodile 80 x 157 x 61 cm dated 2009, estimated $ 350K, possibly from the same edition of 8 as the Bureau Croco described above.
RESULTS INCLUDING PREMIUM
1997 Fauteuils SOLD for $ 980K and $ 1.15M.
2009 Bureau SOLD for $ 2.17M.