Fair and Auction Report Card: March, Part II
“I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.” Oscar Wilde
March 6, Modern Art & Design Auction, Los Angeles Modern Auctions.
This auction’s press release is unsubtle but sums up the sale’s importance perfectly: “Property from the estate of computer billionaire Max Palevsky [high-tech prescient, venture capitalist and L.A. cultural paladin] and works from the collection of James Byrnes, the first curator of Modern Art at LACMA, will trade hands for the first time on March 6, 20100 at the upcoming LAMA auction. Over half of the 500 plus items [524 lots in all] offered in the March 6th auction have never before traded hands on the open market.” Great provenances, with all lots sold at little or no reserve, are what auction house director Peter Loughrey calls “icing on the cake.” He’s right. And this is a prime example of why it’s important to keep regional auction houses (aka, all those not in New York) in the cultural and acquisitive crosshairs. As the French and French-ly inclined Americans say, On ne sait jamais!
What I do know is treasure pop up, and there are often good deals, even extremely good deals, to be had and dec arts knowledge and know-how to be gleaned. Palevsky, for one, was a major patron of Ettore Sottsass and his post-modern furniture creations that are, by turns, loved or loathed. But the Sottsass pieces on offer here are custom creations, many made in noble materials. Several of the pieces (such as lots 51 and 55, a custom sofa and entry table, pictured) are also monumental.
The bulk of Palevsky’s estate was sold last fall at Christie’s New York, and brought approximately $56 million. This article from the Los Angeles Times Culture Monster blog gives more deets about the Palevsky pieces and why they’re being auctioned in L.A. Other covetable consignments in the auction include fine art by Venice-based artist Richard Pettibone and Cali-kissed Ed Ruscha, and dec arts from Rudolph Schindler, the Eamses, George Nakashima, Paul Tuttle and Frank Gehry (among many other artists and artisans).
March 9, The Eric Clapton sale of Guitars and Amps in aid of the Crossroads Centre, Bonhams, New York and Los Angeles.
Hey, it’s a single-owner sale, and yes musical instruments are dec arts. Rock on.
March 10, What Modern Is: The Collection of Mark McDonald, Sotheby’s New York.
This single-owner sale of goodies belonging to gallerist Mark McDonald is a biggie. The man behind three successful galleries—Fifty/50 and Gansevoort Gallery in Manhattan and his current eponymous gallery in Hudson, New York—McDonald did much to promote “midcentury modern” as a category and to move it into the consciousness of the design and decorating worlds. James Zemaitis, Sotheby’s Senior Vice President of 20th Century Design, underscores McDonald’s importance in the flack release: “The title of the auction recalls Design 1935-1965: What Modern Was, the seminal exhibition catalogue that was the first to codify in a succinct way the history of modernism as seen in the decorative arts.” Nuff said.
Semi-interesting YouTube-ish online video (first of two) with a visit to the Hudson gallery and preparation of the catalog.
Get the $53 hard catalog? Yes, if you’re a modern enthusiast.
March 11, 20th Century Decorative Art & Design, Christie’s New York.
Part of this regular catch-all are pieces from the estate of Morton Swinsky, a Wall Street bond trader who had a taste for charming animal-inspired furniture, much of it limited production from studio furniture designers like Judy Kensley McKie (in fact, this sale is the largest selection of her work ever to appear at auction). My pick is lot 101, the stained wood and patinated bronze “Monkey” bench.
March 15, The Chester Sale: European Ceramics and Glass including the Dygnas collection of Bourdalou, Bonhams London.
Quotidian, highly functional and often extremely pretty—such is the bourdalou, a highly under-praised sub-category of 18th and 19th-century porcelain, pottery and glassware.
What is it? An oval or oval-ish container into which ladies would relieve themselves. That’s right, it’s a piss pot. The likely apocryphal story is that Louis Bourdaloue, a French Jesuit priest at the court of Louis XIV, gave such interminable sermons that ladies took to bringing these rather discreet vessels with them, which they used, hidden under their voluminous robes a la françaises. The great manufacturies—Sevres, Limoges, Meissen, Wedgewood, Coalport—all were interested in this #1 container, which was used as often in carriages, during long trips, as in church. Word to the wise: these are not to be confused with sauceboats, as a friend of mine once did, and who, upon learning of her porcelain’s original purpose did not blanche: “Well, how original my table is!” This enormous sale of 896 lots has bourdalous from lot 72 to lot 141. And trust, many are very beautiful.
Additionally, on March 16 Bonhams in London is offering Ceramic Design from 1860, which contains two single-owner sales. The first, The Professor Abbey Collection of Moorcroft Pottery, is just shy of 60 lots. The second is the small but sublime 18-lot collection from an anonymous New Zealander.
March 14, 16, Property from the Estate of Queen Juliana of the Netherlands: All to be Sold for the Benefit of Charity, Rai Theater/Sotheby’s Amsterdam. (The recipient—charity—is in the sale’s title, lest there be worry the Dutch royal family might soon be passing the hat, er crown.)
March 29, 30, 31, Les Collections du Chateau de Gourdon, Chefs-d’oeuvre du XXeme siècle, Palais de Tokyo, Christie’s Paris.
A top Christie’s executive in New York calls this the Mac Daddy of single-owner sales for March. Too true, but this suave and sophisticated executive is being too modest, because this sale might be the new reigning Mac Daddy of all decorative arts sales in the history of dec arts sales, surpassing the current record holder: Christie’s Paris’ jaw-dropping Yves Saint Laurent-Pierre Bergé 20th Century Decorative Arts sale, which in February 2009 cashed in at €59.1.
The collection of 20th century Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and Modernist works by members of the Union des Artistes Modernes (UAM) is comprised of ubiquitously significant pieces, many of them one-offs, is estimated to garner €40-€60 million, and was assembled over the last fifteen years by Laurent Negro, the heir to a vast French employment agency who has not yet cracked forty (and whom you are therefore free to despise). Until recently, Negro has been displaying his I.I.C. (incredibly important collection) in his chateau near Grasse on the French Riviera. Reasons for the sale are varied. Some say he wants to transition the chateau from museum back to private home; others report tensions between Negro and the local municipality.
Not in dispute is the richness and depth of what’s coming to the block. Brothers and sisters, we’re talking over 500 works by big dogs like Louis Majorelle, Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann, Jean Dunand, Eileen Gray, Pierre Chareau, Jacques Adnet, Charlotte Perriand, Robert Mallet Stevens … it just goes on and on (there are 45 pieces by Ruhlmann alone). As important, as Susan Moore explains in her article for Apollo, the collection “uniquely, tells the story of the transition between the traditional grand French luxury ‘craft’ style of the early century, as exemplified by the classical Art Deco creations of Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann (1879–1933), and the emergence of Modernism and the Union des Artistes Modernes (UAM), with its radical new Utopian and democratic approach to design for the machine age.” Big stuff. (The image is Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann’s Chaise Longue ‘Aux Skis’ Dite Du ‘Maharadjah, lot 18, estimate €2-3 million.)
Needless to say, for such a sale Christie’s is pulling out all the stops. Here’s a terrific vid replete with pretty Harry Potter-ish music.
Get the hard catalogs? Y.E.S. Click here to order. They will be an excellent addition to your design library (and likely hot tickets on Ebay). Buy them a.s.a.p.
March 30, 31, Fine European Furniture, including Tapestries and Ceramics, Sotheby’s New York.
The big news about this sale is it includes treasures and trinkets from Albert Hadley, a grand homme of American design who drew the curtains on his firm last year. Estimates seem absurdly low, which likely means sale prices will go absurdly high. Christopher Petkanas’s piece in T Magazine gives all the well-accessorized details.
March 31, Modern Design, Wright
333 lots of European and American modern furniture and accessories, with some contemporary designs too (such as Marc Newson’s Embroy chair in neoprene and aluminum from c. 1988, and a fantastic Frank Gehry Grandpa Beaver armchair from the Experimental Edges series in corrugated cardboard).
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