Sotheby’s New York Sales of Tiffany and 20th Century Design

. December 6, 2008

On December 18th, Sotheby’s New York will hold its sale of Important 20th Century Design, which will begin at approximately 10:30am, immediately following the 10:00am sale of Important Tiffany. The 128 lots will be on exhibition prior to the sale at Sotheby’s New York beginning on Saturday, December 13th. The sale features a top-caliber survey of American and European prewar and postwar design.

An extraordinary selection of American Arts and Crafts is highlighted by an Elevator Enclosure from the Chicago Stock Exchange, 30 North LaSalle Street, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1893 (lot 105, est. $250/350,000) by Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan. Louis Sullivan has been called the “father of modern architecture” and his edict that “form follows function” was the rallying cry at a time when the advent of modern, cheaper steel was pushing urban buildings skyward. The Chicago Stock Exchange arose during a boom time for the firm of Adler & Sullivan and encapsulates Sullivan’s concepts regarding a light and modern functional space. This largely complete elevator enclosure is a rare offering, composed of elements from the elevators located on the third to thirteenth floors of the building. While individual elements have appeared on the market since the building was modernized in the 1960s, and subsequently demolished in 1972, the present lot is the most complete elevator assemblage from the Stock Exchange to appear at public auction. Another example of this size is in the permanent collection of The Art Institute of Chicago.

The offerings by Greene & Greene feature an Important and Rare Armchair from the Entry Hall of the Robert R. Blacker House, Pasadena, California, ca. 1908 (lot 125, est. $300/500,000). This exquisite high-backed armchair embodies the key design principles of symmetrical linearity, purity of form, harmonious proportions, and masterful joinery that architects Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene developed in their mature high style. This rare armchair is one of only three examples executed for the Blacker commission. The second example is in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the third is in a private collection (presently included in the traveling exhibition A New and Native Beauty: The Art and Craft of Greene & Greene). Another rare offering by Greene & Greene is a lot comprising Three Leaded Glass Windows from the Dining Room of the Adelaide Tichenor House, Long Beach, California, ca. 1904-1905 (lot 124, est. $80/120,000).

The sale also includes An Important and Rare Laylight from one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most important commissions, the Darwin D. Martin House in Buffalo, New York (lot 126, est. $80/120,000). Each laylight – there were originally seven but most are now lost – was incorporated in the first-floor structural pier clusters of the Martin House. The striking Kaleidoscopic pattern is articulated in iridescent, opalescent and clear glass supported by delicate brass cames. The laylight has very little clear glass and is far more intensely colored than the other windows executed for the commission, making this design perhaps the most beautiful of the Martin House leaded glass.

An impressive collection of French art deco furnishings by Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann includes a Superb and Rare “Bouillotte” Lamp, ca. 1925 (lot 157, est. $150/200,000); a Pair of “Drouant” Armchairs, ca. 1925 (lot 159, est. $50/70,000); a “Dubly” Table, ca. 1927 (lot 158, est. $60/80,000); and a Superb
“Colette” Commode, ca. 1923 (lot 156, est. $150/200,000), the name of which derives from the infamous French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette. An important aspect of this “Colette” Commode is that its complete history is known from the moment it was acquired from Ruhlmann’s shop in Paris in 1928 by Altina Schinasi Miranda.

The sale includes a collection of iconic examples of American Modern design, including an Important and Rare “Dymaxion” Car Model, ca. 1932 (lot 145, est.
$40/60,000), executed by Isamu Noguchi and designed by R. Buckminster Fuller. The present lot is the only known surviving “Dymaxion” model executed by Noguchi, and until recently all were believed to have been lost. Also on offer is a
Rare and Monumental “Jazz” Bowl, ca. 1931 (lot 146, est. $150/200,000) by Viktor Schreckengost. Just a few months after joining Cowan Pottery in 1930, Schreckengost was assigned the task to design a punch bowl displaying a “New Yorkish” theme for a woman in New York City. Unbenownst to Schreckengost, the woman who commissioned the punch bowl was Eleanor Roosevelt. Cowan subsequently put the punch bowl into production, and approximately 25 to 30 examples of these parabolic straight-sided bowls were produced.

Exemplary examples of postwar design include George Nakashima “Greenrock” Console Table from the Japanese House, Pocantico Hills, New York, ca. 1974 (lot 189, est. $100/150,000), executed for Mrs. Nelsen Rockefeller, Nakashima’s
most important private commission. The sale also includes a collection of 12 lots designed by Vladimir Kagan from the Collection of Victor Medina, who was Kagan’s head craftsman and plant manager for over 40 years. This offering is highlighted by a Freeform Sofa, Model No. 150BC, ca. 1950 (lot 203, est. $20/30,000). This early example exemplifies the organic curvilinear forms that dominated Kagan’s designs in the 1950s. The lots in this collection detail all the facets of Medina’s responsibilities with the Kagan studio, and serve as a visual history of his extraordinary career.

Category: Auction News

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