New Auction Records Smashed for Contemporary Ceramics and Studio Works of Art on Tuesday in New York City

On June 5, 2007, Bonhams New York held two auctions of works by Contemporary Studio Artists. The early offering, titled International Contemporary Ceramics, was the inaugural New York sale of international Contemporary ceramics for the auctioneers. The later session featured Contemporary Studio Works of Art, including one of the largest groupings of Contemporary glass to come to auction in several years. The day-long sales brought more than $2-million and resulted in as many as 22 auction records being set.

As the only international fine arts auctioneers with a department solely dedicated to the sale of fine works of post-war ceramics, Bonhams was pleased to offer a groundbreaking and diverse selection of work by artists from the US, the UK, Japan, France, Spain, Denmark, Mexico and Kenya. Ben Williams, Bonhams’ London-based Director of Contemporary Ceramics, commented, “The artists included in this sale are a dynamic group selected for pushing boundaries, challenging the viewer to reject preconceived ideas of what role a ‘potter’ has in society and more importantly, asserting their position in the art world.”

The session established more than 20 auction world records for works including: a large ‘Pillow’ pitcher by American artist Betty Woodman (sold for $42,000); Hayashi Yasuo’s ‘Focus’, a sculptural form, 1988 (sold for $10,200); ‘Curbside’ teapot by Richard Notkin (sold for $6,600); George Walker’s teapot form ‘Denial’, 2004 (sold for $6,000); and ‘Chained Vessel,’ a rare and important bronze sculptural form by Yagi Kazuo (sold for $48,000). A sculpture of a horse titled ‘Kouma’ by Suzuki Osamu (sold for $84,000) drew applause from the standing-room-only salesroom. According to Williams, “Today Bonhams has established a presence as the pre-eminent source for high quality ceramic works that capture the imagination and demonstrate the tremendous ambition and skill of these artists.

Auction records were also set for ceramicists Barbara Nanning, Kakurazaki Ryuichi, Dorothy Feibleman, Bodil Manz, Akiyama Yo, Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl, Gustavo Pérez, Hayami Shiro, Joanna Constantinidis, Wada Morihiro, Ángel Garraza, Beate Andersen, Babs Haenen and Edmund De Waal.

Immediately following the first session, Bonhams offered Contemporary Studio Works of Art, with one of the largest groupings of Contemporary Glass to come to auction in several years. The top lot was Green Eye of the Pyramid, a monumental tour-de-force in glass casting, an important work by the influential Czech artists Stanislav Libensky and Jaroslava Brychtova.

“With the sale of the Green Eye of the Pyramid, Bonhams has established a new world auction record, both for these artists’ works and for any piece of Contemporary glass ever to have come to market.” said Frank Maraschiello, 20th Century Furniture and Decorative Arts Director.

Libensky and Brychtova have been considered to be at the forefront of Czech glassmaking – both as artists and respected teachers – since the Brussels EXPO of 1958. They had a 40-year collaboration in life as well as in art. This iconic work, cast in a small number, measures well over six-feet tall and is the first of this series ever to come to public auction. Estimated to bring $400,000 to $500,000, the work sold within estimate for $480,000.

Attracting strong interest and selling far above estimates was a collection of works by George Nakashima from the estates of Randall and Harriet Fawcett. In correspondence (offered with the property), Nakashima suggested that Mr. Fawcett would want to keep the triangular motif found throughout the house. He designed a coffee table using what he called a “fine and rich Claro walnut burl which I have acquired that I think would be in the rhythm of your room.”

According to Maraschiello “The exemplary provenance of this particular group drew serious attention from all sectors of the buying public.”

Highlights from the collection included a coffee table with bark edges, rosewood butterflies and an Arlyn base (est. $20/30,000 sold for $300,000), an American walnut bookmatch dining table with freeform edge on Minguren II base (est. $20/30,000 sold for $117,000), ten walnut Conoid chairs with single-plank seats (est. $40/60,000 sold for $120,000) and three Conoid cushion chairs (est. $7/10,000 each sold, for: $24,000, $25,200 and $27,000).

Additionally, a single wall floriform from Dale Chihuly’s Persian series was also on offer. Depicted on the catalog’s cover, the large 40in x 40in yellow/brown and orange blown glass floriform brought $14,400. The Persian series is considered one of Chihuly’s most artistic creations, evocative of the exotic elegance of ancient glass, but sharing intellectual ideas of form and decoration with the more modern glass of Gallé, Tiffany, Fratelli Toso and Carlo Scarpa.

Other featured Contemporary Glass artists in the sale included: Richard Marquis, Jon Kuhn, William Morris, Flo Perkins, John Lewis, Shane Fero, Concetta Mason, Frantisek Vizner, Martin Rosol, Kuniko Kurioki, Steven Weinberg, Philip Baldwin, Monica Guggisberg and Dante Marioni.

Sales of 20th century furniture and decorative arts continue in New York City on 18 June 2007, on the West Coast on September 24th in Los Angeles, and in London, auctions of Contemporary Ceramics continue in October.