Important Modern Design at Heritage Auctions Takes Over $1.6 million

Frigid temperatures, snow and ice in Manhattan failed to keep bidders from hotly contesting the best examples in Heritage Auctions’ $1.6 million+ Signature 20th Century Design Auction in New York City on Dec. 10. The auction, featuring the collection of renowned dealer Michael Playford, the finest assemblage of Lalique in a single auction this year and a superb gathering of rare Tiffany Studios lamps and vases marked the first Fine and Decorative Arts auction held by Heritage in Manhattan.

All prices include a 19.5% Buyer’s Premium.

“We focused on quality in this auction and collectors responded,” said Christina Japp, Director of 20th Century at Heritage Auctions. “Prices were respectable across all periods of 20th Century design we featured and we look forward to continuing to build our relationship with New York City buyers.”

Claude Lalanne’s stunning Trône de Pauline, a Gilt Bronze Chair made in Paris, circa 2000, was the auction’s top lot, coming in at $119,500, almost four times the low estimate of $30,000. In this surreal, extraordinary work, Lalanne tempers the delicacy of foliage with the monumental weight and scale of bronze. The result is not static but imbued with tension and the force of potential energy, creating a wholly unique design feel.

“The work draws upon Lalanne’s earlier explorations utilizing ginkgo leaves and the delicate reeded quality of her furniture for Colonial Williamsburg,” said Japp. “The present composition is at once Baroque with equal doses of Art Nouveau and the grotto woven masterfully by the artist into a utilitarian sculptural fantasy.”

Frank Lloyd Wright is rightfully regarded as one of the truest and most enduring masters of art, architecture and design of the 20th Century and his Oak Reclining Armchair, designed for the William E. Martin House, Oak Park, Illinois, circa 1902, speaks brilliantly to his storied career and amazing design sense. Bidders in New York City thought so, too, as heated bidding ultimately led to a $65,725 final price for this important chair, which marks the Barbra Streisand Collection in its provenance.

Fine examples of Tiffany Studios were an important wrinkle in the Heritage Auctions 20th Century event, and leading the way for the storied designer was a “Woodbine” Leaded Glass and Bronze Table Lamp, circa 1910, base stamped “TIFFANY STUDIOS NEW YORK 9510.” The delicate design and unmatched craftsmanship of the piece led an erudite collector to spend $47,800 on the piece. A Tiffany Paperweight Glass “Narcissus” Vase, circa 1916 was much sought after as it rose to a final $41,825 price.

An incredible grouping of rare and desirable Lalique glass formed the centerpiece of the third session of the auction with collectors taking advantage of great prices to acquire rarely seen examples of Rene Lalique’s exquisite design sense.

“Buyers in New York City knew that they weren’t going to see a Lalique grouping of this kind of depth for a long time to come,” said Nick Dawes, Consignment Director at Heritage, and long considered one of the world foremost experts on the work of Lalique. “With consistent prices for rare examples coming in at the $30,000-$40,000 range, it was obvious to many that this was a great event to be buying at.”

The top Lalique lot in the Heritage auction was “Serpent,” an Amber Glass Vase, Marcilhac no. 896, designed in 1924, which realized $47,800. Lalique’s “Tourbillons,” a Glass Vase with black enamel, Marcilhac no. 973, designed in 1926, was a good buy at $31,070, while examples of his “Oranges” a Glass Vase with black enamel, Marcilhac no. 973, designed in 1926 and “Borromée” a Blue Glass Vase, Marcilhac no. 1017, designed in 1928, both brought $31,070.

Two more interesting and important Lalique examples bear mentioning: An exceedingly rare “Victoire” Glass Mascot, Marcilhac no. 1147, designed in 1928 and found mounted on a 1935 Duesenberg realized $26,290, while a “Lézards” Frosted and Clear Glass Perfume Bottle, designed in 1912, realized a highly respectable $11,950.

Session Two of the auction, which featured an important grouping of Dutch Modernism alongside the important Tiffany pieces, was highlighted by the $14,340 sale of Joseph Mendes Da Costa’s “Ziek Aapje,” an intriguing Grès Figure of a Monkey dating to 1900.

The Playford Collection, consisting of a tremendous selection of fine 20th Century European design, constituted the whole of Session One of the auction and saw many highlights. Designers and fine design aficionados took full advantage of the breadth of material consigned to the auction by Playford, with many pieces realizing final prices well beyond their estimates.

A Carlo Bugatti Mahogany, Exotic Wood, Pewter and Copper Inlaid Pedestal, circa 1900, realized $14,340 to more than double its low estimate of $7,000, while an Ivan Da Silva Bruhns French Wool Pile Carpet, circa 1930, tripled its low estimate of $3,000 when it ended at $9,859. An Alvar Aalto White-Lacquered Sheet Metal Ceiling Light, circa 1959, designed for Valaistutyo Ky, proved the quality of Playford’s eye and the timelessness of great design while doubling its estimate to bring $7,768.

Heritage Auctions, headed by Steve Ivy, Jim Halperin and Greg Rohan, is the world’s third largest auction house, with annual sales more than $600 million, and 475,000+ registered online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and gain access to a complete record of prices realized, along with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit www.HA.com.

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