The 1900s ended only 13 years ago, but works of 20th-century design are increasingly being sought by collectors, with some works bringing six- and even seven-figure sums as was seen at last month’s 20th Century Design auctions in New York.
The two top sellers at Christie’s sale of the Steven A. Greenberg Art Deco collection each brought over $1 million, while the 10 top sellers at its decorative art and design auction sold for six-figure sums with all but one selling above their high estimates.
It was a circa 1922-25 wood screen by Irish designer Eileen Gray that brought $1.9 million and a circa 1937 oil by the French artist Jean Dupas that brought $1.7 million, or more than six times its high $250,000 estimate. At the decorative art and design sale, the top sellers included a 1939 console ($832,500) by Swiss-born Alberto Giacometti and a pair of “Calabash” table lamps ($530,500 against $40,000-
At Sotheby’s auction all of the top 10 lots brought six figures, with all but two selling above their high estimates. The top sellers were a console table with red Hermès leather panels ($752,500 against $400,000-$800,000) by the French designer Paul Dupré-Lafon and “Moutons de Laine,” wool-covered aluminum and wood sculptures of sheep ($542,500 against $300,000-$500,000) created in 1965 by the French artist François-Xavier Lalanne (1927-2008).
In November, 24 of Lalanne’s sheep sold at Christie’s for $5.7 million, with the proceeds benefiting the Rock Foundation, which supports anthropological and archeological research, publishing, and films. The foundation was founded in 1976 by Edmund Carpenter, an anthropologist and archeologist, and his wife, Adelaide de Menil. They had purchased the sculptures at a Paris gallery and had kept them in a barn turned into a large living room on their East Hampton, N.Y., estate. After Carpenter’s death in 2011, his widow decided to part with the sheep.
Such stupendous prices for 20th-century works were achieved because they were rare or exceptional and made by artists and designers of note. However, even lower-end 20th-century works are seeing an upward trend in prices.
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At Skinner’s 20th Century Design Auction last month it was mostly works from the postwar and mid-century periods that sold above their estimates.
Among them were a circa 1965 patinated bronze coffee table ($21,600 against a $3,000-$4,000 estimate) by Philip and Kelvin LaVerne, the New York-based father and son design team; a circa 1957 mahogany and brass sideboard by Edward Wormley for Dunbar ($9,840 against $3,000-$5,000); and a set of five Warren Platner armchairs for Knoll ($3,690 against $1,500-$2,000).
Other offerings that sold well over their estimates included a 1965 “Lily Pads” sculpture created with steel wire rod forms ($4,800 against $400-$600) by the Connecticut-born sculptor John Risley; a circa 1950 Italian chrome and enameled steel floor lamp designed by Gino Sarfatti ($2,050 against $800-
$1,200); and a 1951 Paolo Venini tussuto mosaico (woven mosaic) art glass bottle ($6,500 against $700-$900).
top sellers were both from early in the century: a Tiffany Studios Poppy table lamp ($51,000 against a $30,000-$40,000 estimate) and an Art
Nouveau four-panel screen “Les
Saisons” ($30,000 against $20,000-
$25,000) designed by the Czech artist Alphonse Marie Mucha (1860-1939).
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Skinner’s first auction of the new year, a European Furniture & Decorative Arts Auction Saturday featuring ceramics, includes more than 200 lots of Wedgwood, over 100 lots of European and American bronze and marble sculpture, and nearly 80 lots of 18th- and 19th-century English stemware.
Among the Wedgwood offerings are 12 full-size dark blue and black jasper Portland vases with estimates from $1,500-$2,500 to $200-$400 and a black jasper Apotheosis of Homer vase with cover ($3,000-$5,000). Highlighting the seven black basalt busts is a circa 1780 bust of Jonathan Swift with a $4,000-$6,000 estimate.
The auction’s expected top seller is a late-19th-century Minton Marc-Louis Solon decorated pâte-sur-pâte vase with a $20,000-$30,000 estimate.
The European and American bronze and marble sculptures are highlighted by “Tennyson’s Princess,” an 1882 Carrara marble carving by Norfolk, Va.,-
born William Couper (1853-1942). The sculpture, which depicts Princess Ida, the central character of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s 1847 poem “The Princess: A Medley,” has a $9,000-$12,000 estimate. Another example of this sculpture is in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Furniture ranges from a George III mahogany secretary bookcase and a Louis XV-style bureau plat (writing table), each with a $2,000-$4,000 estimate, to a pair of Queen Anne-style marble top pier tables ($800-$1,200), to a late-19th-century George I style
needlework upholstered wing back armchair ($400-$600).
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Offerings at Kaminski Auctions’ 20th Century Decorative Art & Design Auction next Sunday at 10 a.m. at its Beverly gallery range from early 1900s lighting to mid-century modern furniture to contemporary art works.
A signed Handel hanging lighting fixture ($3,000-$5,000) and a Pairpoint reverse painted table lamp ($2,500-
$3,500) are among the early lighting, while the mid-century lighting includes two French Art Deco lamps ($800-
$1,500) from City Lights Antique Lighting of Cambridge.
The furniture includes a large selection of pieces by the Danish designer Hans Wegner ranging from a sofa-daybed ($1,000-$1,500) to a pair of side chairs with leather seats ($500-$700).
Art offerings range from the bronze sculpture “Mother and Child” ($18,000-
$25,000) by David Aronson (1923- ), professor emeritus of art at Boston University, to a 1970 oil on linen “Edge to Edge” ($15,000-$20,000) by New York-based Eric Freeman (1970-), to a wood sculpture “Girl in Red Stockings” ($6,000-$12,000) by David Hostetler, the Ohio and Nantucket sculptor (1926-), to the bronze “Figure With Guitar” ($2,000-$5,000) by the French artist Jean-Louis Toutain (1948-2008) .