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Reccord-breaking works of art lead Rago to $6.1 million design auctions
Paul Evans, Sculpture Front Cabinet. Sold for: $137,500.

LAMBERTVILLE, NJ.- Rago Arts and Auction Center’s Design Auctions brought in $6,133,750 on January 19-21. A vast array of property, including the single-owner collection of Sire Records’ founder Seymour Stein, a record-breaking Arequipa pot, and the inaugural presentation of property from the archives of artist Albert Paley, propelled a consistently strong sale across three days, six auction segments and almost 1,300 lots. Estimates were shattered and records broken during a sale that earned an 83% sell-through rate and suggested that the market for Art Deco is heating up, while desire for modern design overall remains strong.

Of the over 400 lots of early 20th century design on offer, works by American makers were among the highest priced. Lot 600, an important squeeze-bag decorated vase by Frederick H. Rhead for Arequipa sold for $93,750 – breaking the record for highest price achieved at auction for a piece of Arequipa pottery. Lot 602, another vase by Frederick H. Rhead for Steiger Terra Cotta & Pottery Works, defied its auction estimate in dramatic fashion, selling for $21,250 against a high estimate of $1,500. Works from Tiffany Studios proved to be in high demand, representing six of the top nine lots in the Early 20th Century Design segment. Tiffany highlights include Lot 806, an enameled copper dragonfly tray that achieved $37,500, more than twice the high estimate of $15,000; Lot 832, a blue wave patterned table lamp which shattered its estimate of $4,500-6,500 and sold for $28,750; and Lot 802, a rare mosaic pen wiper which sold for $26,250 against a high estimate of $10,000.

Works of French Art Deco also sold particularly well. From the Collection of Seymour Stein, Lot 434, a large Lalique Palestre vase sold for $40,625, exceeding its high estimate of $30,000; Lot 423, a massive exhibition vase with base by Charles Catteau for Boch Freres sold for $31,250; and a rare Le Jour et La Nuit clock by Lalique sold for $28,750.

Modern design also had bidders excited. Lot 1026, a Sculpture Front cabinet from American furniture maker and New Hope native Paul Evans, achieved the honor of top lot of the weekend, selling for $137,500 against an estimate of $95,000-125,000. Other highlights from the Modern Design segment include Lot 1258, a large Mesa coffee table by T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings which sold for $93,750; Lot 1280, a rare Chan desk from father & son design duo Philip & Kelvin LaVerne, which blew past a high estimate of $24,000 to sell for $53,125; Lot 1226, a rare Bahut cabinet complete with the original sketch by master furniture maker and designer George Nakashima which sold for $40,625 against a high estimate of $30,000; and Lot 1161, a unique Ivory Spirit piano by Wendell Castle for Steinway & Sons sold which for $43,750. Wendell Castle, who passed away on Saturday, January 20, was remembered on the podium by David Rago as an inspiration and a friend of the auction house.

Rago was honored to present nearly five decades of work from Albert Paley, internationally celebrated metalsmith and sculptor, in a never-to-market session direct from the artist’s archives. Sculptures and early pieces of jewelry performed well, particularly Lot 960, a unique sculpture entitled Harlequin which sold for $68,750, exceeding the estimate of $35,000-45,000; Lot 910, an exceptional and large jointed cameo pendant which sold for $56,250; and Paley’s six-foot Evanesce steel sculpture which soared past the high estimate of $22,500 to realize a final price of $40,625.

The Modern Glass & Ceramics portion was dominated by contemporary glass works. Three of the top eight lots of the sale came from glass master Dale Chihuly including Lot 1579, a massive Pacific Haven chandelier which sold $75,000 - the highest price in this session - via the online bidding platform Other highlights include Lot 1596, a massive sculpture titled Embrace by Christopher Ries which sold for $35,000 against an estimate of $20,000-30,000; Lot 1593, a filet-de-verre vessel by Toots Zynsky which nearly doubled the high estimate of $8,000 to sell for $15,000; and Lot 1602, a glimmering sculpture by Jon Kuhn which sold for $15,000 against an estimate of $4,000-6,000.

Also of note: Lot 1045, a Judas extension dining table from Danish designer Finn Juhl for Niels Vodder, which sold for $20,000, against an estimate of $7,000-9,000; Lot 1120, a Kite floor lamp by French designer Pierre Guariche for Disderot which sold for $21,250 against an estimate of $6,000-8,000; Lot 1027, a rare pair of Paul Evans armchairs which sold for $33,750 against an estimate of $10,00-15,000; Lot 1019, a boat-shaped Turned-Leg dining table by George Nakashima which sold for $33,750 against an estimate of $7,000-10,000; and Lot 1291, a Vladimir Kagan Contour lounge chair and ottoman, which nearly tripled the high estimate of $7,000 to sell for $20,000.

“This was one of the strongest Modern weekends we’ve held in the past decade, with over $6.1M in sales, and over 83% sold throughout. There were very few weak spots and we were particularly pleased that the new markets we tried (60 pieces by Albert Paley, and nearly 200 lots of French Deco pottery) performed so well. This sale said a lot about the overall strength of the market for 20th century decorative art.” - David Rago, Partner & Co-Director, Design Department

"The Contemporary Glass and Studio Ceramics portion of the auction brought some nice surprises. Blue-chip artists Toots Zynsky and Jon Kuhn continued to perform very well. Jay Musler's gorgeous orange City Scape bowl brought $10,000, while Sonja Blomdahl’s large vessel surpassed our expectations and sold for $6,875, the highest price ever achieved at auction for the artist. Robert Turner’s lovely covered jar, in an inspired blue-gray glaze, did remarkably well, as did an unusual woodblock print by the recently departed grande dame of studio ceramics, Miss Betty Woodman. We were also downright giddy over the prices reached by a handsome grouping of vessel by three generations of Moulthrop wood turners." - Suzanne Perrault, Partner & Co-Director, Design Department

“There was an appreciative energy and enthusiasm I hadn’t seen since before the recession. There was interest and questions on a broad range of pieces. Gibbings, LaVerne & Kuehne, Springer & Kagan, all enjoyed rekindled enthusiasm. Danish, French and Secessionist furnishings also enjoyed strong attention.” -Jad Attal, Specialist, Design Department

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