On Monday, June 4, Freemans
will host Design: Featuring the Collection of Perry & June Ottenberg. The 108 lot sale showcases a rich selection of American studio modern design, specifically, the large and rich selection of works by George and Mira Nakashima alongside Wharton Esherick, Phillip Lloyd Powell, and Paul Evans. Also of note are rare offerings of furniture and woodwork by the self-taught artisan James Camp and jewelry by one of the most celebrated modernist jewelers of the mid-20th century, Olaf Skoogfors. Freemans will present to auction for the first time one of the largest and best collections of porcelain vessels by Rudolf Staffel from the Collection of Perry & June Ottenberg. The Metropolitan Museum and Philadelphia Museum have Staffel pieces that were gifted from the Ottenbergs during their life.
Over the course of their sixty-five year marriage, Dr. Bernard Perry Ottenberg and his wife June Fuller (Chamberlain) Ottenberg built an exceptional collection of Pennsylvania art and design, focused on the artists and craftsmen of their native Philadelphia and its environs. Both university professors in Philadelphia, the Ottenbergs were ardent supporters of the city most important art institutions, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Woodmere Art Museum, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Moore College of Art, and Tyler School of Art. To furnish their family home on the Philadelphia Main Line and later in Center City, they turned to the renowned woodworker, George Nakashima, working in New Hope. Opening the sale are ten impressive works by Nakashima. A set of six Conoid dining chairs, made of American black walnut and hickory (Lot 10, estimate $20,000-30,000) and a special-order bar cabinet of American black walnut and English oak burl (Lot 7, estimate $20,000-30,000) are both signed with the clients name and a studio notation. A double sliding door cabinet of American black walnut and pandanus cloth was executed in 1958 (Lot 2, estimate $15,000-25,000) and bears the clients name.
Among the most important collectors of porcelain by ceramicist Rudolf Staffel (1911-2002), the Ottenbergs lent or donated works to dozens of museums and exhibitions, including landmark shows at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Staffel was drawn to glass and clay early in his artistic education. He traveled from his native Texas to Chicago to Mexico, where the romance of clay changed his course, and finally to New Orleans. There he taught pottery at the Arts and Crafts Club from 1936 to 1939. A major turning point was his invitation to teach at the Tyler School of Art at Elkins Park (suburban Philadelphia) in 1940. During that period he studied with Hans Hofmann in New York, and his interest in abstraction is evidenced in the push and pull manipulation of the clay. He is perhaps best known for his Light Gatherers series, luminescent, unglazed porcelain vessels which hold and transmit light, and which the artist began in the mid-1950s. Highlights from the sale include a collection of eleven porcelain Light Gatherer studies (Lot 18, estimate $4,000-6,000) and a hand-built porcelain Light Gatherer vessel (Lot 19, estimate $3,000-5,000), among more than a dozen others. The Ottenberg Collection also features jewelry from Swedish-born American designer Olaf Skoogfors (1930-1975), including a vermeil and cultured pearl necklace (Lot 28, estimate $2,000-3,000). Rounding out the Ottenberg Collection are two chairs by one of New Englands most esteemed craftsmen of the 20th century, Walker Weed, the first a walnut and leather chair (Lot 34, estimate $3,000-5,000), the other a walnut rocking chair (Lot 35, $1,000-1,500); and four works by James Campthe self-taught, African-American artist who began working in wood to fill what he called a need for self-expressionincluding a sculpted table lamp of walnut and glass (Lot 31, estimate $2,000-3,000) and a large carved walnut full-size bed (Lot 32, estimate $2,000-3,000).
The sale also highlights important Nakashima from the Collection of Dr. Steven J. Weber and Pati Doyle-Weber, specifically an exceptional Holtz Dining Table and set of eight Conoid Chairs by George (American, 1905-1990) and Mira (American, B. 1942) Nakashima (Lot 43, estimate $60,000-80,000). The table has a single board Claro walnut top with eight butterflies in American black walnut and laurel and the exposed cross-section of a lead bullet revealed during the sawing of the lumber. The Claro walnut slab was selected by the client with George Nakashima, who made special mention of the bullet that had been shot into the tree during its life and revealed in the cutting. Production of this magnificent table took 3 years, and comes from the collection of Dr. Steven J. Weber and Pati Doyle-Weber, who were early patrons of Mira Nakashima and who boast one of the nicest assemblages of her early work. The table is signed and dated, Mira Nakashima June 25 1992, and with the client's name, Weber. The Weber collection also features a special Greenrock console table (Lot 48, estimate $7,000-9,000)
The sale is rounded out with other exceptional Nakashima offerings, including chairs, dining tables, daybeds, and a lamp. An exceptional Conoid bench, made of American black walnut and hickory and executed in 1970 (Lot 88, estimate $30,000-50,000) by George, as well as a fine Sanso table, of English walnut burl, American black walnut, and rosewood (Lot 104, estimate $20,000-30,000) by Mira, are fine examples among these lots.
A teak and leather settee, model NV-48, by Danish designer Finn Juhl (1912-1989) is among the other notable highlights (Lot 55, estimate $10,000-15,000). The sale also features two works by Paul Evans (American, 1931-1987): an impressive Sculptured Metal dining table, of bronze-patinated resin, steel, and glass (Lot 77, Estimate $10,000-15,000), and a Skyline coffee table, of patinated and welded steel (Lot 78, estimate $15,000-25,000) were executed in 1971 and 1975, respectively, and come from private collections.
A public exhibition will precede the sale, both to be held at Freemans Philadelphia headquarters at 1808 Chestnut Street.