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Sotheby's Announces the Dedicated Auction of What Modern Is: The Collection of Mark McDonald
Charles and Ray Eames, Unique ESU Cabinet, Circa 1950s, birch plywood, lacquered masonite, laminate, ash, chrome-plated steel. Estimate: $25,000-35,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s announces the dedicated auction of What Modern Is: The Collection of Mark McDonald, to be held on 10 March 2011 in New York. The sale offers works assembled over the full span of Mr. McDonald’s impressive career as an influential gallery owner, during which time he helped to create and build the market for midcentury furniture and design in America. His successful galleries, from Fifty/50 and Gansevoort Gallery in New York City to 330 and the current Mark McDonald, Ltd in Hudson, NY, became art-world landmarks where the new style of ‘Midcentury Modern’ moved to the forefront of the design and decorating worlds. Sotheby’s previously offered works from Mr. McDonald’s collection in 1993, during his transition from Fifty/50 to Gansevoort Gallery. What Modern Is will be on exhibition in Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries beginning 5 March, alongside the auction of 20th Century Design.

“We are thrilled to have another opportunity to offer works from the legendary collection of Mark McDonald,” commented James Zemaitis, Senior Vice President of Sotheby’s 20th Century Design department in New York. “Collectors will recognize Mark’s connoisseurship and trademark eye for hand-crafted quality in all of the works on offer, with pieces from each of his influential galleries represented. The title of the auction recalls Design 1935-1965: What Modern Was, the seminal exhibition catalogue that was the first to codify in a succinct way the history of modernism as seen in the decorative arts. Mark means to the market what that book meant to the academic subject of modernism–he is a true visionary and pioneer in our community.”

Speaking about the sale, Mark McDonald said “After almost 40 years as a gallery owner, I am looking forward to stepping back from my everyday involvement in the retail world, so that I may concentrate on personal pursuits as well as my passion for building collections of studio jewelry for private collectors.”

What Modern Is will offer iconic yet affordable masterworks of American, Scandinavian and Italian design, with many of the works carrying estimates in the range of $5,000-30,000. American midcentury furniture and design is led by Charles and Ray Eames’s Unique ESU Cabinet from the 1950s (est. $25/35,000) and Kem Weber’s “Airline” Chair circa 1934 (est. $18/26,000), as well as museum-quality works by Isamu Noguchi, Frank Lloyd Wright and Rudolph Schindler. The impressive selection of Scandinavian ceramics, glass and wood includes an extremely rare variant of a Leaf Platter by Tapio Wirkkala (est. $20/30,000), as well as Timo Sarpaneva’s iconic “Lancet” vase (est. $20/30,000). The sale also features studio jewelry by Art Smith, Claire Falkenstein and Harry Bertoia, and a selection of contemporary design, led by Ali Tayar’s “Plaza” Screen circa 1999 (est. $8/12,000) and works by Ettore Sottsass, Tejo Remy and Andrea Branzi.

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