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Post-War, Contemporary and French design lead Phillips' New York auction
Ron Arad, “Oh, the Farmer and the Cowman Should be Friends”, 2009. Estimate: $250,000-350,000. Image courtesy of Phillips.

NEW YORK, NY.- Phillips announced highlights from the upcoming auction of Design in New York, which will take place on 6 June at 1pm and include such masters as Pierre Chareau, Jean Royère, Ron Arad, Shiro Kuramata, Gio Ponti, and Piero Fornasetti. Comprised of over 160 lots, the sale is expected to realize in excess of $4 million and will be anchored by a strong selection of French Art Deco, French and Italian and Post-War, and Contemporary works.

Leading the sale is Ron Arad’s “Oh, the Farmer and the Cowman Should be Friends”, which was executed in 2009, a tremendously significant year in the designer’s career. It was then that his first major work of free standing architecture, the Holon Design Museum, was nearing completion, and he was also the subject of a powerful retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. A version later traveled to The Museum of Modern Art in New York and London’s Barbican Centre gave him his own retrospective the following year. “Oh, the Farmer and the Cowman Should be Friends” was among a group of ambitious pieces that were launched at London’s Timothy Taylor gallery. These works were a confident demonstration of Arad’s continuing commitment to exploring new ground, sharing a remarkable command of form and technique, yet retaining a utilitarian purpose. An imposing work executed on an architectural scale, the current lot serves both as a bookcase and as an evocative, sculptural installation.

Also among the contemporary highlights in the auction are five lots by contemporary master Shiro Kuramata, including rare commissioned works, as well as limited edition pieces such as his “Cabinet de Curiosité ,”, designed in 1989. It is one of Kuramata’s many explorations into concepts of color and transparency that culminated in his late-career use of acrylic. These designs invite unlimited visual contemplation, testing spatial and temporal boundaries as they contort color, line, and form. The name itself, “Cabinet de Curiosité , ” poses a comprehensive challenge as it evokes a repository of tangible historic objects rather than the acute sense of negative space suggested by its actual material presence. This cognitive contrast of historicism versus timelessness was a postmodernist tool often employed by Kuramata and revealed with subtle mastery in the present lot.

Gio Ponti and Piero Fornasetti’s Rare "Madrepore" dining table and set of four armchairs were executed circa 1950 and are an excellent example of the Italian post-war design included in the auction. Ponti and Fornasetti met in 1933 and shared a deep respect for Italy’s visual heritage, a passion for Renaissance and neoclassical motifs and architectural vocabulary, and a refined taste for decorative pattern and bright color. Together, they created numerous exuberantly decorated interiors for private homes, offices, shops, and ships of the Italian Finmare cruise line, as well as many individual pieces of furniture, including desks, tables, chairs, bookshelves, and headboards. Designed by Ponti, made by the master cabinet maker, Giordano Chiesa, and decorated by Fornasetti, the rare “Madrepore” dining table and four armchairs are an outstanding example of their highly successful collaboration. The elegant proportions of the wood table, its slender, elongated legs, and brass sabots are characteristic features of Ponti’s furniture designs. Typical of Fornasetti’s decorative approach, he applied lithographic prints to the brightly painted surfaces of the furniture. In this instance, he scattered large black and white images of different varieties of stony coral (“madrepore,” in Italian) over the top, sides, and legs of the table. The armchairs that accompany the “Madrepore” table feature a slanted backrest intended to increase the sitter’s comfort.

Among the French Modernist highlights in the sale, Phillips is pleased to offer a group of important works by Pierre Chareau recently on view in the critically-acclaimed exhibition “Pierre Chareau: Modern Architecture and Design” at New York’s Jewish Museum. These include Chareau’s “Tulip” daybed. This lot was created circa 1923, the year the designer joined the Société des Artistes Décorateurs, which also included Maurice Dufrène, René Herbst, and André Groult. Chareau set himself apart from this cohort of extraordinary talent through his penchant for combining forged iron with fine exotic woods, often incorporating ingeniously devised moving parts, always favoring smooth, unadorned surfaces. This daybed is one of the few surviving artifacts from Chareau’s brief period designing exquisite interiors for the progressive bourgeoisie of interwar Paris and was executed with the assistance of the cabinetmaking firm Chanaux & Pelletier. His avant-garde designs embodied Modernism, yet remained luxurious, tied to the high-quality craftsmanship that had set French decorative arts apart since the eighteenth century. In addition to his exquisite daybed, Phillips is pleased to offer five additional works by Chareau in the auction on 6 June, including a pair of chauffeuses, a pair of tabourets, and a set of four “Gondole” armchairs.

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