Sotheby's 'Design Week' auctions raise record $32.3 million in New York

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Sotheby's 'Design Week' auctions raise record $32.3 million in New York
An Icon of Modern American Architecture: Paul Rudolph’s The Walker Guest House Achieves $920,000. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s New York auctions of 20th Century Design concluded this week with a robust total of $32.3 million – the highest-ever total for any series of Design auctions in New York. Together, the four sales outpaced the series’ high estimate of $29.5 million and with a strong overall sell-through rate of 86% by lot.

Jodi Pollack, Co-Worldwide Head of Sotheby’s 20th Century Design Department, remarked: “We are thrilled with the results from our December sale series in New York, which cap off a banner year of sales globally for our team. In particular, 2019 saw our highest-ever total for a various-owner design sale in Sotheby’s history, and we had the honor of presenting some of the most important and celebrated collections of design, including our record-breaking two-day sale in Paris of works from the collection of the inimitable François-Xavier and Claude Lalanne, and of course, pieces from the collection of Marc Jacobs, just to name a few. Our continued success is a testament to the strength of our unparalleled global team of specialists, who worked tirelessly to assemble sales of remarkable breadth and quality. As such, we saw the market respond with fierce competition among collectors worldwide driving prices well into the multiples of their estimates. It is with this tremendous momentum that we look forward to an exciting new year.”

Modern Masters: Chefs-D’ŒUVRE D’une Collection Privée
Auction Total: $9.8 million

The Design Week auctions began on Wednesday with an unparalleled private collection of art and design by top European masters, representing some of the most significant and taste-making innovations in design of the last century. Surpassing its $7.3 million high estimate, the dedicated evening sale was led by a Chaise Longue ‘aux Skis’ by Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann that sold for $2.4 million (estimate $1.5/2 million). One of only two models known to exist, the luxurious work was originally created by Ruhlmann in 1929 as part of a “Studio Chambre” suite designed for the Maharaja of Indore. The suite included never-before-seen pieces of furniture, including the present chaise longue.

Further highlights from the collection included a striking “Aigle” Vase by Alberto Giacometti that sold for $1.9 million after a seven-minute bidding battle between at least 2 collectors – more than three times its high estimate of $550,000. Created circa 1934, the work presented collectors with the opportunity to acquire a rare and large-scale sculptural piece by the artist. Bidders also vied for the 22 works on offer by Jean Dunand, all of which sold for a combined total of $2.3 million. The group was topped by an Important "Ailette" Vase that brought $596,000, besting its $350,000 high estimate.

Marc Jacobs: A life of design
Auction Total: $8.1 Million

Exceptional pieces of European design from the collection of celebrated designer Marc Jacobs brought $8.1 million – nearly double the $4.5 million high estimate with 91% of lots sold, and an impressive 68.4% of all sold lots achieving prices above their high estimates. The sale was led by an outstanding ensemble of works by François-Xavier Lalanne, highlighted by a pair of patinated bronze monkeys, “Singe I” and “Singe II” from 1999 that sold for $860,000 and $920,000, respectively.

In addition, a “Mouton de Laine” and “Petit Rhinocéros Mécanique" Condiment Holder both realized $680,000. Designed circa 1965 and executed in 2000, the patinated bronze and wool sheep was acquired by Jacobs during his first visit to Les Lalanne’s home in Ury, and became the first piece by the iconic duo in his collection. Accompanied by a set of custom-made Saint-Gobain glassware, the intimately-scale rhino is one of only three known variants and represents a dominate figure in Lalanne’s oeuvre.

In total, nine works by François-Xavier Lalanne achieved $3.9 million – more than double their combined high estimate of $1.5 million and a testament to the continued demand for pieces by the Parisian icon.

Additional highlights included a new auction record for Philip and Kelvin Laverne, the second-highest auction price for any work by Guy de Rougemont, and Two "Oiseaux" Sculptures by Georges Jouve that shattered their $7,000 high estimate to bring $100,000.

Important design
Auction Total: $9.1 Million

An icon of modern American architecture, The Walker Guest House by Paul Rudolph sold for $920,000 to lead Thursday’s auction. A carefully planned structure designed as a beach cottage on Sanibel Island in Florida, the Walker Guest House was commissioned by Dr. Walter Willard Walker in 1952 and has remained in his family ever since. The commission represented the first solo project for architect Paul Rudolph, following his split from the firm of architect Ralph Twitchell.

The appearance of this historic structure in the December sale continues Sotheby’s tradition of presenting iconic examples of architecture: in December 2003, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House was sold to the National Trust and today operates as a public museum; earlier this fall, we sold an example of Jean Prouvé’s famed Demountable Houses in our Hong Kong auction series.

Exemplary works of French design also achieved top prices, led by a superb Rare “Kangourou” Armchair by Jean Prouvé that brought $400,000 – more than double its $180,000 high estimate. The armchair was on offer from the collection of storied financier, collector and philanthropist, Robert Rubin, and his wife, Stéphane Samuel, with all proceeds to benefit The Center on Global Justice at UC San Diego and the work of Teddy Cruz and Fonna Forman.

In addition, a striking “Flaque” Coffee Table by Jean Royère sold above estimate to achieve $475,000 (estimate $200/300,000). The low table was first presented to the public at the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs in 1949. A rapid commercial success, the piece became one of Royère’s most iconic and influential designs, and a blueprint for future versions in different sizes, colors and materials.

Underscoring the demand for French design, an Important Two-Door Cabinet led an impressive group of furniture by Alexandre Noll, selling for $500,000. Created by Noll circa 1955 specifically for his villa in Fontenay-aux-Roses, this superb cabinet displays impressive sculptural elements and a richly tactile wooden surface that are representative of Noll’s most successful creations.

In addition, Harry Bertoia’s Untitled (Cloud) circa 1962 and Untitled (Wire Construction) from 1956 achieved $400,000 (estimate $100/150,000) and $300,000 (estimate $150/200,000), respectively. An Untitled (Bush) circa 1970 soared past its $35,000 high estimate to sell for $200,000, rounding out the December sale.

Dreaming in Glass: Masterworks by Tiffany Studios
Auction Total: $5.3 Million

The selection of masterworks on offer by Tiffany Studios was led by an Important Hanging Head “Dragonfly” Table Lamp that topped its $700,000 high estimate to sell for $884,000. Exemplary of the model, the present work illustrates Tiffany’s affinity for this striking dragonfly subject, which was incorporated in myriad designs throughout the firm’s illustrious production, and its symbolism in both Japanese and Chinese cultures. This particular lamp is masterfully executed in a richly saturated color palette of purples, blues and greens, and complemented by its highly sculptural, reticulated “Queen Anne’s Lace” base.

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