Christie's announces December Design Auction in New York

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Christie's announces December Design Auction in New York
Wendell Castle, Unique Dining Table and Set of Ten 'Apollo' Chairs, 1979. Estimate: $250,000-350,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2020.

NEW YORK, NY.- On December 11, Christie's Design auction in New York will present important works by the 20th and 21st century’s leading innovators of French Art Deco, American Craft, Danish Modernism, and Austrian Wiener Werkstätte. A dedicated auction of Important Tiffany Studios from the Collection of Important Tiffany from the Collection of Mary M. and Robert M. Montgomery, Jr. will be offered in a dedicated auction immediately proceeding the Design Sale.

The live auction will feature compelling examples of works executed by exceptional architects including, Marcel Breuer, Josef Hoffmann, Jean Prouvé, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Donald Judd. Highlights will also include a survey of rare objects and designs by Isamu Noguchi, an important dining table and set of ten chairs by Wendell Castle from a special private commission and a dynamic group of Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne works.

Underscoring the sale is a group of four distinctive examples by Eileen Gray, which were recently included in an exhibition focusing on the designer staged by the Bard Graduate Center in New York. The works range from a 1912 lacquer symbolist panel to a unique cabinet from the designer’s residence that was completed in 1929 and hailed today as a masterpiece of early Modernist architecture.

The sale’s top lot is Gray’s iconic ‘Bibendum’ Armchair, 1926–1928 ($600,000-800,000), from the Private Collection of Jacques De Vos. The ‘Bibendum’ has become one of Eileen Gray’s most celebrated designs. Re-editions proliferate, but surviving original examples are of the greatest rarity. With this project, she moved on from her work in lacquer; in the spirit of a new, utopian Modernism, she explored the possibilities of modest, even industrial materials brought her unique visual intelligence to bear on the challenge of creating furniture that was functional yet able to delight. Her source of inspiration was the jovial figure built from tires created by manufacturer Michelin to promote their product. The mass of the welcoming butter-colored upholstered forms seem to float in space above the most minimal cantilevered tubular steel base.

Gray’s ‘Aum Mane Padme Aum’, also known as ‘Le Magicien de la Nuit’ (‘The Magician of the Night’), circa 1912 ($300,000-500,000) – pictured right, is a remarkable recent addition to her documented oeuvre in lacquer. The panel – a quintessential early demonstration of both her technical mastery and her inspired creativity – has a full and engaging provenance that brings to life a now mythical era in the story of art and life in Paris, the city in which Gray found her artistic fulfilment.

The Unique Cabinet from Eileen Gray and Jean Badovici's Residence, E1027, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin ($200,000-300,000), was conceived by the designer for her ‘Maison en bord de mer’ at Roquebrune and completed in 1929. The design of this piece of furniture perfectly distils her ability to combine practical ingenuity with compositional sophistication.

The fourth example by Gray is a rare example of a rug by the designer, Petit Tapis à motif géométrique, circa 1922-1924 ($30,000-50,000). Gray’s rugs, with their modish abstract graphic motifs, enjoyed greater commercial success than any other area of her creative activity. The present example, a remarkable survivor, is emblematic of Gray’s ideas in this area. The design is featured prominently in a suite of period photographs; and the rug boasts an illustrious provenance.

Created in 1979, Wendell Castle’s Unique Dining Table and Set of Ten 'Apollo' Chairs ($250,000-350,00), demonstrate how the designer perfected the “stack lamination” technique over time. Made of cherry wood, the table was designed with a carved wooden hinged pivot in order to spread open and allow the insertion of two fan-shaped leaves. The superbly carved double pedestal displays the highly organic sculptural quality that epitomize Castle’s finest works. The masterful table and chair’s curved and flowing lines appear to be a celebration of playfulness and uncertainty for which Castle was best-known.

Leading the selection of Austrian Wiener Werkstätte highlights is Josef Hoffmann’s Important Set of Three Light Fixtures, from the Dr. Hermann Wittgenstein Commission, Vienna circa 1906 ($200,000-300,000). This set of three ceiling lights from the interior of Dr. Hermann Wittgenstein, Vienna, was complemented in the space by black and white checkerboard patterned, geometric chairs and tables. The simple elegance of the glass beads between the shimmering metal plates unified the interior decoration and created a total work of art. The three lights are adaptable as they can be presented as separate works or in the triangular formation that they were presented in the 1986 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

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