Archive for November, 2013

Auction | Palm Beach Modern

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Paul McCobb wood and metal
shelving unit/table, made at Wichendon, USA

Estimate $1,000-2,000




Fine Art, Decorative Arts, & Modern Design
Palm Beach Modern Auctions
West Palm Beach, Florida, USA
30th November, 2013

Lenny Kravitz is on it. David Lynch is included. But Frank Ghery and Donald Judd don’t make it and very surprisingly, neither does Harry Bertoia. Of the remaining seventy-five American furniture designers listed on Wikipedia, work by only a handful: Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson, Eero Saarinen, Isamu Noguchi, Frank Loyd Wright, Florence Knoll, and Marcel Breur – although we still think of him as Hungarian, or even German – regularly  come up in UK auctions. The same is probably true for the rest of Europe, which is as well served with British-designed modern and mid-century modern furniture, as we are with Dutch, French, Italian and German designers, plus, of course the work of the many and revered Scandinavians.

In the big New York sales at Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and at Rago in New Jersey, furniture from American designers like Wendel Castell and George Nakashima, regularly appear, but there are those that, even when their names do come up don’t ring more than vague bells with many of the UK’s modern furniture enthusiasts. Tomorrow’s Palm Beach Modern Auctions’ Fine Art, Decorative Arts, & Modern Design sale of 320 lots, includes items by many of those mentioned above, alongside a whole host of other talented American designers with perhaps less international reputations.


Pair of Gary Gutterman perspex stools on
wheels, manufactured by Gary Gutterman, USA

Estimate $500-750

Cabinet/dresser, attributed to Karl Springer, made
in the USA by Karl Springer Ltd, in wood and mirrored metal

Estimate $3,000-4,000

Milo Baughham wood and metal end
table, manufactured by the designer in the USA

Estimate $400-600

Pair of Ward Bennet ‘Sled’ stainless steel and
leather lounge chairs, made in the USA by Brickel Associates

Estimate $3,000-4,000

Travertine, wood and glass cabinet and wall-mounted cabinet
designed by Vladimir Kagan. Made in the USA by Kagan-Dreyfuss Inc

Estimate $3,500-5,000


The New York Times is quoted as having said that Vladimir Kagan is one of the most important furniture designers of the 20th century and that furniture designed by him in the 40s, 50s and 60s have become icons of modernity. Published in 2004, The Complete Kagan: Vladimir Kagan, A Lifetime of Avant-Garde Design, has a preface by Tom Ford, who is a fan. Originally German, born in 1927, Kagan emigrated to the United States in 1938, studying architecture in New York, before opening his first shop there in 1949. His early work included furniture for the Delegate’s Cocktail Lounge at the United Nations and furniture for the ‘Monsanto House of the Future’ displayed at Disneyland from 1957 to 1967. London’s V&A, the Vitra Design Museum and Die Neue Sammlung in Germany all have items of his work in their permanent collections.

Another German émigré Karl Springer, born 1931, who moved to New York in 1957, began his career as a bookbinder, establishing a furniture workshop in Manhattan in the early 60s. By the 1980s there were Karl Springer Showrooms in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Munich and Tokyo. For his bold statement, luxury pieces based on Art Deco, Chinese and Bauhaus styles, made in wood, perspex or plexiglas (called lucite in the US), and mirrored metals, Springer demanded the highest level of materials and delivered high quality craftsmanship.

Gary Gutterman, who formed Axius Designs Inc in 1971, in New York, with Leigh Hammond, made futuristic pieces in stainless steel, glass and perspex.

The much-copied Planner Group furniture by Paul McCobb (1917-1969) was in continuous production at Winchendon, Massachusetts from 1949-1964 and is regarded as one of the best selling collections of the 1950s. From 1950 to 1955, the designer won five Musem of Modern Art Good Design Awards. As well as designing furniture, McCobb produced a wide range of items including textiles, wallpaper, lighting, dinnerware and radios.


‘Writing chair’ in wood and and cane, designed
and manufactured by Pierre Jeanneret in France and India

Estimate $2,000-2,500

Cabinet (in the manner of) Raymond Loewy,
made in Canada by Treco, in plastic, rosewood and metal

Estimate $800-1,200

Mahogany Frank Lloyd Wright-designed
cabinet, made in the USA by Heritage Henredon

Estimate $3,000-4,000


Milo Baughman defined modern design as ‘elegant yet accessible’. Influenced by the engineering and functional ideas developed at the Bauhaus, he fused them with midcentury-modern explorations of materials, earning himself many major manufacturing contracts. Baughman’s wood-panelled Tuxedo Sofa was the inspiration for one gracing Don Draper’s office in the TV drama Mad Men.

Ward Bennett (1917-2003) designed more than 150 chairs, many of which have become classics and can found in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art and Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. Quitting school at thirteen to work in New York’s garment district, at fifteen he designed his first fashion collection. The following year he set off for Europe, where he studied at art schools in Paris and Florence. Mostly self-taught, his skills ranged from illustration, sculpture, and jewellery-making to furniture, and interiors. Returning to New York and quickly developing a reputation for his high-end furniture designs after, his client list included: David Rockefeller, the Chase Manhattan Bank, Tiffany & Co, Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner, and would also work for Italian industrialist Gianni Agnelli. Bennett is considered to be the first American furniture designer to use industrial materials, in his designs for furniture – well in advance of the 1970s fad for hi-tech products.

Furniture by globally-famous, American design heroes, Frank Loyd Wright and Raymond Loewy, are rare sights in Europe. Both are represented in the Palm Beach Modern sale, along with, among others, the great Italian, Gio Ponti, and important French designers, Boris Tabakoff, Piere Paulin and Jean Royere, as well as Swiss maker Pierre Jeanneret (cousin of the more famous Le Corbusier).


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Books | Art School Archive

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Paul Winstanley: Art School
Text by Jon Thompson with an interview by Maria Fusco
Published by Ridinghouse, 2013
288pp, Hardback

The relatively permanent studios belonging to established artists have little in common with those in which, year after year, an endless succession of British undergraduate fine art students work towards achieving their degrees. Each summer, in preparation for a fresh intake, art school studios are cleaned out and white-washed over, leaving little trace of their previous occupants – those having now or long since, through talent or good fortune, become successful, famous; others who fell foul of mediocrity or plain laziness; those who lost interest, the failures – so that nothing but the anonymous emptiness of the spaces themselves remains.

The substance of this nothingness became the subject matter for artist Paul Winstanley. His art school photographs, taken at over 50 colleges throughout England, Scotland and Wales during the summers of 2011 and 2012, are unsensational. Shot in straightforward documentary style, he refers to them as an archive. Their palpable silence, their sameness as much as their differences, draw the viewer’s curiosity to examine them closely and to compare them, one with another, while publisher Ridinghouse’s new book Paul Winstanley; Art School allows us to consider them in total as a body of work.

Having exhibited his paintings since the 1970s, Winstanley taught part-time during the 80s and 90s at Falmouth then at Goldsmiths, London. In some ways, through these photographs he is perhaps tracing the course and experiences of his own educational journey. Born in 1954, he attended Lanchester Polytechnic – now Coventry University – from 1972-73, then from 1973-76 was at Cardiff College of Art, after which he went to the Slade School of Art (1976-78). But it was during his teaching years that the idea began to germinate. At the time, however, involved in paintings of interiors – TV rooms, lounges, waiting rooms – that were institutional in nature, he put the concept to one side. Returning to it later, he began to consider the empty studio spaces as empty potential, which led to his visiting a few colleges, ostensibly, to take some reference photographs. He had often used photographs before to assist with his paintings, however, now realising the documentary value of photography and its suitability for recording the fine detail of the locations that he wished to show, unaltered, exactly as he found them, decided to make it the actual medium for the project.

An exercise in minimalism, Paul Winstanley: Art School is sensitively-designed. Its matt varnished cover, in putty and grey hues, the sparse elements in the photograph suggesting a shallow bass-relief, bring to mind details of the disused ex-US Air Force base and town buildings bought and recommissioned by the late artist Donald Judd – now administered by the Chinati Foundation – at Marfa, Texas, for use as gallery spaces and offices. The inside pages are without folios – a simple list of the British cities Winstanley visited providing the only clue to the locations of the uncaptioned pictures that follow, all of which are shot with rigidly identical perspective and reproduced in the same, upright format. A blank page on the left of a double-spread, is (I think) the only indication that the images of one art school are finished and another begun. While the main section of the book is printed on a luxuriously-heavy, white, smooth-coated stock, with semi-gloss varnish over each picture, at the back the essay by Jon Thompson and interview by Maria Fusco, both appear on lightly cream-tinged uncoated paper.

Coinciding with the publication of the book, the exhibition Art School, which includes new paintings and photographs by the artist is running at the Kerlin Gallery, Dublin, Eire until 7th January, 2014.

Paul Winstanley photographs from top
Art School 96, 2011–12
Art School 136, 2011–12
Art School 50, 2011–12
Art School 224, 2011–12

All photos ©Paul Winstanley. Courtesy the artist and Ridinghouse, London
All taken at f2.8 with a Cannon 5D Mark 2 camera, using a 24-70mm lens in natural light, where possible


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Cars | Art-of-the-States

Friday, November 15th, 2013

Sotheby’s
Art of the Automobile
Sotheby’s Manhattan Galleries
New York, USA
Exhibition: 18th – 21st November, 2013
Sale: 21st November

Pistonhead: Artists Engage the Automobile
1111 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, Florida, USA
3rd – 8th December, 2013

A couple of years ago, during one of her TV talk shows, American media proprietor, actress, producer, and philanthropist, Oprah Winfrey handed out little sealed boxes to each of her 275 member audience. Deafening shrieks, screams and laughter filled the air when, invited by her to open them, each box contained the keys to a brand new German VW Beetle, which Oprah had given to everyone as a present.

It’s no surprise that, despite these turbulent economic times, in the country which boasts 16 lane highways, where the car is adored and deified, some of the most phenomenal, car-related events in the world take place there.

Another of these is due to happen next week, when the sky-high 10th floor galleries of Sotheby’s Manhattan headquarters building at 1334 York Avenue provides the extraordinary setting for an extraordinary exhibition of over 25 rare and historic cars from all the great makers around the world. All will go under the hammer in RM Auctions and Sotheby’s Art of the Automobile sale. The star attraction, one of the most coveted and collectible cars of all time, the 1964 Ferrari 250 LM, with coachwork by Carrozzeria Scaglietti, which finished eighth overall and first in class at the 1968 24 Hours of Daytona, with the sale’s highest estimated price tag of $12m-15m, is ironically, again, not an American car. Alongside it, however, beautiful, legendary and rare US Lincoln, Chevrolet and Plymouth designs, as well as cars from many international celebrated producers – Aston Martin, Talbot-Lago, Mercedes Benz, Maserati – the list is endless – each with legitimate provenance and from every era of motoring history are well-represented.

Meanwhile, a little further south, but shortly after, Venus Over Manhattan, Powered by Ferrari, will exhibit 14 cars transformed into sculptures since 1970 by leading modern and contemporary artists in their exhibition Piston Head: Artists Engage the Automobile, at 1111 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, Florida, the dramatic open air parking structure designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. Piston Head is being organised in conjunction with Art Basel Miami Beach – the annual art fair considered one of the biggest events on the world’s art calendar. Works by an international array of artists: Ron Arad, Bruce High Quality Foundation, César, Dan Colen and Nate Lowman, Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, Virginia Overton, Olivier Mosset / Jacob Kassay / Servane Mary, Richard Phillips, Richard Prince, Tom Sachs, Salvatore Scarpitta, Kenny Scharf, and Franz West, will be on show. Prices for individual pieces will not be announced in advance, but will range from $250,000-7m. And while here, another Ferrari, the LaFerrari state-of-the-art hybrid supercar, unveiled at the 2013 Geneva Auto Show, is likely to steal the show, one of the major highlights will be when Los Angeles-based artist Joshua Callaghan creates a new work in situ – a signature ‘rubbing’ of the car – as part of the exhibition.

Images from top
Ford Galaxie (Car), 2013, detail
Olivier Mosset, Jacob Kassay and Servane Mary
1964 Ford Galaxie

Ferrari 250 LM, 1964
Estimate $12,000,000-15,000,000

Plymouth Road Runner Superbird, 1970
Estimate $400,000-500,000

Talbot-Lago T150-C SS Teardrop Cabriolet, 1938
Estimate $8,000,000-10,000,000

Lincoln Indianaolis Exclusive Study, 1955
Estimate $2,000,000 -2,500,000

Aston Martin DB2/4 Mk II ‘Supersonic’, 1956
Estimate $1,800,000-2,400,000

Vanishing Point (The Artist Cut) (Car), 2012 – 13
Richard Prince

Untitled (Car), 1986, detail, Keith Haring
Enamel on 1963 Buick Special

Photos top, 7&8 Courtesy Venus Over Manhattan

Photos 2-6, Michael Furman ©2013
Courtesy RM Auctions and Sotheby’s New York


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Design | Vintage 2013

Friday, November 8th, 2013

Vintage – Design with a History
Museum für Gestaltung
Zürich, Switzerland
13th November, 2013 – 6th April, 2014

East London, the area formerly known as East Berlin, and New York’s Lower East Side, have far more in common than their location in the eastern precincts of capital cities. Undoubtedly there are areas, north, south, east and west, in other major cities around the globe that, having been neglected and run down for a variety of reasons, are experiencing similar processes of regeneration, in which to a large extent rather than buildings having been demolished and new ones erected, a variety of former commercial warehouses and industrial workshops have been converted into apartments, offices, cafés, bars and shops. These three, however, currently exert the greatest influence at an international level, on fashion and lifestyle trends. Each boasts distinctive 21st century buildings, but down at street level, at times, and in certain locations within each, it’s difficult to separate one from another, especially since an overriding taste for vintage predominates in all.

In 1966, the US Customs Department legalised the definition of ‘antique’ as referring to art, buildings, furniture, accessories or personal possessions that are over 100 years old. Borrowed from wine-making, the meaning of the term ‘vintage’, was adapted and used to denote items in the same categories that were newer than 100 years old.

Over the coarse of the past couple of decades, these precepts themselves have become old fashioned. Currently, it would seem, anything older than last week can qualify as vintage and the description is taken to stand for the increase in value of any manufactured object that is a result of aging, selection or shortage – even when their patina is artificially created. Vintage, properly used, however, stands for a whole look – rather than any single item – and to achieve it requires a confident but relaxed attitude to the mixing of 20th and 21st century styles from a variety of periods.

Those who live in vintage-styled homes, or dress in vintage outfits, or do both – which is common – would much rather, sort her or his way through tightly-packed clothes racks at places such as Berlin’s Mauerpark Flohmarkt (Flea Market), than buy a new item of clothing, or an accessory, in a conventional shop. They might collect original or re-issued vinyl records, but at the same time live very much in the moment and are certain to own or desire the latest smartphone or tablet. They know their way around every aspect of the internet, too. They’ll tweet, text, chat, Skype, bank online and be guided to anywhere they need to go on their cranky old upright bikes by GPS.

It’s not surprising, when items falling into either category are displayed together, that the descriptions ‘vintage’ and ‘retro’ are often mistakenly taken by consumers to mean the same thing. Although there is a clear distinction, the confusion can at times be intended by the dealer, who may try to pass off new articles with fake patina or retro styling that apes much earlier genuine designs, as genuine vintage items. But, it must be said that often customers with little knowledge of design history don’t understand or appreciate the difference, or even care. Some prominent manufacturers, on the other hand, hoping to cash in on growing worldwide interest in vintage, have launched new products with bang up to date features that boast retro styling. Nikon, for instance, have just brought out the Df, a lightwight full-frame digital SLR camera, retailing at a whopping £1,865.76 (€2,215.62 / $2,999.95), which ‘pays homage to analogue camera styling’. With mechanical dials taken from the company’s famous ‘F’ series (1959) of 35mm film cameras – originals can easily be found in second-hand camera shops, on market stalls, and on eBay. The Df comes with an optional wireless mobile adapter, and the camera can be fired remotely by syncing it to a smartphone or tablet. Retro styled cars have been around since the late 1990s – the Prowler, launched in 1997, with exposed front wheels, was American manufacturer Plymouth’s take on a modern hot rod and arguably spearheaded the trend. In 2007, fifty years after it was first launched, the Fiat 500 was rebuilt, redesigned and relaunched, with many of its original features intact. But perhaps the Porsche Citroen 911 DS Franken-Sportscar by American design group Brandpowder, combining elements of two of the most renowned vehicles ever produced – albeit as a Photoshopped image – is the only one of these cars that merits the description ‘vintage’.

Vintage – Design with a History, the forthcoming exhibition at Zürich’s Museum für Gestaltung, will take a look at the special qualities inherent to original pieces from the world of fashion, furniture and product design, with the objective of throwing light on the current yearning for items from the relatively recent past and aims to explore commercial responses to the demand. In this regard, Belgian fashion designer Martin Margiela is considered by the curators to be an important figure. Various pieces, spanning the range of his reinterpreted second-hand textiles from the early 1990s to designs that deal conceptually with fashion’s expiry date appear throughout the themed sections of the exhibition.

Images from top
Martin Margiela top, 1989–2001
Boutique Roma
Photo Betty Fleck © ZHdK

Levi’s denim jacket, 1960s, USA
Showing natural signs of wear, in the exhibition this
denim jacket is contrasted with items of clothing which, on leaving
the factory, show artificially produced traces of use

Jeansmuseum Ruedi Karrer
Photo Betty Fleck ©ZHdK

Marcel Breuer, Metal Band Chair, model 1082, 1935
Found by its present owner in a chicken coop,
this chair is the most expensive object on show

©Embru-Werke

Arrangement of vintage pieces, Möbel Zürich, 2012
Photo Regula Bearth ©ZHdK


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Books | Je t’aime ma famille

Friday, November 1st, 2013

Jane & Serge. A Family Album
Andrew Birkin and Alison Castle
Published by Taschen
176 pp, Hardcover book set with poster,
stickers, and various other items

His and British actress Jane Birkin’s passionate love affair had already been over for a decade, when French singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg died 20 years ago. If not for the notoriety of their timeless and seemingly explicit recording of his song, Je t’aime… moi non plus, which reached number one in the UK charts in 1969 – as I write it has had 6,721,880 plays on You-tube – the couple might well have faded into relative obscurity, at least here.

Married in the mid-60s to the respected English film music composer John Barry, gamine Birkin had a bit-part role in Blow-up (1966), but the majority of her moderately successful acting and recording career has been spent in France. In 1984, after meeting her on a plane, Hermès chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas, created the supple leather Birkin bag, in her honour, which quickly became an iconic, international fashion accessory. In 2002, Birkin picked up an OBE. She still acts and is involved in humanitarian projects with Amnesty International.

His diverse output ranging across genres from jazz, chanson, pop and yé-yé, to reggae, funk, rock, electronic and disco, Gainsbourg, is still regarded as one of the most important figures in French popular music, but he was also a poet, composer, artist, actor and director.

Written as an imaginary dialogue between two lovers during a sexual encounter, Je t’aime’s lyrics are neither vulgar nor obscene, but the breathlessness of the couple and their barely suppressed moans, remain sensationally suggestive. Sung in French – inscrutable to the majority of British people in 1969 (and perhaps still to most in 2013) – it was even more tantalising. The Pope declared the record obscene, while the media speculated it contained a live recording of sex, to which Gainsbourg told Birkin, ‘Thank goodness it wasn’t, otherwise I hope it would have been an LP.’

From the earliest days of their romance until their split in 1980, Jane’s brother Andrew Birkin was a frequent presence in the couple’s life. A keen photographer, he snapped thousands of candid family photos throughout those years. After early work as a runner and later location scout with Stanley Kubrick, by 1967 Andrew Birkin was first assistant director to The Beatles on Magical Mystery Tour. The following year, Jane’s marriage would break up and she met Gainsbourg, whom she introduced to her brother. Andrew claims to have recognised their love at first sight. He went on to become both a writer and film director, winning the Royal Television Society’s award for The Lost Boys (1978), and in 1980 a BAFTA. In 1993, he received a Silver Bear for best director at the Berlin Film Festival for The Cement Garden in which his niece, Jane and Serge’s daughter, Charlotte Gainsbourg – now an internationally successful actress, singer and songwriter – played a supporting role. Birkin’s pictures, few of which have ever been published, are a rare glimpse of Jane, Serge and Charlotte’s sometimes humdrum and ordinary, always intimate, family life.

Designed by M/M Paris, Taschen’s Jane & Serge. A Family Album, isn’t only a book, but, with it’s poster (shown top, in two halves), sticker sheet, contact sheet booklet, colour prints, and embroidered patch, all contained in a clear plastic cover, it’s a collection of mementoes with undisputed provenance, however, it remains to be seen whether the British will understand the French concept.

All photographs © Andrew Birkin


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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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