Posts Tagged ‘Christies’

Design | Sitting on top of the 20th Century

Friday, December 11th, 2015

Gerrit Thomas Rietveld (1888 > 1964)
Steltman chairs, pair, designed 1963
(T
he second is a mirror image of the above)
Stained oak.
Estimate $80,000 > 120,000



Design Masterworks
Christie’s
Rockefeller Plaza
New York City | USA
Exhibition 12 > 16 December 2015
Auction 17 December 2015



Marc Newson (1963 >)
Lockheed Lounge, designed 1990
Fibreglass-reinforced polyester resin core,
blind-riveted sheet aluminium,
rubber-coated polyester resin.
Estimate $1,500,000 – 2,000,000



Looks can be deceiving. Amongst the rare and much sought-after items in Christie’s forthcoming Design Masterworks sale, a pair of Steltman chairs, for instance, designed by Gerrit Rietveld in 1963 – placing their production firmly in the mid-century period – are rooted in the far more remote early modernist years, while hints of the 1960s’ brutalist architectural style are also easily detected in the form.

Superficially, with its Sputnik aesthetic, Marc Newson’s three-legged Lockheed Lounge, with a blind-riveted sheet aluminium finish, also reminiscent of post-war airliners, produced as a limited edition of ten, in 1990, toward the end of the twentieth century, might well have been designed when Arne Jacobsen was sketching out his Drop chair for his SAS Radisson Blue Hotel in the late 1950s. (Incidentally, recently relaunched by Fritz Hansen, the Drop is now available with a plastic shell in a selection of colours with matching powder-coated legs.)

Arne Jacobsen (1902 > 1971)
Drop chair, designed c 1958
Copper-plated steel, leather
Estimate $20,000 > 30,000


Hans Wenger (1914 > 2007)
Easy chair, designed 1953
Oak, leather, fabric upholstery
$30,000 > 50,000



The spindly legs, of course, are always a dead giveaway, but, paradoxically, the upholstered full, rounded back and chunky armrests of Hans Wenger’s Easy chair, 1953, are strongly suggestive of the art deco period that spawned Jean Prouve’s Sanatorium armchair, whose tapered seat shape and slimmer armrests in turn foreshadow the lightness of form that would appear in late 1940s and 1950s furniture design, made possible through the use of new materials and improved production techniques brought about by advances in technology.

Jean Prouvé (1901 > 1984)
Sanatorium armchair, c 1932
Painted metal, leather, stretched canvas
Estimate $140,000 > 180,000



Although more chair designs, notably by Gio Ponti and Finn Juhl are included, Design Masterworks at Christie’s isn’t confined to seating. The tightly-edited series of lots, each with impeccable provenance and stand-alone individuality, flying in the face of chronological categorisation, features a striking c 1930 wall light from the palace of the Maharaje of Indore made by Max Krüger, Flavio Poli’s Valva siderale internally-decorated glass vase, 1954, and Carlo Mollino’s anthropomorphic maple, tempered glass and brass An Occasional Table made around 1950.

All images courtesy and © Christie’s


Tell us what you think
The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us that we think might interest you.

The Blog’s publishers 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 that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier



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Exhibitions | Reminder: Don’t Miss These…

Saturday, August 1st, 2015

McDermott & McGough, Those Moments, 1955, 2010
Tricolour carbon print. Courtesy the artists and Cheim & Read, New York.
On show at The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, see below



The Blog team return next week.
Whether you’re staying at home or travelling,
here’s our selection of some of the best
of what’s on show this summer >>>



Doug Aitken, Sunset (black and white), 2011
Hand carved foam, epoxy with LED lights and hand silk-screened acrylic.
Courtesy the artist, 303 Gallery, New York, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich, Victoria Miro Gallery, London and Regen Projects, LA. Photo © Brian Forrest.
On show at the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, see below



>>> Until 23 August 2015
Coop Himmelb(l)au
Frankfurt Lyon Dalian

DeutschesArchitekturmuseum (DAM)
Frankfurt | Germany
Vienna-based architectural practice with the long-winded name Coop Himme(l)blau Wolf D Prix & Partner, long-time player on the international architecture scene, founded in 1968 in response to the predominance of rectilinear grids, set out to liberate architecture from its functional confines by rendering space more dynamic and buildings gravity-defying. The exhibition presents three of the studio’s latest projects: the new European Central Bank building (2015) in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, the Musée des Confluences (2014) in Lyon, France, and the Dalian International Conference Centre in China (2012), see image below.

>>> Auction 28 Aug 2015
Japanese Whisky
Christie’s
Admiralty | Hong Kong
Featuring Hanyu Ichito’s Full Cards Series of 54 bottles of the spirit, each with beautifully-designed individual labels on a playing card theme, which are expected to sell for HK$1.8 m > 2.4 m / £150,000 > 200,000 / US$230,000 > 310,000.

>>> Until 28 August 2015
Joana Vasconcelos:
Material World

Phillips
(Selling exhibition)
London | UK

Forty works representing various periods of sculptor and installation artist Joana Vasconcelos’s career to date, coinciding with the publication of her monograph by Thames & Hudson.

>>> Until 13 September 2015
Perfect Likeness:
Photography and Composition

The Hammer Museum
Los Angeles | USA

Having reached a point when everyone thinks he / she is a photographer, and where photography of every possible style and quality pervades every corner of our daily lives, this exhibition looks at the carefully composed images of fine art photographers such as Thomas Demand, Andreas Gursky, McDermott & McGough and Jeff Wall.

>>> Until 13 September 2015
Design Derby:
The Netherlands – Belgium (1815 > 2015)

Museum Boijmans
Van Beuningen

Rotterdam | Netherlands

Like for like Dutch and Belgium design objects – from sumptuous and elegant Belgian art nouveau to the more austere Dutch version, and from the contemporary tours de force of Belgium design to the level-headed Dutch design of today – confront one other in friendly competition.

>>> Until 25 October 2015
Fast Fashion
The Shadowy Side of Fashion

Museum für Kunst und
Gewerbe Hamburg

Hamburg | Germany
A critical glimpse behind the scenes of fashion – consumerism, economic interests and ecological issues – throwing light upon fashion and its victims; poverty and affluence; global and local effects; wages and profits; garments and chemicals; clothes and ecology; as well as new fibre technologies.

>>> Until 26 September 2015
Larry Bell 2D-3D:
Glass & Vapor

White Cube, Mason’s Yard
London | UK
Larry Bell (b 1939, Chicago) is a leading exponent of the California ‘Light and Space’ movement. The exhibition includes three early glass installations as well as collages on paper and new, kinetic Light Knot sculptures. To coincide with a major presentation of a Standing Wall installation of thirty-two, six foot square glass panels (c1989 >2014) currently on show at the Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas, USA, at White Cube, Bell has installed 6 x 8 An Improvisation.

>>> Until 27 September 2015
Doug Aitken
Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt
Frankfurt | Germany
Following on from his Station to Station: A 30 Day Happening extravaganza at London’s Barbican, The Shirn dedicates its entire exhibition space, inside and out, to the impressive work of American multimedia-artist Doug Aitken, in the most comprehensive solo presentation of his film, music, architecture, performance and sculpture in Germany and elsewhere to date, see image above

>>> Until 27 September 2015
Germaine Krull
A Photographer’s Journey

Jeu de Paume
Paris | France
The idea of the female career photographer – rather than dabbler or dilettante – didn’t properly materialise until free-spirited women such as Gertrude Krull (1897 > 1985) thrust herself headlong into the male-dominated mêlée in the 1920s.



One-sheet poster for Sullivan’s Travels, directed by Preston Sturges, 1941
Poster art direction by Maurice Kallis. Courtesy Sikelia Productions.
On show at MoMA in New York, see below

Dalian International Conference Centre, China, by
Coop Himmelb(l)au Wolf D Prix & Partner, in Vienna, Austria

Photo © Duccio Malagamba.
On show at the Deutsches Architekturmuseum, Frankfurt, see above



>>> Until 27 September 2015
What is Luxury?
V&A
London | UK
The world’s biggest museum of the decorative arts and design has a permanent, historic collection of over 4.5 million objects. By definition it is a museum of things, many of which are extremely valuable and considered to be luxurious items. With over 100 objects, ‘From a diamond made from roadkill to a vending machine stocked with DNA, a golden crown for ecclesiastical use to traditional military tailoring, this exhibition addresses how luxury is made and understood in a physical, conceptual and cultural capacity.’

>>> Until September 30
Scorsese Collects [film posters]
Museum of Modern Art
New York City | USA
In celebration of director Martin Scorsese’s enduring commitment to the preservation of international film culture, MoMA presents 34 works from his collection, centred around a rare, billboard-size poster for the 1951 film Tales of Hoffmann. The exhibition will be accompanied by the film series Scorsese Screens throughout August.

>>> Until 4 October 2015
From Bauhaus to Buenos Aires:
Grete Stern & Horacio Coppola

Museum of Modern Art
New York City | USA
The first major exhibition of the German-born Grete Stern and the Argentinean Horacio Coppola, two leading figures of avant-garde photography who, in the 1930s, established themselves on both sides of the Atlantic.

>>> Until 18 October 2015
The 80s. Figurative
Painting in West Germany

Städel Museum
Frankfurt | Germany
Shedding light on the new and dynamic figurative painting that developed in the 1980s almost simultaneously in Berlin, Hamburg and the Rhineland. Works by among many other artists, Martin Kippenberger, Albert Oehlen, and Salomé.

>>> Until 25 October 2015
Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture
for a Modern World

Tate Britain
London | UK
Retrospective of one of Britain’s greatest artists, Barbara Hepworth (1903 > 1975), one of the few women artists to achieve widespread recognition and international prominence, featuring many of her most significant sculptures in wood, stone and bronze alongside her rarely seen works that exemplified modernism from the 1920s onwards.

>>> Until 25 October 2015
Gilbert & George:
The Early Years

Museum of Modern Art
New York City | USA
‘It’s not a collaboration. . . We are two people, but one artist,’ say the inseparable British artists, Gilbert and George, who have been creating art together for almost fifty years. This exhibition focuses on their early years, from 1969 to 1975, when the art world around them was largely engaged in pop, minimal, and conceptual work, while the pair developed a wholly unique vision.

>>> Until 26 October 2015
Radikal Moderne Planen
und Bauen im Berlin
der Sechziger Jahre

/ Planning and Building
in Berlin in the 1960s

Berlinische Galerie
Berlin | Germany
Via 300 known works and recently rediscovered material representing 30 architects, planners, photographers and artists, this is the first detailed examination of a decade in architecture and urban planning that shaped a city divided not only by a wall, but also by political ideologies.

>>> Until 31 October 2015
Stone Fenoyl (1945 > 1987).
An Imaginary Geography.
A Documentary Record

Château de Tours
(in association with Jeu de Paume)
Tours | France

Famous for his ability to discover and nurture new photographers, and for his admiration of anonymous 19th century photographs, iconographer, curator, art buyer, gallery and Vu agency (now Viva) founder, Pierre de Fenoyl was the first director of France’s National Foundation Photography in 1976. Champion of the work of Brassai, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Duane Michals and André Kertész, alongside prints, documents, films and publications, this retrospective also shows the black and white landscape photography he created himself from 1984.

>>> Until 1 November 2015
Fotografia Futurista
Galleria Carla Sozzani
Milan | Italy
With over one hundred original photographs, representing the work of over thirty photographers, this exhibition demonstrates how, over a fifty-year period, the futurists took possession of the photographic language and used it as a medium to capture the pulse of early 20th century life. In so doing, they transformed photography into the dynamic, potent and multifaceted force it became in both art and commerce in the twentieth century.

>>> Until 31 January 2016
Shoes: Pleasure and Pain
V&A
London | UK
Exploring the euphoria and obsession they can inspire, more than 200 pairs of historic and contemporary shoes from the V&A’s unrivalled international collection, worn by or associated with high profile figures including Marilyn Monroe, Queen Victoria, Sarah Jessica Parker and the Hon Daphne Guinness are on display. Famous shoes, such as the ballet slippers designed for Moira Shearer in the 1948 film The Red Shoes, are exhibited alongside footwear by 70 named designers including Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo and Miuccia Prada.



Tell us what you think
The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us that we think might interest you.

The Blog’s publishers 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 that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier



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Exhibitions | This Summer, Don’t Miss These…

Friday, July 24th, 2015

McDermott & McGough, Those Moments, 1955, 2010
Tricolour carbon print. Courtesy the artists and Cheim & Read, New York.
On show at The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, see below



The Blog team is away.
Whether you stay at
home or go travelling,
h
ere’s our selection of
some of the best of what’s
on show this summer >>>



Doug Aitken, Sunset (black and white), 2011
Hand carved foam, epoxy with LED lights and hand silk-screened acrylic.
Courtesy the artist, 303 Gallery, New York, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich, Victoria Miro Gallery, London and Regen Projects, LA. Photo © Brian Forrest.
On show at the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, see below



>>> Until 23 August 2015
Coop Himmelb(l)au
Frankfurt Lyon Dalian
DeutschesArchitekturmuseum (DAM)
Frankfurt | Germany
Vienna-based architectural practice with the long-winded name Coop Himme(l)blau Wolf D Prix & Partner, long-time player on the international architecture scene, founded in 1968 in response to the predominance of rectilinear grids, set out to liberate architecture from its functional confines by rendering space more dynamic and buildings gravity-defying. The exhibition presents three of the studio’s latest projects: the new European Central Bank building (2015) in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, the Musée des Confluences (2014) in Lyon, France, and the Dalian International Conference Centre in China (2012), see image below.

>>> Auction 28 Aug 2015
Japanese Whisky
Christie’s
Admiralty | Hong Kong
Featuring Hanyu Ichito’s Full Cards Series of 54 bottles of the spirit, each with beautifully-designed individual labels on a playing card theme, which are expected to sell for HK$1.8 m > 2.4 m / £150,000 > 200,000 / US$230,000 > 310,000.

>>> Until 28 August 2015
Joana Vasconcelos:
Material World
Phillips
(Selling exhibition)
London | UK
Forty works representing various periods of sculptor and installation artist Joana Vasconcelos’s career to date, coinciding with the publication of her monograph by Thames & Hudson.

>>> Until 13 September 2015
Perfect Likeness:
Photography and
Composition
The Hammer Museum
Los Angeles | USA

Having reached a point when everyone thinks he / she is a photographer, and where photography of every possible style and quality pervades every corner of our daily lives, this exhibition looks at the carefully composed images of fine art photographers such as Thomas Demand, Andreas Gursky, McDermott & McGough and Jeff Wall.

>>> Until 13 September 2015
Design Derby:
The Netherlands – Belgium (1815 > 2015)
Museum Boijmans
Van Beuningen
Rotterdam | Netherlands

Like for like Dutch and Belgium design objects – from sumptuous and elegant Belgian art nouveau to the more austere Dutch version, and from the contemporary tours de force of Belgium design to the level-headed Dutch design of today – confront one other in friendly competition.

>>> Until 25 October 2015
Fast Fashion
The Shadowy Side of Fashion
Museum für Kunst und
Gewerbe Hamburg

Hamburg | Germany
A critical glimpse behind the scenes of fashion – consumerism, economic interests and ecological issues – throwing light upon fashion and its victims; poverty and affluence; global and local effects; wages and profits; garments and chemicals; clothes and ecology; as well as new fibre technologies.

>>> Until 26 September 2015
Larry Bell 2D-3D:
Glass & Vapor

White Cube, Mason’s Yard
London | UK
Larry Bell (b 1939, Chicago) is a leading exponent of the California ‘Light and Space’ movement. The exhibition includes three early glass installations as well as collages on paper and new, kinetic Light Knot sculptures. To coincide with a major presentation of a Standing Wall installation of thirty-two, six foot square glass panels (c1989 >2014) currently on show at the Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas, USA, at White Cube, Bell has installed 6 x 8 An Improvisation.

>>> Until 27 September 2015
Doug Aitken
Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt
Frankfurt | Germany
Following on from his Station to Station: A 30 Day Happening extravaganza at London’s Barbican, The Shirn dedicates its entire exhibition space, inside and out, to the impressive work of American multimedia-artist Doug Aitken, in the most comprehensive solo presentation of his film, music, architecture, performance and sculpture in Germany and elsewhere to date, see image above

>>> Until 27 September 2015
Germaine Krull
A Photographer’s Journey
Jeu de Paume
Paris | France
The idea of the female career photographer – rather than dabbler or dilettante – didn’t properly materialise until free-spirited women such as Gertrude Krull (1897 > 1985) thrust herself headlong into the male-dominated mêlée in the 1920s.



One-sheet poster for Sullivan’s Travels, directed by Preston Sturges, 1941
Poster art direction by Maurice Kallis. Courtesy Sikelia Productions.
On show at MoMA in New York, see below

Dalian International Conference Centre, China, by
Coop Himmelb(l)au Wolf D Prix & Partner, in Vienna, Austria
Photo © Duccio Malagamba.
On show at the Deutsches Architekturmuseum, Frankfurt, see above



>>> Until 27 September 2015
What is Luxury?
V&A
London | UK
The world’s biggest museum of the decorative arts and design has a permanent, historic collection of over 4.5 million objects. By definition it is a museum of things, many of which are extremely valuable and considered to be luxurious items. With over 100 objects, ‘From a diamond made from roadkill to a vending machine stocked with DNA, a golden crown for ecclesiastical use to traditional military tailoring, this exhibition addresses how luxury is made and understood in a physical, conceptual and cultural capacity.’

>>> Until September 30
Scorsese Collects [film posters]
Museum of Modern Art
New York City | USA
In celebration of director Martin Scorsese’s enduring commitment to the preservation of international film culture, MoMA presents 34 works from his collection, centred around a rare, billboard-size poster for the 1951 film Tales of Hoffmann. The exhibition will be accompanied by the film series Scorsese Screens throughout August.

>>> Until 4 October 2015
From Bauhaus to Buenos Aires:
Grete Stern & Horacio Coppola

Museum of Modern Art
New York City | USA
The first major exhibition of the German-born Grete Stern and the Argentinean Horacio Coppola, two leading figures of avant-garde photography who, in the 1930s, established themselves on both sides of the Atlantic.

>>> Until 18 October 2015
The 80s. Figurative
Painting in West Germany

Städel Museum
Frankfurt | Germany
Shedding light on the new and dynamic figurative painting that developed in the 1980s almost simultaneously in Berlin, Hamburg and the Rhineland. Works by among many other artists, Martin Kippenberger, Albert Oehlen, and Salomé.

>>> Until 25 October 2015
Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture
for a Modern World

Tate Britain
London | UK
Retrospective of one of Britain’s greatest artists, Barbara Hepworth (1903 > 1975), one of the few women artists to achieve widespread recognition and international prominence, featuring many of her most significant sculptures in wood, stone and bronze alongside her rarely seen works that exemplified modernism from the 1920s onwards.

>>> Until 25 October 2015
Gilbert & George:
The Early Years

Museum of Modern Art
New York City | USA
‘It’s not a collaboration. . . We are two people, but one artist,’ say the inseparable British artists, Gilbert and George, who have been creating art together for almost fifty years. This exhibition focuses on their early years, from 1969 to 1975, when the art world around them was largely engaged in pop, minimal, and conceptual work, while the pair developed a wholly unique vision.

>>> Until 26 October 2015
Radikal Moderne Planen
und Bauen im Berlin
der Sechziger Jahre
/
Planning and Building
in Berlin in the 1960s

Berlinische Galerie
Berlin | Germany
Via 300 known works and recently rediscovered material representing 30 architects, planners, photographers and artists, this is the first detailed examination of a decade in architecture and urban planning that shaped a city divided not only by a wall, but also by political ideologies.

>>> Until 31 October 2015
Stone Fenoyl (1945 > 1987).
An Imaginary Geography.
A Documentary Record
Château de Tours
(in association with Jeu de Paume)
Tours | France
Famous for his ability to discover and nurture new photographers, and for his admiration of anonymous 19th century photographs, iconographer, curator, art buyer, gallery and Vu agency (now Viva) founder, Pierre de Fenoyl was the first director of France’s National Foundation Photography in 1976. Champion of the work of Brassai, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Duane Michals and André Kertész, alongside prints, documents, films and publications, this retrospective also shows the black and white landscape photography he created himself from 1984.

>>> Until 1 November 2015
Fotografia Futurista
Galleria Carla Sozzani
Milan | Italy
With over one hundred original photographs, representing the work of over thirty photographers, this exhibition demonstrates how, over a fifty-year period, the futurists took possession of the photographic language and used it as a medium to capture the pulse of early 20th century life. In so doing, they transformed photography into the dynamic, potent and multifaceted force it became in both art and commerce in the twentieth century.

>>> Until 31 January 2016
Shoes: Pleasure and Pain
V&A
London | UK
Exploring the euphoria and obsession they can inspire, more than 200 pairs of historic and contemporary shoes from the V&A’s unrivalled international collection, worn by or associated with high profile figures including Marilyn Monroe, Queen Victoria, Sarah Jessica Parker and the Hon Daphne Guinness are on display. Famous shoes, such as the ballet slippers designed for Moira Shearer in the 1948 film The Red Shoes, are exhibited alongside footwear by 70 named designers including Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo and Miuccia Prada.


Tell us what you think
The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us that we think might interest you.

The Blog’s publishers 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 that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier



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Design | Functional Sculpture

Friday, May 15th, 2015

Philippe Hiqily,
Henri Samuel chair,
designed 1975,
2004 edition

Sotheby’s estimate:
€20,000 > 30,000



Christie’s
Design, Vent du soir /
Design Day Sale
Paris | France
Exhibition 15 + 16 + 18 + 19 May 2015
Sale 19 May 2015

+

Sotheby’s
Design 20e siècle /
20th Century Design

Paris | France
Exhibition 16 + 18 May 2015
Sale 21 May 2015



Charlotte Perriand,
Free form table / desk,
designed 1956.
Steph Simon edition c 1960
Solid saple wood.
Christie’s estimate:
€120,000 > 180,000



Along with everyone else in the Sculpture Garden at MoMA, you can sit, looking cool – imagining you’re a sculpture yourself – on sculptor Harry Bertoia’s sculptural Side chairs. But you can’t do it indefinitely, because, if we’re being completely honest, they aren’t really that comfortable, especially if the little pad that prevents the supermarket trolley style grid from embedding itself into your bottom, is missing. On the Knoll website – they produce and market Bertoia’s furniture – it says that Harry, who was primarily a sculptor, ‘found sublime grace in an industrial material, elevating it beyond its normal utility into a work of art.’ But surely, since chairs, and, for that matter, any other item of furniture must be functional, the Side chair is disqualified from ‘art’ status. Does it matter one way or the other?

Georges Jouve,
Mirror, c 1955
Glazed ceramic.
Christie’s estimate:
€8,000 > 12,000

Jean Prouvé,
Table, c 1939
Painted and folded sheet steel.
Christie’s estimate:
€80,000 > 100,000



It would seem that Donald Judd, who created sculpture that looked like furniture and furniture that might be art, thought it did. An extract from a 1993 Judd essay called It’s hard to find a good lamp reads: ‘…[S]omeone asked me to design a coffee table. I thought that a work of mine, which was essentially a rectangular volume, with the upper surface recessed, could be altered. This debased the work and produced a bad table, which I later threw away. The configuration and the scale of art cannot be transposed into furniture and architecture. The intent of art is different from that of the latter, which must be functional. If a chair or a building is not functional, if it appears to be only art, it is ridiculous… A work of art exists as itself; a chair exists as a chair itself.’

Serge Mouille,
Pair of wall sconces with
Saturn motif, c 1957
Black + white lacquered metal
Sotheby’s estimate:
€4,000 > 6,000

Pierre Chareau,
Desk MB 405 + stool SN 3, c 1928
Wrought iron and rosewood
veneer desk + wrought
iron and rosewood stool
Sotheby’s estimate:
€250,000 > 350,000



On the other hand, as Design Museum Director Deyan Sudjic said in his 2008 obituary about the great Italian designer/architect Ettore Sottsass: ‘We live in a world which values the useless ahead of the useful, which celebrates art, untainted by the least hint of utility, above the ingenuity of design that is burdened by function, and creates a cultural hierarchy to match. It was perhaps the greatest achievement of Sottsass’s long and remarkable career that he made this distinction irrelevant.’

Zaha Hadid’s designs for amorphous benches and stools are intended to blur the line between utility and sculpture. Like her architecture, their streamlined curvaceousness isn’t purely functional, nor is it merely decorative. They are functional pieces, in that they are meant to be sat on, but just having them around enlivens a space and raises the spirits, rendering them objects of desire.


Eugène Printz,
Modernist console, c 1931
Palm wood veneer
Sotheby’s estimate:
€30,000 > 50,000



Many of the – in theory – functional, and sought after items being sold in the forthcoming Christie’s ParisDesign, Vent du soir /Design Day Sale, and in Design 20e Siècle / 20th Century Design at Sotheby’s Paris, including those shown here, were designed in the modern period, but, ironically, their sculptural qualities a result of their creators’ uncompromising searches for authenticity, they could easily be taken as examples of the rule-breaking that came to be a defining characteristic of postmodernism.

All images courtesy Christie’s and Sotheby’s, respectively.
Donald Judd quote © Judd Foundation.


Tell us what you think
The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you.

The Blog’s publishers 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 whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier



Share this post
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Design | Swiss Design Bank

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Blattmann Metallwarenfabrik AG, MEWA, Kettle TECA, 1949 /
Alfred Roth, Aluminium Chair, 1933 / Wilhelm Kienzle, Cactus Watering Can
Photo FX Jaggy + U Romito


100 Years of Swiss Design
Museum für Gestaltung – Schaudepot
Zürich | Switzerland
27th September 2014 > 8th February 2015


It’s somehow unsurprising to find that, safe in its vaults, Switzerland has the largest collection of Swiss design in the world. While the vast majority of the 800 items in 100 Years of Swiss Design, a new exhibition opening this month at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, are drawn from the bank of 500,000 pieces the museum has built up over its 140-year history, a few items are on loan from elsewhere.

This exhibition will be the first at the Schaudepot (Open Collections) – in the New Toni-Areal, a recently converted former milk processing plant – where the museum’s poster, design, applied arts and graphics archives – previously distributed in separate locations around the Zürich – have come together under one roof. But it’s not only the location which is new. With a total of 26% additional space, the core of the assembled archive is a free-standing, high bay, storage facility – a six-metre-high shelving system – housing chairs, lamps, posters, cupboards and ceramics, which is being opened to the public for daily tours on specific themes, and where they can examine items in the collection at close quarters, for the first time. The museum’s globally-important assets have also been made accessible via the eMuseum site, where the pictures in the database are reproduced as a digital catalogue, exclusively illustrating the collection stock – and the service has been made available free of charge.

While Switzerland is renowned as an expensive country to visit, until the end of September when prices are set to rise, the adult entrance fee at the Museum is only 12 Swiss Francs (CHF) / just under £8, and an annual pass is available for 50 CHF / £33, which is a pretty good deal. There’s no entry fee for children under 12 years.


Sigg AG, Hot Water Bottle with Stopper 1925 + 1968
Photo FX Jaggy + U Romito

Willy Guhl, Beach Chair, 1954
Photo FX Jaggy

Oskar Zieta, Plopp, 2007 / Frédéric Dedelley, Melancholic Diamond, 2007
Photo U Romito

Wisa-Gloria AG, Three Wheeler, 1970,
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Design Collection

Photo FX Jaggy + U Romito


In 1949, the multi-talented Swiss architect, artist, painter, typeface designer, industrial designer and graphic designer, who at one time, served on the Zürich City Council, and was later elected to the Swiss National Parliament, Max Bill (1908 > 1994), singled out the Feller company’s light switch, ubiquitous throughout Switzerland, as ‘perhaps the ultimate form for a light switch.’ An image of the switch is being used on the publicity material for the exhibition, overlaid by a photograph of Willy Guhl’s classic Beach chair, for Eternit, 1954. Manufactured by companies like Therma, Embru, Langenthal, Horgen-Glarus, Sigg and Mammut, many more examples of often everyday products, typifying the high quality, functionality and charm of Swiss design, such as Hans Coray’s Landi chair and the USM Haller system are included in the 100 Years of Swiss Design exhibition.

Swiss book design is also one of country’s greatest assets, and later this month, or in early October (German edition. English language edition, probably December) the inimitable Lars Müller Publishers are bringing out 100 Years of Swiss Design, edited by the Müseum für Gestaltung Zürich, Christian Brändle, Renate Menzi and Arthur Rüegg. With 700 pictures and featuring 100 key works from the Museum’s collection, it presents the cream of the country’s design in chronological order – from their regional roots, at the beginning of the 20th century, to those dreamed up and produced for today’s global market. Also from Lars Müller Publishers, 100 Years of Swiss Graphic Design, a companion to the above, is already out in Europe (German and English editions), and will be available in the US and Canada at the end of September, 2014.


Heller drittel, Max Bill,1959 > 69
Auction estimate CHF 25,000 > 30,000 / £16,500 > 20,000


Max Bill, who was a student at the Bauhaus in Dessau between (1927 > 1928) worked closely with masters Josef Albers, Wassily Kandinsky, László Moholy- Nagy and Oskar Schlemmer, as well as his fellow Swiss, Paul Klee. Eminently bankable, his paintings and sculptures are well-represented in Christie’s 30th Swiss Art Auction in Zürich on September 22nd. It was László Moholy-Nagy, who had introduced Bill to the work of the De Stijl group, especially that of Mondrian, whom Bill visited in Paris, but the work of other De Stijl members, Georges Vantongerloo and Theo Doesburg were to make a greater impression upon him. Similarly based on geometric composition, Fritz Glarner, whose work is also included in the sale, owes much to influences drawn from De Stijl.

All products illustrated, except Will Guhl Beach Chair, from Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Design Collection. All photos © ZHdK.
Painting image courtesy of Christie’s


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Interview | Philippe Garner on Aram on Kuramata

Friday, May 16th, 2014

Solaris, 1977
Set of drawers. Original production by Ishimaru Co Ltd.
Painted wood
with metal base in anodised aluminium.
Estimate €50,000 > 70,000



Mouth to Mouth Interview
Philippe Garner, Christie’s International Head of 20th Century
Decorative Art & Design interviews owner / manager of
the Aram Store, London, UK – established in 1964 –
Zeev Aram OBE




Born in Israel and having relocated to London in 1957 to study design, Zeev Aram opened an office and retail showroom in London’s King’s Road in 1964. It was the first in the UK to sell the work of iconic modern designers including Achille Castiglioni, Marcel Breuer, and Le Corbusier. Aram also holds the worldwide licence for Eileen Gray. Mostly gathered by him in 1981 on the occasion of the first exhibition dedicated to the Japanese designer Shiro Kuramata in Europe, the 19 pieces in the forthcoming sale at Christie’s in Paris come from Aram’s personal collection, where they have remained for more than 30 years

Philippe Garner | This packing list of the Shiro Kuramata pieces shipped from Tokyo to London in 1981 for your exhibition reminds me of how many years ago it was that you connected with him. How did you meet him?

Zeev Aram | I was introduced by a mutual friend, the architect John Pawson, who had been working in Japan. I met Kuramata when he came to London in 1980. Then I went to see him in Tokyo; we spent four days together. He was a wonderful host. We went to Kyoto and all over the place. And I chose whatever we should show; the exhibition was the result.

Was that his first showing in Europe?

Yes.

And what sort of exposure had he already had in Japan?

Quite good but not enormous. People like Isozaki and Issey Miyake – the guys at the top of fashion, design, and architecture – knew of him because he was really exceptional, the way he designed things, especially interiors, the most fantastic interiors, which was unusual. On my visit to Tokyo, we went to a small, perfect sashimi bar he had created. It could only accommodate a very small number of people. It was so pure, a wonderful space.

Kuramata was received there like a God – in the nicest possible way. It was the same in Kyoto, because they don’t give private rooms so easily to people in these very old inns, with the Geishas serving you. So he was known, but within a certain community.

So it was within a relatively small, informed circle. He wasn’t a commercial success at that stage.

No, the bigger recognition came later. I have an invitation to his exhibition at the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in 1996, fifteen years after my show.

So was your exhibition the most extensive exhibition of furniture that he had put on at that stage?

Abroad, certainly. It was anyway the first substantial one.


OBA-Q lamps, 1972
Set of drawers. Original production by Ishimaru Co Ltd.
Painted wood
with metal base in anodised aluminium.
Estimate €50,000 > 70,000

Furniture in irregular forms, side 1, 1970
Set of drawers. Original production by Aoshima Shoten Co Ltd.
Painted birch, Formica and aluminium, mounted on casters
Estimate €50,000 > 70,000


You have kept for over thirty years the majority of the pieces that you showed in 1981. Was it because you found no takers, and would you have staged it anyway, for the furniture’s sake, if you had realised it would not be a commercial success?

Was it a commercial exercise? In a roundabout way, like my initial interest in Eileen Gray. I took my chance, and I said I like it and if I like it, hopefully some people will like it. We re-ordered some pieces from Japan, but I knew that I could not produce these models. I rely on manufacturers and because of the complication of his designs I knew it would be horrendously expensive. Anyway, to give a short answer, my prime interest was in his designs and his products; we sold some, but by no means a significant quantity.

Did you then make the conscious decision that, having tried, enjoyed the experience, realised it wasn’t the right commercial moment, you were just going to put the collection out of sight?

Well, what also happened, unfortunately, is that he died. He died quite young, in 1991. He wrote me the most wonderful letter in 1988 – by then he allowed himself to call me Zeev; before that it was always ‘Dear Mr Aram’ He wrote, ‘In the oriental expression, you dug a well for me. I’m very grateful for your kind collaboration. The exhibition triggered a new book, with an essay by Ettore Sotsass. Interesting. My exhibition was well received.

So you had a good critical response. I love the reference here, ‘On show at Aram Designs is a collection of furniture… in the middle of the great Anglo-Japanese love affair which has been consuming London,’ The Architectural Review, September 1981. Do you have any particular favourites among the collection?

He had a period when he was obsessed with drawers. Then he produced the 49-drawer cabinet and I said, ‘This one is very odd.’ I could see the mathematical progression, because the diagonal is made of squares that change proportion sideways. And he said, ‘That’s the only way I could solve it to make it attractive. Every time we face drawers we decide what to put where, but in this instance the drawer also has a say, because if I want to put in a shirt here, I can’t, but if I want to put the pants, I can put, you know? So the size matters.’ So I say, ‘OK it’s very, very Zen and interesting,’ and we laughed.

But that was a period when he was really obsessed, literally obsessed with containers, drawers, and how we live our life in them. You put things [in them] from your own momentary intimacy, which are sometimes left there for years and it becomes a memory bank, a part of your biography. And we are not doing it consciously. We are just putting things in there and forgetting them.

So he invites the drawers themselves to play a part in the process?

Yes.

Can you recall other interesting comments that he made?

Maybe I shouldn’t tell you this – I said, ‘Listen, the Japanese are so well known for joinery joints because of all the houses and beams so beautifully pieced together, almost like a puzzle, and they just put the peg in and the whole thing is held together, so how come the furniture, especially the drawers, [are] made in such an unusual way?’ And he said, ‘What do you mean, unusual?’ And I replied, ‘Well, we don’t do drawers like this, with nails and so on.’ And he asked, ‘Oh, how do you do it? At the exhibition opening, he was accompanied by three gentlemen, and they were the managing directors or the owners of the glassworks, the joinery, and the metalwork companies, respectively. And they came out of respect for him. In the evening when we prepared the layout, each of them had an apron on; they put them on over their beautiful suits, and they were handling the furniture. I said ‘My God, if these were Italians they would be stood a mile away.’ So he said, ‘Do me a favour; please see Mr Aoshima tomorrow.’ And I said ‘OK, “OK, but I’m not a joiner.’ And so we had this quick session the next day, when I went and showed him [Aoshima] how you use dovetails – he didn’t know what a dovetail was – though once I showed him he understood. Or secret dovetails, where you don’t show the ends. When it came to modern furniture they kept absolutely to the design but the details of manufacturing went back almost to model-making.

So what was visible was impeccable?

Perfect.

But I think the story is worth telling, because that’s what distinguishes your pieces from the later production pieces.

Yes, then of course there were the pieces produced by Cappellini, which people I suppose should know. The licensing to Cappellini came later, from 1987, but I don’t think Cappellini is doing it anymore.

Tell me about the 1985 ‘Homage to Hoffman’ chair

It’s very simple, the story is very simple. He considered Thonet to be one of the initiators of modern design and he knew that Joseph Hoffman designed the famous armchair for them. Not the coffee-house chair Model 14, which was the famous model, but this one. So he said, ‘Well, how can I somehow involve the spirit of Hoffman, pay homage to him, and at the same time tell everyone that this was the beginning of the beginning?’ So he took an original Thonet chair, wired it up and he set light to it. He incinerated it. Then he just polished it [the wire], that’s all.. And what remains is the wire, and just a trace of the original.

Where did this happen, where was the event?

In Japan. Also he says that only Issey Miyake and I have this chair. There are only two because he doesn’t want to produce any more.

So presumably, because they’re wrapped in wire in a very spontaneous way, the two chairs will not be identical?

No, they couldn’t be.

So the chair was an artistic happening, a conceptual event.

Let me tell you a story about the wiggle form of the tall drawer cabinet. Apparently Isozaki had two made. And Shiro went to visit him and saw that Isozaki put them symmetrically against the wall, not near the wall but with drawers facing the wall, not facing into the room. And he asked Isozaki why they were facing the wall, did he not want to use the drawers? Isozaki said, ‘Because I want to experience the shape going around it.’ Such a Japanese expression! Just to go around it to experience the shape. Because it was two different shapes, if you go this way or that way.

Had he made a mirror pair?

No, two of the same.

I love Solaris; on those long legs it looks like an alien spaceship that has landed.

Yes, or like an oil-drill platform.

It’s wonderfully illustrative of the over-riding importance to Kuramata of the imaginative, metaphorical, and philosophical dimension of his creations.

Exactly. It was those qualities that made his designs so attractive to me all those years ago; and they have lost nothing of their exceptional character. Shiro Kuramata was a unique figure and I am very, very fortunate to have known and worked with him.


This is an edited version of an interview of 8th January, 2014, published in full in the catalogue Christie’s Design sale, Shiro Kuramata: Collection Zeev Aram, on 20th May, 2014, at their showroom in Paris, France. The pieces can be viewed there until May 20th

All furniture designed by Shiro Kuramata (1934 > 1991)
All images © Christie’s Images Limited 2014



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Sculpture | Ruth Asawa: Line as Form

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Ruth Asawa: Objects & Apparitions
Christie’s Private Sales
Rockefeller Center
New York City, USA
Exhibition 6th -31st May, 2013

Associated with the formulation of modernism, the concept of line as form is an ineffable paradox that was first explored at the Bauhaus in the 1920s and early 30s. Unlikely then, in 1947, for high-school graduate Ruth Asawa, to stumble upon a language that expressed the complex notion in the looped-wire baskets used for selling eggs in Mexico’s markets. But the promising and curious student, born in 1926 of Japanese immigrant parents, who had grown up during The Great Depression and began studying drawing and painting with professional Japanese artists in the internment camps, where she and her family were confined during World War II, had already travelled to Mexico two years earlier to study Spanish and Mexican Art, and by the time her return visit came around had come under the influence of former Bauhaus master Josef Albers and architect Buckminster Fuller, both teachers at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where she had enrolled. ‘The artist must discover the uniqueness and integrity of the material’, Albers had explained, and intrigued with the idea of experimenting with wire as a medium, Asawa began to loop and twist it in a similar fashion to the Mexican basket makers, producing 3D forms – essentially, drawings in space – made from a single continuous wire. ‘I was interested in wire sculpture because of the economy of a line,’ Asawa said, ‘making something in space, enclosing it without blocking it out. It’s still transparent.’ Many of these sculptures were designed to be hung from the ceiling, and later Asawa hit upon the idea of creating transparent forms within the transparent forms, increasing the complexity and playfulness of her creations.

It wasn’t until 1953 that Asawa began exhibiting her work – in the meantime having been married and given birth to two of the six children she would have by 1959 – in solo and group shows at the San Francisco Museum of Art, The Whitney Museum of Modern Art and at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. By this time she had met and formed a life-long friendship with legendary photographer Imogen Cunningham (1883 -1976). Cunningham, famed for her images of flowers, nudes and industrial landscapes, sensitively captured the sublime lightness and fluidity of Asawa’s work in still life compositions. She produced many pictures of the artist working, as well portraits in which Asawa becomes an element inextricably enmeshed with the sculptural forms of her creations.

In the 1960s, Asawa received major commissions to make public art and in 1970, her work was exhibited in the American Pavilion at the Osaka World’s Fair. So well-established as an artist was she by the early 70s that her sculpture and paintings began being shown in a string of retrospectives at important US venues – San Francisco Museum of Art (1973), Fresno Art Center (1978 and 2001). Asawa is reprented by the Rena Bransten Gallery in San Francisco. Virtually unknown in Europe, in New York, her work can be found in major collections including that of the Solomon R Guggenheim and Whitney Museum of American Art; Objects & Apparations is her first major solo show in the city in over 50 years. Forty-eight works, including sculpture and works on paper – for sale or for private loan – will be presented in a show that takes place in the elevated setting of the 20th floor of 1230 Avenue of the Americas, at Rockefeller Center. Christie’s will offer the sculpture Untitled, above, from the Ruth Asawa Family Collection at their May 15th Post-War and Contemporary Art evening sale.

Imogen Cunningham photographs from top
Ruth Asawa, Sculptor, 1956
(Ruth Holding a Form-Within-Form, 1952)

Untitled
Hanging, six-lobed, multi-layered continuous form within a form
Estimate $250-350,000 (£160-225,000)

Ruth Asawa 2, 1957

All photos: archive pictures ©Imogen Cunningham
Courtesy Christie’s New York

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Auction | René Gruau

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Christie’s Interiors – Style & Spirit
London, South Kensington, UK
Sale: 29th January, 2013
Viewing: January 26th-29th

If you missed the wonderful Dior Illustrated: René Gruau and the Line of Beauty show at London’s Somerset House in 2010, or, if you were fortunate enough to see it but came away aching to own one or more of Gruau’s chic and uncompromisingly graphic, highly collectible, original artworks, here’s your chance. Amongst a mixed bag of almost 400 lots that includes items as diverse as a very handsome pair of mid-20th century German, steel, 10 x 8 field binoculars by Busch (Estimate £2,000-4,000), and a pre-17th century composite elephant bird egg from Madagascar (Estimate £5,000 – 8,000), the catalogue for the forthcoming Christie’s Interiors – Style & Spirit sale, lists four Gruau’s, all at fairly affordable prices.

Images by René Gruau, from top
Point d’exclamation, circa 1950
Gouache on paper, signed
Estimate £2,000-3,000

Le masque, circa 1950
Gouache on paper, signed
Estimate £1,500-2,000

Lady in red, circa 1970
Ink and gouache on paper, signed
Estimate £4,000-6,000

Model for glove, circa 1950
Gouache and ink on paper, unsigned
Estimate £3,000-5,000

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Design | Modernism and Stained Glass

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Important 20th Century Decorative Art & Design
Christie’s, New York,
Rockefeller Plaza,
New York City, USA
14th December 2012

The Avery Coonley Playhouse windows, circa 1912, with their buoyant circles and patriotic flags, that stand out for their distinctive, asymmetrical composition and vibrant color, are considered Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece in glass. The building, a small structure created by Lloyd Wright to serve as a school for Queenie Ferrie Coonley to educate local children, was a short distance from the Coonley’s home in Riverside, Illinois, that Wright had previously completed for the couple in 1908. Just one of the 40 original windows – sadly, all of them were removed in the 1950s to be replaced by replicas – that ringed the main school room and were designed to encourage a spontaneous, playful air, is included in Christie’s Important 20th Century Decorative Art & Design sale. His use of bright red, green, blue, orange and black glass was, by all accounts, inspired by a passing parade, complete with confetti, balloons and American flags. The European abstract art movement, including the paintings of Sonia and Robert Delaunay and Wassily Kandinsky, which Wright saw in Paris on his European sojourn in 1909-1910, that included a trip to Vienna, significantly influenced the designs.

A stained glass revival had been triggered in Holland in the 1850s, when William Morris’s ideas gained currency there, and a domestic demand emerged for non-figurative, decorative art that accorded with strict Calvinist principles. Via the De Stijl movement founded in the Netherlands in 1917, this late 19th century trend would evolve into abstract stained glass panels. That year, leading member, Theo van Doesburg, completed a set of five identical windows, strikingly geometrical in style, whose motif was abstracted from skating figures, for a house designed by fellow member, Jan Wils. In 1918, Van Doesburg began collaborating with another member, architect JJP Oud, on his first municipal housing blocks at Spangen, designing stained glass panels for each apartment – some are still in place, others, inevitably, as van Doesburg’s reputation as an artist grew and his work became much sought after, were sold off. Later, in 1934, another significant Dutch architect, Jan Kuyt, designed intricate stained glass skylights for his V&D Department Store building in Amersfoort.

From the same early period, Josef Albers’ Red and White, 1923, created for that year’s first Bauhaus Exhibition in Weimar – sadly, since destroyed – was a stained-glass window that was granted a title, in the style of an artwork.

Of course, stained glass had been around for many centuries before the early modernists, recognising its potential, took hold of it and adapted it to suit their buildings, in the process turning it into an art form. And, although its popularity during the 20th century swung in and out of fashion, it never really went away.

In a note on an early drawing of the Glass Pavilion – the pineapple-shaped temporary building that German expressionist architect, Bruno Taut, erected at the Cologne Deutscher Werkbund Exhibition in 1914 – a prismatic glass dome structure of concrete and glass, he said he made it in the spirit of a gothic cathedral. Inlaid coloured glass plates on the façade acted as mirrors. Inside, there were floor-to-celing, coloured glass walls and a glass-treaded metal staircases led to the upper projection room that showed a kaleidoscope of colors. But when, some 40 years later, Le Corbusier built Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut at Ronchamp in France, between 1950 and 1955 – in which daylight enters via a system of openings covered with glass, much of it coloured – the architect was keen to maintain that his glass had no connection to stained glass, which he considered a form of illumination too closely bound to archaic architectural notions, with particular reference to Romanesque and Gothic art.

At Fondation Maeght, Saint Paul de Vence, on the French Riviera, a small chapel, next to the main building, has stained glass windows designed by Braque in the 1960s. More contemporary examples include a stained-glass window installed at Damien Hirst’s Pharmacy restaurant in Notting Hill, London, during the 1990s.

Two other windows by Lloyd Wright are included in the Christie’s sale, alongside a skylight and panel made by Louis Sullivan in 1890 for the Auditorium building, Chicago. Meanwhile, a set of four square windows (26.9 x 26.9 cm) of graphic, abstract design, in opalescent, cathedral and slumped glass, produced in 1880 by American painter and muralist John la Farge, and estimated to sell at $8,000 – 12,000, are on offer at Sotheby’s, New York, in their Important 20th Century Design sale on 15th December.

Images from top
Window from the Avery Cooonley Playhouse, Frank Lloyd Wright, circa 1912
(Detail, the complete framed panel is also shown above)
Leaded glass, with original oak window frame, 61 x 97 cm
Estimate $200,000 – $300,000

Photo © Christie’s Images Limited, 2012

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Photography | Auctions | Portraits of Women

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Modern & Contemporary Photographs
Yann Mouel
Drout
Paris, France
Sale: 9th November, 2012

Photographies
Sotheby’s
Paris, France
Sale: 16th November, 2012

Photographies
Christie’s
Paris, France
Sale: 16th & 17th November, 2012

Modern & Contemporary Photography
Villa Grisebach
Berlin, Germany
Exhibition: 23rd–27th November, 2012
Sale: 28th November, 2012

Are real women, as portraiture subjects for photography under-represented? Maybe. A glance through the catalogue of today’s Yann Le Mouel auction of Modern & Contemporary Photographs in Paris – one of four major European photography auctions this month – reveals that of the 261 lots some 42 are portraits of well-known 20th century male figures or groups, among them: politician Fidel Castro, artists Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol, musicians Johnny Hallyday, Serge Gainsbourg, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, Billy Idol, fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, and photographer Donald McCullin. Although many unidentified females appear, often nude, partially-clothed or in a couple of instances, pornographic poses, famous or even identified women are rather less in evidence. Of the few labeled ladies, Princess Diana in tiara and pearls, photographed by Patrick Demarchelier, Colette by Janine Niepce and Weegee’s Norma Devine at Sammy’s Bar, New York, 4 December, 1944, strike a bold presence.

To mark the 65th anniversary of Magnum Photos, Sotheby’s Paris is offering a unique set of 65 images dedicated to the nude – an unusual subject for this co-operative, whose photographers are better known for chronicling world events – a very mixed bag of works in which images by Henri Cartier-Bresson and Eve Arnold are included alongside those from the younger generation of Magnum photographers, such as Paolo Pellegrin and Harry Gruyaert. Jane Mansfield and Marylin Monroe are amongst the mainly female subjects, of whom few others are identified. Elsewhere in the same sale, there’s an unusual full length photograph of Lizica Conreanu, Romanian dancer and member of Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes posed in a dance position, in the artist’s studio, by sculptor Constantin Brancusi, together with a stark, asymmetrical, untitled head and shoulders portrait of a woman by Dora Maar. Diane Arbus offerings include Woman with a Briefcase and Pocketbook, N.Y.C., 1962 and topless, Waitress, Nudist Camp, N.J., 1963. Bold, explicit images from Helmut Newton’s Big Nudes series, each identified by first name only, are also on offer.

A print of Peter Lindbergh’s The Wild Ones, shot in New York in 1991 that features super-models, Cindy Crawford, Tatjana Patiz, Helena Christensen, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Karen Mulder and Stephanie Seymour is included in the Christie’s sale in Paris, next weekend. There’s a couple of pictures of Kate Moss, too, and hot American art photographer Alex Prager’s Eva, from the series Week-end, 2009. All beautiful, but do models really count as famous people? Perhaps a few, like Kate Moss, transcend their clothes-horse role and become celebrities, in the process taking on tangible personality. Striking close-ups by Man Ray of mannequins push female anonymity to the limit, however his striking, uncompromising profile of the surrealist artist, Bona, 1955 – who, with a little research, it was possible to discover is Bona de Mandiargues – has profound substance. Peter Beard’s Karen Blixen in Rungstedland for the End of the Game, Dec. 3rd, 1961 is up close and feels very personal. Here too, Cecil Beaton’s multiple-exposure, portrait of actress Beatrice Lillie, shot around 1930, makes a strong statement. Interestingly, (always referred to as ‘first wife of László Moholy-Nagy‘) Lucia Moholy’s 1926 portrait of artist Lily Hilderbrandt, is one of the few images of named women, in these four November auctions, photographed by a woman. Another is Annie Liebovitz’s remarkable Louise Bourgeois, New York, from 1997, being sold at Berlin’s Villa Grisebach, where 184 lots are on offer, varying in content from recent architectural photography by minimalist photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto, Boring Photographs, 2000, 468 C-type prints by Martin Parr, and works by Daido Moriyama, to 1950s and 60s images by Will McBride and much earlier stuff from photography pioneers such as Karl Blossfeldt. Images of identifiable women, again, are few in number but there is a very sensuous, sexually-liberated, colour portrait of Marilyn Monroe, shot in 1962, from the man who surely captured her character and vivacity better than any other, Bert Stern – a snip at an estimated €1.000-1.500. There’s also a characterful and beguiling, 1976 close-up by Robert Lebeck of Romy Schneider in a tweed flat cap, smiling, with a cigarette in the corner of her mouth. Jackie Kennedy and her Sister at the Funeral of Robert Kennedy, New York, 1968, by the same photographer and showing the grieving sisters, kneeling side by side, hands clasped in prayer, draws the emotions in another direction. Milton H Greene’s 1952 portrait of Marlene Dietrich – recognisable from her swathe of blonde hair and perfectly-shaped legs – whose face isn’t shown, cleverly turns the negative aspect of anonymity on its head.

Anonymity itself is of course compelling and single names – probably often invented, sometimes with the intention of obscuring the the identity of the sitter or of adding exotic cachet – tantalising. Full, real names, however, lift the veil and bring the viewer into direct contact with the subject, whatever the sex, allowing us the privilege of intimacy and them the dignity of existence and perhaps a deserved place in history.

Images from top
From the Villa Griesbach sale:
Louise Bourjois, New York, 1997
Annie Leibovitz
Gelatin silver print

Marylin Monroe, From ‘The Last Sitting’, 1962
Bert Stern
C-Print, 1978. Kodak-Paper

Marlene Dietrich, 1952
Milton H Greene
Vintage gelatin silver print with gouache

From the Christie’s sale:
Karen Blixen in Rungstedland for the End of the Game, Dec. 3rd, 1961
Peter Beard
Gelatin silver print mounted on cardboard, enhanced with ink, gouache
and blood

Kate Moss, Little Nipple, 2001
Rankin
Archive Lambda print

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