Posts Tagged ‘Eliel Saarinen’

Auction | Architect-Built Furniture

Friday, April 25th, 2014

Ettore Sottsass
Bookcase, 1994

Plastic-laminated wood.
Produced by Galerie
Mourmans, the Netherlands.
Estimate £6,000 > 8,000

The Architect
Exhibition 23rd > 29th April 2014
Sale 29th April 2014
London | UK

Some 400 works designed by an august pantheon of international architects – among them, Michael Thonet, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Eliel Saarinen, Gerrit Rietveld, Poul Henningsen, Arne Jacobsen, Gio Ponti, Oscar Niemeyer, I M Pei, Buckminster Fuller, Ettore Sottsass, Richard Meier, Zaha Hadid and Shiguru Ban – encompassing items from the mid-19th century up to the 21st, will be auctioned next week in London.

For this inaugural event, uncompromisingly entitled The Architect, the auction house Phillips chose architect Lee F Mindel FAIA, of the New York-based multi-award-winning Sheldon, Mindel & Associates Inc, as curator. SM&A, who, since establishing their company in 1978, have designed numerous lofts and private homes – including one for musician Sting and his actress/producer wife Trudie Styler – were also responsible for the interior of the gallery/sales office for Herzog & deMeuron’s prestigious 56 Leonard Street development of luxury condominiums. The company have designed furniture and lighting as well as interiors for ocean liners and at least one Gulf Stream jet. They believe that ‘Simplicity is the most complicated thing to pursue, but when all elements synthesise, they transcend mere enclosure and become an art form.’ The latter is a quote from the magazine Architectural Digest, which has recognised SM&A as one of the top 100 design firms of the last century. On Phillips’ website Mindel himself quotes American architect Louis Kahn as having said: ‘Design is not making beauty. Beauty emerges from selection, affinities, integration, love.’ But, enough of this high-minded proselytising and sentimental stuff – so clearly intended for the unconverted. Let’s take a look at a selection of the inspiring array of objects on offer, which, hopefully, speak for themselves.

Gerrit Thomas Rietveld
Maquette, for the ‘Danish’ chair,
circa 1950>1956
Estimate £4,000 > 5,000

Oscar Niemeyer
Pair of ‘Aran’ lounge chairs,
circa 1975
Leather, stainless steel.
Made by Aran Line, Italy.
Estimate £15,000 > 20,000

Arne Jakobsen
Designed for the American
Scandinavian Foundation,
New York, 1952

Leather, chromium-plated
steel, ebony, painted wood.
Made by cabinetmakers
Rud Rasmussen A/S, Denmark.
Estimate £40,000 > 60,000

I M Pei
Double-sided clock, from
the John Hancock Building,
Boston, circa 1976
Steel, acrylic
Estimate £6,000 > 8,000

Zaha Hadid
Ordrupgaard bench,
model no PP995
for the Ordrupgaard
Museum extension,
Charlottenlund, Denmark,
circa 2006.
Ash. Produced by
PP Mobler,
Estimate £35,000 > 45,000

All images courtesy of Phillips

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Sculpture & Design | Harry Bertoia, Sculptor

Friday, December 9th, 2011

Forthcoming auctions of Harry Bertoia sculptures in the USA
Important Design Wright, Chicago. December 15th, 2011
Important 20th Century Design Sotheby’s, New York. December 15th, 2011
20th Century Decorative Arts Bonhams, New York,December 14th, 2011

My idea for this post – having noticed that many originals were coming up for sale in a series of auctions, all in the US – was to do something on collectable modern chairs. By chance, however, researching, I happened across Harry Bertoia’s sculpture work. His Diamond Chair furniture series are beautiful and ubiquitous, sculptural objects – somewhat easier on the eye than on the seat of the pants – but I have to admit it came as news to me that Bertoia was a sculptor and, more than that, a musician of sorts. It turns out that, initially, the chair design provided the cash that allowed the designer to develop his sculpture work; the artist discovered a way of making music with the sculptural objects, which are now being bought and sold for many thousands of dollars.

Born in Italy in 1915, aged fifteen Harry Bertoia emigrated with his parents to Canada, then to Michigan, USA. He went to college in Detroit and later to the Cranbrook Academy of Art founded by Finnish immigrant, Eliel Saarinen – father of Eero Saarinen – and intended as an American equivalent to the Bauhaus, in Michigan. Charles Eames had been a contemporary of Eero at Cranbrook, as had Ray Eames (then Ray Kaiser). Afterwards, Bertoia worked briefly with the Eames duo in California on designs for bentwood furniture. At Cranbrook Academy, he had also made the acquaintance of Florence and Hans Knoll and after working as a furniture designer throughout the 1940s, setting up his own business in 1950, he began work on his first chair for the Knoll company: the Model 420 Diamond. The now familiar design of chromium-plated steel was an instant best-seller; the royalty payments were huge; it and it’s variants remain marketed and produced by Knoll. Freed from the restrictions of having to earn a living by design, Bertoia now devoted himself exclusively to the sculpture work he had begun in the late 40s.

Produced during the 60s and starting out as an exploration of natural forms, the highly complex and labour intensive Bush Sculpture series resemble eccentric bonsai trees and are executed in wire or brass-coated iron that over time took on a green patina.

Watching and listening to Harry Bertoia – who died in 1978 – playing his sound sculptures on this You-Tube video, he looks totally relaxed, in his element, enthralled, strolling, never rushing, from one piece to the next – a one-man Balinese gamelan orchestra – gently stroking the metal rods of a tall piece, setting them in motion, striking what might be a table-sized gong then clashing the steel lozenges of another standing piece so as to combine the various sounds produced to create a minimal, ambient sort of unstructured music. A series of vinyl albums, Sonambient, were recorded, produced and released by the artist himself, who also designed their minimal packaging. In the late 1990s, Bertoia’s son, Val, rootling around in the barns in Pennsylvania that were used as studio space, discovered a large collection of unopened, album sets, which he sold for large sums. Some of the music was re-issued by a Japanese company and can be found at Discogs.

Images, from top
Untitled, Gong, 1965
Hand-hammered copper with applied patina
Estimate $200,000–300,000
Courtesy of Wright

Untitled, circa 1950
Estimate $60/80,000
Courtesy of Sotheby’s

Untitled, circa 1943
Copper and partially-painted steel
Estimate $50/70,000
Courtesy of Sotheby’s

, circa 1960
Welded copper and patinated bronze
Estimate $50/70,000
Courtesy of Sotheby’s

Welded Wire Sculpture, circa 1955
Estimate US$5,000 – 7,000
Property from the Dorothy
& Marshall M Reisman Foundation
Courtesy of Bonhams

Bertoia Group, Courtesy of Wright

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