Posts Tagged ‘Knoll’

Design | Functional Sculpture

Friday, May 15th, 2015

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

Sotheby’s estimate:
€20,000 > 30,000

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


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.

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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

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Architecture | Design | Objects des Architects

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Arts Décoratifs du XXe siècle & Design Contemporain
Paris, France
Exhibition: 22nd, 23rd, 24th & 26th November, 2012
Sale: 27th November, 2012

If it isn’t a contradiction in terms, the phenomenon of modern architects creating furniture, and sometimes decorative items, for use in the buildings they design and elsewhere might well be termed a ‘tradition’. And the importance of this tradition is confirmed in the upcoming Arts Décoratifs du XXe siècle & Design Contemporain sale at Sotheby’s, Paris, which features items by, among others, Le Corbusier (with Pierre Jeanneret), Gio Ponti and Tadao Ando: architects whose work overlapped in a time span stretching from early 20th century modernism, through mid-century modern to whatever label we’re currently attaching to 21st century contemporary.

Sir Norman Foster, and Foster and Partners, responsible for many of the world’s key buildings of the last 30 years have designed sofas, lamps, bookcases, door handles and even sanitary ware for a range of clients, including Knoll, Molteni & Co, Acerbis and Nomos. There’s even a Gherkin lamp available from Kundalini. If modernism hadn’t already caught up with the future, Zaha Hadid’s and Amanda Levete’s respective oeuvres might still be referred to as futuristic. Zaha Hadid ArchitectsZ-Scape Furniture, designed in 2000 and produced by Sawaya & Moroni, is an ensemble of lounge furniture, whose forms derive from geology, glaciers and natural erosion but the company has also created equally-arresting and sculptural vases, lamps and tables. At Future Systems and currently, at AL_A, Levete has produced sinuous benches for Established & Sons and, in collaboration with Phillips, lighting, notably the Edge light. Always keen to control every aspects of the furnishing of his interiors, John Pawson, too, has had several of his spare furniture pieces produced by Driade. Common amongst all of the products created by these architects is quality design and a high degree of craftsmanship.

The fine, glazed earthenware Classical Conversation/’L'architetto’ bowl included in the Sotheby’s sale was produced by him around 1924, just one year after Gio Ponti began his career as an architect, during a period when he was influenced by and associated with the Milanese, neo-classical Novecento Italiano movement. Ponti would go on to become one of his country’s most important 20th century modernist architects, industrial designers, artists and publishers – he founded and was twice editor of Domus magazine. Building offices for Fiat during the war years, the attention attracted by his Pirellone/Pirelli Tower (completed, 1960), in Milan, earned him worldwide fame and international commissions, including the Denver Art Museum, 1971. His renowned furniture designs for Cassina include the 1957 Superleggerra/Superlight chair, and he produced lights for, among others, Artemide and Fontana Arte.

Le Corbusier – still probably the most famous architect in the world, and certainly of the 20th century, his array of built work too vast and familiar to list here – and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret’s wood and partially grey lacquered free-standing cabinet, was made in 1927, having been designed for The Poplars/Maison Guiette residence. Built by the practice in Antwerp, the house is an early and classic example of the International Style. Having been joined by Charlotte Perriand, Le Corbusier and Jeanneret presented their new concepts in furniture design at the 1929 Paris Salone d’Automne. That same year, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, whom Le Corbusier had probably met, along with Walter Gropius during a sojourn in Berlin, created the Barcelona chair for his avant garde German pavilion at the Barcelona Exposition. Although only two Barcelona chairs were made for the exposition, the design was put into production and became so popular that, with the exception of a sixteen-year period, it has been continuously manufactured. Earlier, In 1908, Le Corbusier had studied architecture under Joseph Hoffman in Vienna – himself an architect who loved to design furniture – and would have been familiar with Hoffman’s designs, based famously on the square, and particularly the Kubus chair, 1910, which was almost certainly an influence on his and his co-designers’ very cubic Grand Confort armchair, albeit the construction is entirely different. Centre-piece of the Salone d’Automne show, the famous design was reissued by Cassina in 1965. The company makes some fourteen other Le Corbusier furniture items, including the equally familiar LC4 chaise longue and LC6 dining table.

In a kind of reversal of the process, in 1924, furniture-maker, Gerrit Rietveld built the Rietveld Schröder house and filled it with objects he designed. When Eileen Gray, famous for her sumptuous Art Deco lacquered screens suddenly became a modernist convert, she built her exquisitely modern home, Villa E1027, designing for it radical, but equally luxurious pieces that required production by skilled craftsmen. Her Bibendum chair, originally created for the the rue de lota apartment in Paris, in 1925, lay largely forgotten until an original re-surfaced in a 1972 auction, which prompted a new production of the design classic. Eero Saarinen, studied sculpture in Paris and architecture at Yale before working on furniture design with Norman Bel Geddes and practicing architecture with his father, Eliel. His furniture for Knoll includes dining and low tables, the Executive chair, the Tulip chair, and the Womb chair and ottoman.

During the 1980s, when Alberto Alessi took over the management of the Italian Alessi kitchen utensil company, he began collaborations with designers, and especially with architects, to produce high-end, exclusive products. Among the best known of the company’s product range from this period are Richard Sapper’s kettle with a two-tone whistle and Michael Graves‘ kettle with the bird shaped whistle.

By 1941, when future Pritzker Prize winner (1995), Japanese architect Tadao Ando was born, modern architecture was firmly on the world map. Having taken no formal training Ando travelled the world visiting buildings by Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Kahn, then established Tadao Ando Architect and Associates in Osaka, in 1968. Strongly influenced by his traditional Japanese background his architectural style emphasises empty space to represent the beauty of simplicity, placing the inner feeling of a structure before its appearance. Working primarily in exposed cast-in-place concrete, from a formidable list of 154 completed projects, Ando is best known for The Church of Light in Osaka, 1989, The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St Louis, 2001, and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 2002. Current projects include a mausoleum for fashion designer, Tom Ford. His minimal buildings are designed to contain little in the way of furniture, however he has lately collaborated with Danish furniture company Carl Hansen & Son on a project to develop a prototype chair honoring the aesthetic of the late Danish designer Hans Wegner, which will be available in 2013. In 2011, to mark their 90th anniversary, he created a limited edition vase for leading Venetian glassmakers, Venini, established in Murano in 1921. At an estimated sale price of €35,000-45,000, a set of three of these vases, all signed and dated and coming from a private collection in Germany, is included in the Sotheby’s sale.

Objects included in the Sotheby’s sale, from top
Tadao Ando
Set of three coloured glass vases in anthracite, red and ochre, 2011, for Venini
Estimate €35,000-45,000

Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret
Wood and partially grey lacquered wood, double-sided cabinet, circa 1927
Estimate €12,00-15,000

Gio Ponti
Glazed earthenware bowl, Classical Conversation/’L'architetto’, 1924
Estimate €15,00-20,000

Photographs ©Sotheby’s/ArtDigital Studio

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

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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Design & Architecture | George Nakashima

Friday, June 8th, 2012

Important 20th Century Design
Sotheby’s, New York, USA. 13th June, 2012
Important 20th Century Decorative Art & Design
Christie’s, New York, USA. 14th June, 2012
20th/21st Century Design Auction
Rago, New Jersey, USA. June 16th & 17th, 2012

Previews for all the above start 9th June

Rather oddly, because designers and architects in the UK are pretty well-informed about modernism and modernists in general, the name George Nakashima, rarely comes up. Indeed, London’s Design Museum design library has no listing for him. A search on the website of the Royal Institute of British Architects, which is far from the parochial organisation its name might suggest, bore no fruit, however, the Victoria & Albert Museum has a single, fine, though rather modest, 1956 Nakashima chair in its collection.

A rare aluminium chair – one of only four ever produced – is the centre-piece of an historic collection of seven items of furniture designed by Gerrit Rietveld, going under the hammer at Sotheby’s, New York. Also in this relatively small sale, comprising just 68 lots, is an equally rare Tiffany Studios Dragonfly table lamp, along with interior stained glass windows by Frank Lloyd Wright, a Josef Hoffman bentwood Sitzmaschine, an Archibald Knox ‘Tudric’ pewter champagne bucket, a Fish lamp designed by Frank Gehry in 1983, and 13 separate lots – some comprising single pieces – all by George Nakashima.

Four Nakashima items appear amongst a total of 134 lots on the listing for Christie’s Important 20th Century Decorative Art & Design sale, the next day.

Just a few days later, across the Hudson River and dwarfing the Sotheby’s and Christie’s sales, New Jersey auction house Rago, in a 2 -day, weekend sale, is offering a total of 1,100 lots. Sunday, the second day is all about modern furniture and lighting with items from a long list of iconic names, among many others: Arne Jacobsen, Charles & Ray Eames, Florence Knoll, Frank Gehry, George Nelson, Gio Ponti, Hans Wegner, Isamu Noguchi, Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, Poul Kjaerholm, Shiro Kuramata, Wendell Castle and once again, George Nakashima, who is represented by 31 separate lots.

Assuming you are in funds – these would have to be plentiful, average lot prices range from around $6,000 to around $200,000 – with the possibility of acquiring a total of 48 lots of Nakashima items, should you be thinking about starting your own collection of his furniture, now’s your chance!

On the other hand you might ask: who is George Nakashima (1905-1990)? He is simply a very interesting and important figure in 20th design. On a farmlike compound near New Hope, Pennsylvania, Nakashima, his family, and fellow wood-workers created exquisite furniture from richly grained, rare timber: tables, desks, chairs, and cabinets to grace the homes and executive boardrooms of the likes of the late Nelson Rockefeller, Columbia University and the International Paper Corporation.

Born in the shadow of the USA’s Mount Olympus, in Spokane, Washington State, across the Puget Sound from Seattle, Japanese-American Nakashima grew up in the forests of the remote Olympic Peninsula – largely unmapped until 1900. After studying first forestry then architecture in Washington, in 1930 he received a Master’s from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. However, in 1928, he had won the Prix Fontainebleau from L’Ecole Americaine des Beaux Arts in France and, after a brief time working as a mural painter on Long Island, decided to spend time in Paris before launching himself on a journey that took him to Japan. In Tokyo he found work with Czech-born Antonin Raymond, who had set up an office there. Raymond had emigrated to the United States in 1916, where he had assisted Frank Lloyd-Wright. His buildings in Japan reveal that his understanding of and respect for Japanese tradition informed his modernist sensibility. Raymond, was to prove a strong influence on his young assistant, Nakashima, as was Sri Aurobindo, the philosopher, yogi, guru, and poet, who he would encounter in Pondicherry, India, where George was the onsite architect for the first reinforced concrete building in the country. When war broke out Nakashima returned to the States, where he and his family were incarcerated at Minidoka, Idaho. He was released in 1943 with the help of his former employer Raymond and for a period worked on his ranch.

In India Nakashima had begun to find ways of working with wood and with his new-found philosophy developed ‘…a devotion to discovering the inherent beauty of wood so that noble trees might have a second life as furniture’. While in the internment camp he learned woodworking from a Japanese carpenter and left with the firm intention of establishing a woodworking studio, which he soon after accomplished at New Hope, Pennsylvania. The studio went on to become a huge success, employing some of the world’s finest craftsmen and producing unique and outstanding, highly-collectable, modern furniture. Among many awards from prestigious institutions, Nakashima received the Third Order of the Sacred Treasure from the Emperor and Government of Japan in 1983 in recognition of the cultural exchange generated by the shows he produced in Japan from 1968-1988. His work was widely exhibited, however, the late 1980s retrospective Full Circle, which opened at the American Craft Museum in New York, was to be his last.

Mira Nakashima-Yarnall, George’s daughter, has been creative director of the Nakashima studio since 1990, which continues to produce her father’s classic furniture designs and to produce her own work as well. She lives with her family at the studio compound in New Hope.

I wonder what’s going on though, because even more oddly, George Nakashima, who designed furniture for Knoll, isn’t listed on the MoMA on-line index, either.

Images from top
George Nakashima bending wood, 1940s

Conoid Bench, circa 1974
From the Japanese House, The Mr. and Mrs. Nelson A. Rockefeller Residence, Pocantico Hills, New York, circa 1974. American black walnut and hickory with one East Indian rosewood key
Sotheby’s estimate $150/200,000

Interior of the Conoid Studio at New Hope, circa 1960

Fine turned-leg dining table, 1958
English walnut, black walnut, rosewood, brass label
From a private collection
Rago estimate $35,000 – $45,000

The Minguren Museum
(Arts Building) from the Cloister at New Hope, which
was originally dedicated to showing artist, Ben Shahn’s work. Unfortunately he died in 1969, shortly after his inaugural exhibition here. Cloister guest rooms were a manifestation of Nakashima’s devotion to the monastic tradition, however, they also house the heating unit, bathroom, kitchen, and storage space, which were not included in the larger building. A large rock at the far edge of the pond is said to have inspired Nakashima to erect this building here.

Long chair, circa 1974
Executed specifically for the Japanese House of Governor and Mrs. Nelson A. Rockefeller, designed by Junzo Yoshimura. Walnut with cotton webbing.
Christie’s estimate 30,000 – 50,000 U.S. dollars

Walnut dresser, 1962
From a private collection
Rago estimate $6,000 – $9,000

All furniture images, courtesy of the respective auction houses. All other images, courtesy of George Nakashima, SA, or George Nakashima Archive. Special thanks to Soomi Hahn Amagasu for her help with this blog post

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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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Design | Sitting on a Mid-century Butterfly

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

The Hardoy Chair
Jorge Ferrari-Hardoy, 1947

The seat I like to sit on – or, in this case, in – when the sun is shining and it’s hot outside, is one I bought at Crate & Barrel in New York for about $35 in the late 90s.

I’d first seen this type of chair, some years earlier in Cara Greenberg’s book, Mid-Century Modern, which included sketchy details of its origins. Sometimes called the Butterfly, the Sling, the BFK, the BKR, the Hardoy Chair by Knoll, who in 1947 acquired US production rights, is accredited to Jorge Ferrari-Hardoy (1914-1977), as it is in Moma|The Collection. Knoll’s museum website does explain, however, that it was developed in 1938 by a team of three Argentinian architects, including Ferrari-Hardoy – he had worked in Paris with Le Corbusier – who based their idea on a 19th century, folding, wooden, British officers’ chair. A rash of inferior copies prompted legal action by Knoll in 1950 and, in 1951, after losing their claim of copyright infringement, the company dropped the Hardoy chair from its line. According to Greenberg, the design had by then been knocked off to the tune of about 5 million copies, thus making it the signature modernist chair of the latter 20th century.

The Knoll version, with its luxurious leather-slung seat and non-folding but exceedingly elegant frame, is a very different animal to the worn canvas-slung folding version with its rusting, spindly frame that I carry out into the garden. None-the-less, I’ve had mine for over 20 years and when it gives up the ghost and drops to pieces, I’ll certainly go back for another one.

Have you got the Knoll version?

Please leave a comment and look out tomorrow for the 5th instalment of This is For You, my new on-line novel, serialised this summer only on The Blog.

To see more of my garden images, please go to Pedro Silmon Garden Photography

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