Auctions of 20th Century Design in New York (Sotheby’s)concluded last week with a market-leading total of $20.4 million, including new benchmark prices for Tiffany Studios and Italian glass. Below is a look at some of the highlights that drove our results this season:
TIFFANY: DREAMING IN GLASS 14 December Auction Total $5 Million Wednesday’s auctions were led by Tiffany Studios “The Stream of Life” Window, which achieved $2,652,500 – more than seven times its high estimate of $350,000. This result marks both a new world auction record for a window by the legendary firm, as well as the top auction price of the year worldwide for Design. The commemorative window was commissioned directly from Tiffany Studios in 1914 by Mrs. Benjamin Whitman on behalf of Park Presbyterian Church in Erie, Pennsylvania – now the First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant – and proceeds from the sale will benefit the church’s outreach mission.
IMPORTANT DESIGN 14 December Auction Total $9 Million Top prices throughout our annual sale of Important Design demonstrated strength across this diverse category, from a Coal Hod by Charles Rohlfs dated 1900, which sold for $225,000, to a “Miss Blanche” Chair designed by Shiro Kuramata in 1988 that brought $384,500. The sale was highlighted by an exceptional result for French designer André Groult’s Important and Rare Commode, which fetched $1,452,500 – outstripping its high estimate of $1 million. The 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris presented a pavilion based on the theme of a French Embassy, with each room of the embassy designed by a different decorative artist. André Groult was in charge of the “Chambre de Madame,” or Lady’s bedroom. A few years later and for another client, Groult created another version of this bedroom suite executed entirely in green shagreen. The suite comprised a jewelry cabinet, two armchairs, a desk and two chairs, and the present commode. The Important Design sale also featured the recentlyrediscovered “Copenhagen” and “Lattes” Chairs by Italian architect and designer Carlo Mollino, which sold for $516,500 and $336,500, respectively. Both designed in 1951, the highly-sculptural plywood chairs remained in the same private collection for over 60 years, and were exhibited for the first time in 2011 as part of a major retrospective of Mollino’s work at the Haus der Kunst in Munich.
A FOCUSED OBSESSION Modern Italian Glass: The Martin Cohen Collection 14 December Auction Total $2.4 million Assembled over the past four decades by esteemed New York collector Martin Cohen, this encyclopedic collection featured some of the most important treasures of 20th-century Italian glass in private hands today. The dedicated sale was led by Thomas Stearns’s seminal Facades of Venice from 1962, which achieved $612,500 (estimate in the region of $400,000) – a new world auction record for a work of Italian glass. Both this series and the Capello del Doge series were exhibited at the 1962 Biennale and awarded a gold medal which, sadly, was revoked due to Stearns’ American roots. Stearns’ cutting edge designs were produced in very limited numbers due to the technical competence required for execution – as a result, these works are of exceptional rarity and scarcely seen on the market today.
BERTOIA – FEATURING MASTERWORKS FROM THE KAARE BERNTSEN COLLECTION 16 November Auction Total $3.6 Million Sotheby’s presented a dedicated auction of works by Harry Bertoia alongside our November sales of Impressionist & Modern and Contemporary Art. The auction, which offered some of the most important works 4 by Harry Bertoia ever to appear at auction, brought $3.6 million – well in excess of its $2.4 million high estimate. At the heart of the diverse offering were sculptures from the collection of Kaare Berntsen: Bertoia’s friend, patron and gallerist, who is credited with introducing Bertoia’s work to Norway through a series of groundbreaking exhibitions. The collection set new world auction records for both his ‘Sonambient’ and ‘Bush’ series, led by his Untitled (Monumental Bush) circa 1970 that brought $516,500 (estimate $250/350,000).