News Articles Blogs Press Releases Library Calendar Event Photos Contact
Sunday, September 24, 2023

20th Century Design Round-Up: Big Names Push the Total Past $20 Million

Written by 
Hippopotamus bar by Francois-Xavier Lalanne, $482,500. Sotheby’s. Hippopotamus bar by Francois-Xavier Lalanne, $482,500. Sotheby’s.
With international demand driving prices for many commodities, it should be no surprise that demand is strong for 20th century decorative arts, which enjoy a worldwide following. As the latest round of auctions in New York and New Jersey demonstrated, blue-chip properties with global appeal command a premium. European designers led the way at Sotheby’s, where a Ruhlmann dining table doubled low estimate to sell for $1.5 million, and at Christie’s, where a Jean Dunand occasional table made $638,500. Tiffany carried the day at Bonhams, which sold a “Wisteria” table lamp by the American designer for $792,400. The Studio Craft movement was hot at Rago Auctions, where a Wharton Esherick wagon-wheel table made $198,400. Altogether, the four auction houses grossed $20,769,580. The last sale of the series is planned for June 25 at Skinner in Boston, which promises homegrown specialties along with more worldly fare.
June 7
Total Sales: $2,447,330
Lots Offered:  346
Percentage of Lots Sold: 68%
Top Price: $792,400
Average Price: $10,925
The Bottom Line:  Bonhams vice president and 20th century design expert Frank Maraschiello sees strength in the market for the best Tiffany lamps, metalwork and glass. At $792,400, a Tiffany Studios leaded glass and bronze “Wisteria” table lamp was Bonhams top lot, surpassing the $578,500 paid for a similar example at Christie’s.   Other successes at Bonhams included a rare Tiffany & Co. carved mahogany quarter chiming hall clock. Designed by Paulding Farnham and built under the supervision of Joseph Lindauer around 1887, it fetched $91,500. “I still believe in the Art Nouveau market,” says Maraschiello, citing as evidence a cameo glass Cycas Revoluta vase of circa 1904 that crossed the block at $30,500. Celebrity worked like a charm for “Confetti,” an 1894 lithograph by Toulouse-Lautrec. The property of Lauren Bacall, it garnered $39,040.
June 11-12
Total Sales:  $5.3 million
Lots Offered:  1302
Percentage of Lots Sold:  80%
Top Price: $198,400
Average Price:  $3,780
The Bottom Line: Rago of Lambertville, N.J., took the lead in volume, offering 1,300 lots in two, action-packed days featuring Arts & Crafts, 20th century design and Modern glass and ceramics. This varied sale drew over 1,000 bidders, more than two-thirds of them online. “There was real strength in the market for Studio craftsmen, namely Wharton Esherick, George Nakashima and Paul Evans,” says auctioneer David Rago. An Esherick wagon-wheel table of around 1932 took top honors at $198,400. A playful Judy McKie hippo bench went for $62,000. A Nakashima hanging cabinet brought $44,640 and a Wendell Castle music stand garnered $33,480. Studio ceramics were much in demand, with a Scheier vase tipping the scales at $11,780, the price paid for a contemporary glass sculpture by Dante Moroni. Early 20th century material, including a pair of hammered copper candlesticks by Gustav Stickley, $65,100, was more than 90% sold. The auctioneer noted weakness in the lower and middle market for works valued at under $5,000.
June 15
Total Sales:  $7,176,750
Lots Offered:  113
Percentage of Lots Sold:  75%
Top Price: $1,482,500
Average Price:  $84,432
The Bottom Line: This was Sotheby’s biggest grossing 20th century decorative arts sale since 2008, an indication to some that the market is returning to its pre-recession highs. The total was augmented by a circa 1930 ebony and amboyna wood dining table by Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann that once belonged to Pop artist Andy Warhol, who included it in his 1972 film, L’Amour. Two determined phone bidders drove the table beyond its $700/900,000 to sell for $1,482,500. The table led the final installment of property a Midwestern collection featuring French Art Deco works by Ruhlmann, René Lalique and others. Altogether, the 11-piece group grossed $2,884,500 and included a Ruhlmann “Ducharne” secretaire, $602,500, and a Lalique “Ananas et Grenades” chandelier, $254,500. Separately, Tiffany sold well, with a “Dragonfly Hanging Head” floor lamp making $422,500 and a “Nasturtium” chandelier bringing $218,500.
June 16
Total Sales: $5,845,500
Lots Offered: 207
Percentage of Lots Sold: 74%
Top Price: $638,500
Average Price: $37,958
The Bottom Line:  Pedigree is important. “There is continuous and growing vigor in the market for rare works by landmark masters with admired provenance,” says Philippe Garner, Christie’s international department head. Sales exceeded high estimate, with 154 of 207 lots finding buyers.  Furniture by European-born designers Jean Dunand, Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann, Jens Quistgaard and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe led the way, a circa 1930 Dunand  tiered table, or gueridon, in a boldly patterned lacquered finish topping sales at $638,500. Quistgaard’s 1960s Danish Modern table for manufacturer Richard Nissen blew away its $4/6,000 estimate, soaring to $122,500. What looked like a prototype for mass-market lawn seating, Mies’s “Tugendhat” chromium and steel armchair of circa 1930, made $116,500. Americans Philip and Kelvin Lavern came on strong. Fashioned from patinated bronze and pewter, their circa 1970 “Les Femmes” cabinet doubled its low estimate to bring $116,500. In lighting, it was Tiffany Studios all the way. Leaded glass and bronze table lamps included examples in the “Wisteria” and “Rose” pattern, $158,500 each; the “Dragonfly” pattern, $122,500; and the “Peony” pattern, $116,500.
June 25
Total Sales: TBD
Lots Offered: 757
Percentage of Lots Sold: TBD
Top Price: TBD
Average Price:  TBD
The Bottom Line: Skinner upcoming sale of 20th century design auction looks to be strong in American fare. Home-grown specialties include a circa 1904 Boston table lamp (est. $25/35,000) with a leaded glass shade made by Bigelow & Kennard of Bigelow Studios and a pottery base crafted by Grueby Faience Company. Retailed by the iconic Cambridge, Ma., home furnishing store, Design Research, pieces by Borge Mogensen and Ben Thompson are another highlight. Estimates are conservative on most of the 757 lots but expect aggressive results on furniture by George Nakashima and Hans Wegner. An international array of silver, from Georg Jensen to Sanborns of Mexico, is on offer.  Colorful Clarice Cliff pottery should brighten the day. Total sales are predicted to reach $656,315.

Write to Laura Beach at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
  • JUser::_load: Unable to load user with id: 67