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Thursday, December 14, 2017

‘World’s Best’ Modern Design Sale Fetches $60 Million in Paris

A black lacquer "Tardieu" desk created by the Art Deco designer Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann sold for 2.3 million euros at Christie's International's three-day Paris auction of the Gourdon Collection of 20th-century design. The desk was estimated to sell for between 2 million euros and 3 million euros. A black lacquer "Tardieu" desk created by the Art Deco designer Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann sold for 2.3 million euros at Christie's International's three-day Paris auction of the Gourdon Collection of 20th-century design. The desk was estimated to sell for between 2 million euros and 3 million euros. Source: Christie's Images via Bloomberg

The sale of a 20th-century design collection, described as the world’s finest, has ended with furniture maker Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann the best-selling name.

The Christie’s International three-day sale in Paris of the contents of the Chateau de Gourdon museum accumulated by Laurent Negro raised 42.4 million euros ($60 million) with fees. Demand was selective. The total at hammer prices was lower than the estimated 40 million euros to 60 million euros, and less than the 59.2 million euros for 150 lots of modern decorative art sold on Feb. 24, 2009, on behalf of the late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge.

Provenance is important in design auctions, and dealers were comparing this sale with the Saint Laurent event at which an Eileen Gray chair made a record 21.9 million euros. Gray’s works sold for smaller sums this time and she was eclipsed by the French Art Deco designer Ruhlmann, whose 35 pieces raised more than 13 million euros.

“The Chateau de Gourdon is the greatest collection of 20th-century design that has come up for auction,” the London- based dealer Sean Berg said. “When the biggest collector becomes the seller, this creates problems, though. It’s like having a Premier League of buyers without Manchester United.”

Negro, 39, was clearing out the entire contents of his medieval castle, near Grasse, Provence, to make more living space. The centerpiece of the Palais de Tokyo sale was 500 examples of Art Deco, Art Nouveau and modernist design that he’d bought within the last 15 years, often for big-ticket prices.

Father’s Armor

Christie’s found buyers for 84 percent of the 860 lots in total, which also included Old Masters and antique armor that had been collected by Negro’s father, who had started temporary employment company Bis SA.

The March 29 evening auction raised 24.3 million euros, with Ruhlmann works capturing four out of the five top prices.

An adjustable chaise longue “Aux Skis” sold for a record 2.9 million euros and a black-lacquer “Tardieu” desk for 2.3 million euros. Both pieces dated from 1929 and had high estimates of 3 million euros.

The chaise longue -- one of two pieces in the sale designated a “national treasure” by the French government -- sold to a European collector, while the desk went to the Paris dealer Cheska Vallois, who won Gray’s “dragons” armchair at the YSL sale.

An Asian collector paid 1.8 million euros for a 1925 ebony “Lassalle” commode by Ruhlmann. The price was more than three times the low estimate.

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