Phone bidders competed for this Isamu Noguchi unique fossil marble table designed for Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Dretzin in 1948-49. The 13¼" high x 49" wide x 44" deep table sold for $2,882,500 (est. $800,000/1.2 million) to a phone bidder who also bought the Noguchi chess table. Christie's called the table the most important piece of Noguchi furniture to come to public sale. This sculptural table was made for the Dretzins' house in Chappaqua, New York, designed by architect Sidney Katz and featured in House & Garden magazine in 1950.
Tiffany Studios Dragonfly table lamp with crab base, circa 1910, leaded glass cabochons, patinated bronze, and blown glass, 24" high x 20" diameter, shade stamped "Tiffany Studios New York 1495," base stamped "25922," $266,500 (est. $100,000/150,000).
Tiffany Studios Pony Wisteria table lamp, circa 1910, leaded glass and patinated bronze, 17" high x 10½" diameter, base stamped "Tiffany Studios New York 524," $158,500 (est. $80,000/120,000). A Pony Wisteria lamp at Sotheby's with a pale pinkish cast sold for $254,500 (est. $120,000/180,000). One with blue glass offered at Bonhams with a $150,000/200,000 estimate failed to sell.
Jean Royère (1902-1981) Boule sofa, model designed in 1947, wool and stained oak, 30" high x 96" wide x 53" deep, sold with a copy of the original invoice, $290,500 (est. $100,000/150,000) to a private collector on the phone. It was purchased from Royère in 1957 along with a pair of Boule armchairs.
Christie's, New York City
by Lita Solis-Cohen
Photos courtesy Christie's
A simple abstract marble coffee table, one of Isamu Noguchi's rare private designssculpture and tablesold at Christie's on June 14 in New York City for a whopping $2,882,500 (includes buyer's premium), more than double its high estimate of $1.2 million and an auction record for furniture by the artist.
Commissioned by Mr. and Mrs. Samuel C. Dretzin in 1948 for their summer house in Chappaqua, New York, it was featured in House & Garden magazine in 1950. Noguchi was then an established artist of exceptional talent and known for his mass-produced furnishings as well as for stage sets and costume designs for Martha Graham and John Cage. His sculpture was included in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.
Noguchi considered the Dretzin table to be sculpture and used his biomorphic and surrealistic imagery in constructing it of interlocking stone parts. It is made from dark fossil marble, and its rudder-like base and notching recall Noguchi's fascination with the art of joinery used in Japanese architecture. An essay in the catalog points out that Noguchi refused to distinguish between fine and applied arts.
Noguchi had worked with Constantin Brancusi in Paris in 1927 and was deeply influenced by Brancusi's work of reduction and strict economy of means. With the Dretzin table Noguchi brought art into the family's daily life, which was a mantra in the 1950's.
A Noguchi chess table was another example of how the artist incorporated a sculptural form into a useful design. Estimated at $60,000/80,000, it sold one lot before the Dretzin table for $302,500, also to an anonymous buyer. Noguchi designed it for the 1944 exhibition The Imagery of Chess, conceived by New York art dealer Julien Levy and artists Max Ernst and Marcel Duchamp. The era's most avant-garde artists participated. Yves Tanguy, Alexander Calder, Arshile Gorky, André Breton, and Noguchi produced some of the best-known artist's chess sets.
The Noguchi chess table was made of materials available in wartimeebonized veneer plywood, aluminum, and acrylic plastic. The table was designed with a rotating top so the chess pieces could be stored in aluminum pockets underneath. Dots were used for the chess spaces, and all was supported on a four-legged base. It is notched together, no nails, no glue joinery, and is designed to be collapsible.
At the opening night of the 1944 exhibition the table was purchased by George Nelson, who became the director of design at Herman Miller in 1945. Nelson convinced the furniture maker to produce the table commercially, but few were made. This is one of them.
A plywood sculpture by Charles and Ray Eames was owned for years by Serge Chermayeff, former curator at the Museum of Modern Art, and it has been widely illustrated. It first sold at a design sale at Christie's East in November 1999 for $365,000. Consigned this time by a European private collector, it sold for $458,500 (est. $400,000/600,000) to a European institution.
Christie's sale was not a sleepy end-of-the-season offering. In addition to these American designs, Christie's offered European works that have an international audience. A rare Lalique cire perdue vase, circa 1930, sold for $290,500 (est. $200,000/ 300,000). There was strong competition for a Jean Royère Boule sofa, designed in 1947. It sold with its original invoice for $290,500 (est. $100,000/150,000).
Armand-Albert Rateau is another French Art Deco designer with a cult following. A pair of green lacquered bronze andirons in the form of stretching cats, the wrought-iron rails applied with gilt bronze palmettes, sold for $278,500 (est. $120,000/180,000). The same price was paid for a pair of Rateau green-patinated palm-shaped torchères (est. $300,000/500,000). A European private collector paid $182,500 (est. $100,000/150,000) for a Diego Giacometti tree-form glass-top table with an owl perched on a branch.
Two Tiffany lamps made the top ten list: a Dragonfly lamp with a crab base, circa 1910, at $266,500 (est. $100,000/150,000) and a Pony Wisteria table lamp at $158,500 (est. $80,000/120,000).
Christie's began the Thursday morning session by offering seven Tiffany lamps from a bar owned by Norman Jay Hobday (a.k.a. Henry Africa), who padlocked his Tiffany lamps to the shelves that were lined with tumblers, stemware, and bottles of booze, all pictured in the catalog. Four of the seven lamps sold for a total of $826,750; a Wisteria lamp accounted for $602,500 of the total. Apparently condition was the reason for the unsold lots.
Tiffany is still a strong corner of the market, but it does not have the depth it once had. The total of the Henry Africa sale was not included in the $8,821,338 total for the various-owners' sale, which topped the $4,837,500/7,162,500 presale estimate. The various-owners' sale was 83% sold by lot and 97% by value. Blue-chip items that appealed to global clients spelled success, which is remarkable in this time of unsettled worldwide economies.
Carina Villinger, head of the department, was pleased with what she called a vibrant market with international participation. She noted that the Noguchi price was the third highest for the artist, and the plywood sculpture was an auction record for a collaborative work by Charles and Ray Eames.
Including the $826,750 for the four Tiffany lamps from the Henry Africa collection, Christie's sold $9,648,088 worth of 20th-century decorative arts and design, its best performance for a mid-season sale in some time and the highest total of the June design sales in New York City, Chicago, and Lambertville, New Jersey.
For more information, contact Christie's at (212) 636-2000; Web site (www.christies.com).
Pair of wrought-iron gates by Paul Kiss (1885-1962), circa 1925, each 62¼" x 29½", stamped "P. Kiss, Paris," $62,500 (est. $25,000/35,000).
Archibald Knox (1864-1933) "Cymric" picture frame, 1905, made by Liberty & Co., reticulated silver, enamel, and green leather backing, 8½" high, stamped "L & Co" and "CYMRIC" with English hallmarks, $47,500 (est. $15,000/20,000). Another sold at Christie's in London on May 3 for $85,110. Apparently the underbidders, given a second chance, competed for this one. Slight condition problems and the fact that one competitor was out kept the price down, but it was still well over estimate.
Ron Arad (b. 1951) Narrow Pappardelle chair, designed in 1992, number 15 of an edition of 20, blackened and woven metal, 42" high x 15¾" wide x 31" deep with carpet rolled, engraved "Ron Arad 15/20," $152,500 (est. $80,000/120,000) to the phone. A wider polished bronze London Pappardelle chair, circa 1992, number six of an edition of six with two artist's proofs, sold at Phillips de Pury the following day for $224,500. Both were strong prices.
Two phone bidders competed for the Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) rare chess table, 1944, manufactured by Herman Miller. Made of ebonized birch plywood with a rotating tabletop, 19½" high x 33½" square, it sold for $302,500 (est. $60,000/80,000). Noguchi designed it for the 1944 exhibition The Imagery of Chess, conceived by New York art dealer Julien Levy and artists Max Ernst and Marcel Duchamp. The exhibition also included work by Yves Tanguy, André Breton, Alexander Calder, and Arshile Gorky. Noguchi's table was designed so the chess pieces could be stored underneath in undulating cast aluminum compartments visible when the rotating tabletop was turned. It was made from material available in a wartime era-veneer plywood, aluminum, and acrylic plastic.
François-Xavier Lalanne (1927-2008) Mouton de Pierre, designed in 1979 and executed in 1989. Number 98 from an edition of 250 sold for $116,500; number 105 of 250 sold for $116,500; and number 145 of 250 sold for $122,500, all to the same bidder, who paid a total of $355,500. They had been outdoors, and each had crossed pieces of metal under each hoof. A group of four of these sheep, marked with various numbers from the same edition of 250, sold as one lot the following day for $746,500 at Phillips de Pury. Made of epoxy and bronze, the sheep sold at Phillips were never exposed to the elements and had no reinforcements under their hoofs.
Diego Giacometti (1902-1985) Guéridon Arbre au Hibou table, patinated bronze and glass, 25 1/8" high x 26 3/8" wide x 14" deep, $182,500 (est. $100,000/150,000) to a European private collector on the phone.
These George Nakashima (1905-1990) Long Chairs, circa 1974, were made for Governor and Mrs. Nelson A. Rockefeller's Japanese-style house in Pocantico Hills, New York, that was designed by Junzo Yoshimura. Made of walnut with cotton webbing, both about 27" high x 33½" wide, they sold to the same phone bidder separately for $98,500 and $80,500. Both were estimated at $30,000/50,000.
Two phone bidders competed for this pair of andirons by Armand-Albert Rateau (1882-1938), circa 1929, in green lacquered bronze, with wrought-iron rails applied with bronze palmettes, each only 6" high x 14½" wide x 13½" deep. Stamped "A.A RATEAU INVR 5131 5252," they sold for $278,500 (est. $120,000/180,000).