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Design Sale at Sotheby's

Lita Solis-Cohen | December 18th, 2013

Paul Evans, Sculpture Front wall panel with welded signature, lacquered and gilt steel, 48½" x 59¾" x 5¼", 1974, executed by Paul Evans Studio, Plumsteadville, Pennsylvania, sold for $149,000 (est. $50,000/70,000). It sold at Sollo/Rago on October 25, 2004, for $35,250.

Judy Kensley McKie, Faces cabinet, signed “JHM/ 1991” with copyright, painted wood and glass, 73 3/8" x 34½" x 16½", 1991, sold for $18,750 (est. $6000/8000). At a Sollo/Rago sale on April 2, 2005, it sold for $7050.

Shiro Kuramata (1934-1991), How High the Moon chair, from an edition of six, produced in 2000, nickel-plated steel, 28¼" x 37" x 32¾", produced by Vitra, Germany, sold for $23,750 (est. $5000/7000).

Rene Lalique, Tristan vase, Marcilhac no. 1013, engraved “R. Lalique/ France”and“No. 1013,” molded and frosted glass, 8" high x 13" diameter, sold on the phone to a European collector for $125,000 (est. $45,000/60,000).

George Nakashima, Conoid dining table, American black walnut and East Indian rosewood, circa 1965, 28½" x 106¾" x 42½", sold for $143,000 (est. $30,000/50,000). The chairs sold for $40,625 (est. $25,000/35,000).

Elwood North Cornell, four-piece coffee service with coffeepot, creamer, covered sugar, and tray, each impressed with the firm’s mark, produced by the Middletown Silver Company, Middletown, Connecticut, in 1928, sold on the phone for $75,000 (est. $5000/7000). A creamer and a sugar bowl without a lid are in the collection of the Yale University Art Museum and illustrated in John Stuart Gordon’s A Modern World. Gordon writes that Cornell was the manager of the Middletown Silver Company and would have seen the Cubic coffee set that Erik Magnussen designed for Gorham, which caused a sensation when it was exhibited in Gorham’s showroom on Fifth Avenue in 1927.

Gustav Stickley, rare Eastwood armchair, model no. 2638, executed by the Craftsman Workshops, Eastwood, New York, with firm’s decal, oak with second-generation leather seat cushions, 36½" x 35 7/8" x 35", designed circa 1901, executed circa 1905, sold to a collector on the phone for $245,000.

Jean Prouvé, guéridon, model no. 402, oak and lacquered metal, 12 5/8" high x 33 7/8" diameter, circa 1952, manufactured by Les Ateliers Jean Prouvé, sold on the phone to a collector for $161,000 (est. $20,000/30,000).

Sotheby’s, New York City

Photos courtesy Sotheby’s

Sotheby’s offered 20th-century design in three catalogs on December 18, 2013, with strong results, selling 159 of the 306 lots offered for a respectable $10,313,500, nearly reaching the total high estimates (figured without buyers’ premiums) and coming in second for the week, just behind Phillips’s $11,159,688 total for 375 lots offered in three catalogs the day before.

The Yurcik collection started the day off at Sotheby’s with a good performance. Apparently now that the children are grown, the Yurciks have decided to leave the suburbs and move to New York City and want to start over with other furniture for a new space. They had furnished their Westchester, New York, house with mostly Paul Evans and Nakashima furniture and Harry Bertoia sculpture. They sold most of it for $1,492,375. Of the 29 lots offered, only four failed to find buyers.

Joe Yurcik has a good eye, and he got some good advice from the trade and auctioneers. In an introduction to the catalog he said that he had assembled his collection over a period of 20 years and had paid record prices at auction for Paul Evans, all of which brought a lot more at this sale. His Sculpture Front cabinet made a new Evans record, selling for $269,000 (includes buyer’s premium). At Sotheby’s in June 2005, he paid $84,000 for it.

The Evans Wavy Front cabinet that sold for $155,000 cost Yurcik $51,000 at a Sollo/Rago sale in Lambertville, New Jersey, in April 2006. The Yurciks’ Paul Evans Sculpture Front wall panel that sold for $149,000 cost them $35,250 at a Sollo/Rago sale in October 2004. Yurcik bought his huge George Nakashima buckeye maple Minguren II coffee table from Robert Aibel at Moderne Gallery in Philadelphia for much less than the $197,000 that a South American collector paid for it at Sotheby’s. “If the buyer or underbidder had seen it in person it would have brought more,” said Aibel after the sale. “It is huge, more than eighty inches across; it has a presence. The wood is gorgeous!”

Yurcik bought his 9' long black walnut Nakashima dining table at a Wright auction in Chicago in June 2002 for $34,500. It sold at Sotheby’s for $143,000. Six Conoid chairs went to an Asian collector for $40,625.

The Harry Bertoia sound sculpture that announced dinner nightly in the Yurcik house sold for $100,000, nearly double the $58,750 they paid for it at Freeman’s in Philadelphia in June 2004.

The sale got off to a good start, and the momentum continued throughout the morning when the sale continued in the various-owners’ 20th-century design catalog. A Gustav Stickley circa 1902 reverse-tapered bow-arm oak Morris chair from the Craftsman Workshops, Eastwood, New York, with the firm’s decal and the original leather seat cushion sold for $37,500 (est. $20,000/30,000), and a Gustav Stickley ebonized oak Chalet table, model no. 403, 1900-01, from Stickley’s Craftsman Workshops, sold on the phone for $50,000 (est. $18,000/24,000). A collector on the phone paid $245,000 for a Gustav Stickley monumental oak Eastwood armchair, model no. 2638, from the Craftsman Workshops, with the firm’s decal and second-generation leather seat cushions. Designed circa 1901 and made circa 1905, it is the largest chair Stickley ever produced. Three others are in public collections, and another is owned privately.

The cover lots, however, a rare desk and armchair designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for the S.C. Johnson & Son administration building in Racine, Wisconsin, which were on view during American paintings week and were much admired, were then withdrawn from the auction and sold privately. There was some litigation about ownership brought by S.C. Johnson & Son even though they had been owned privately for years. The desk was produced by Steelcase Inc., Grand Rapids, Michigan, and was estimated at $400,000/600,000. It was acquired by the chemist Ellerslie E. Luther of Berkeley, California, circa 1950, and descended in his family until it was acquired by the consignor. The chair, an unstable three-legged design, has a different history. It was a gift from S.C. Johnson in 1972 and sold at Butterfields in Los Angeles in September 29, 2002. It was estimated at $80,000/120,000.

Even with the withdrawal of the cover lots, the various-owners’ 20th-century design catalog brought in a total of $5,145,500 for 96 of the 130 lots offered or 73.8% by lot.

On Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m., Sotheby’s offered Tiffany from another catalog, with some good results and two big disappointments. Two collectors wanted a Wisteria table lamp with an exquisite range of deep cobalt blue glass and the lower panicles accented with rich turquoise. It sold to a collector on the phone for $1,565,000 (est. $600,000/800,000), a record for a large Tiffany Wisteria lamp. In 1906 Tiffany’s price for a large Wisteria lamp was $400, making it one of the more expensive lamps in the line.

Other Tiffany lamps sold within or just over estimates. A Double Poinsettia table lamp went for $221,000 (est. $120,000/180,000), a Daffodil and Narcissus table lamp with a twisted base sold to a collector on the phone for $191,000 (est. $100,000/150,000), and a Dragonfly table lamp brought $149,000 (est. $90,000/120,000).  A turtleback glass chandelier went to another collector for $118,750 (est. $80,000/120,000). The Tiffany sale added $3,675,625 to the total and was 80.8% sold by lot. The cover lot, a rare Bat table lamp, depicting nocturnal bats in orange against an azure blue star-studded sky, estimated at $550,000/750,000, failed to sell, as did a Steinway piano with silver and gilt decorations and ebony and ivory inlay that was commissioned by Louis Comfort Tiffany and had remained in the Tiffany family. It was estimated at $200,000/300,000. In 2006-07 it was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the exhibition Louis Comfort Tiffany and Laurelton Hall: An Artist’s Country Estate and published in the exhibition catalog by Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen. Design sales bring fascinating artifacts from the last century to public view.

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Philip and Kelvin LaVerne, extension dining table, circa 1970, including two extension leaves (not shown), acid-etched and enameled patinated brass over pewter and wood, 27¼" x 71 3/8" x 39½", sold for $106,250 (est. $25,000/35,000).

Claude Lalanne, L’enlèvement d’Europe, number one  from an edition of eight, impressed “Lalanne” with incised mark “CL” and “1/8,” 1990, patinated bronze, 79 3/8" x 31¼" x 79", sold on the phone to an American private collector for $485,000 (est. $250,000/350,000). Not shown, a François-Xavier Lalanne patinated bronze, Ganesh, 2001, number four from an edition of eight, 16 7/8" x 13 7/8" x 9¼", from the same private collection, sold for $137,000 (est. $30,000/50,000).

Harry Bertoia, Bush sculpture, patinated bronze, 11 7/8" high x 19½" diameter, circa 1965, sold on line for $93,750 (est. $40,000/60,000).

Wisteria table lamp, with small early tag impressed “Tiffany Studios/ New York,” underside of bronze armature on shade impressed “10116,” top of base standard impressed “10116,”base plate impressed“Tiffany Studios/ New York/ 10116,” outer perimeter edge of under base impressed“10116 and 1,”leaded glass and patinated bronze, 26 7/8"high x 17¾" diameter shade, circa 1905, sold for $1,565,000 (est. $600,000/800,000).

Originally published in the May 2014 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2014 Maine Antique Digest

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