Jean Dupas, Allegorie du Tissu, circa 1937, 38½" x 128", oil on canvas with silvered wood frame. It sold for $1,650,500 (est. $150,000/250,000) to an American private collector. It is the final preparatory painting for a mosaic executed by Dupas for the Pavillon du Textile at the 1937 Paris Exposition Internationale. The figures display sumptuous fabrics, raw wool and cotton, and a design for fabric.
Jean Dunand, 18½" tall vase, black-lacquered metal overlaid with shaded gold lacquer, incised “Jean Dunand” and impressed “4926.” The vase sold for $386,500 (est. $40,000/60,000) to a European collector, who bought the next lot (not shown), another 1925 vase by Dunand, 9½" high and made of lacquered metal with gold leaf with a different pattern, for $254,500 (est. $30,000/50,000).
Jean Dunand (1877-1942), lacquered metal vase with eggshell, 20¼" high, signed in red “Jean Dunand,” 1925. The vase sold for $902,500 (est. $150,000/200,000) to a European private collector on the phone.
Jean Dunand, Ducks on a Pond, 1929, a set of six wall panels and a double door, incised and lacquered wood, gold-leaf ground, overall 119½" x 207". One panel is incised “Jean Dunand 1929.” The wall was made for a Paris apartment of Madame Yakoubovitch and sold for $278,500 (est. $150,000/200,000).
Jean Dupas, after a section from the Chariot of Poseidon mural, designed for the Grand Salon of the luxury liner Normandie, executed by Jacques Charles Champigneulle, in verre églomisé with gold, silver, and palladium leaf, in original lacquered metal frame decorated with gold leaf, possibly by Jean Dunand, and with modern giltwood surround, 49½" x 61" combined sight size of both panels. Signed “Jean Dupas 1935” and “Ch. Champigneulle,” the panels sold to an American collector for $578,500 (est. $100,000/150,000).
Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann designed this 3" high porcelain tea cup and its 7" diameter saucer for Sèvres circa 1930. It sold in the salesroom for $30,000 (est. $8000/12,000). Each piece is stamped “Sèvres Manufacture Nationale France.”
Christie’s, New York City
Photos courtesy Christie’s
Christie’s did not have to go far to pick up what Philippe Garner, the firm’s director of 20th-century decorative art and design, called “the most important collection of French Art Deco to have ever been presented in the United States.” The Steven A. Greenberg collection of masterworks by Jean Dunand, Jean Dupas, and Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann was in his penthouse office above Fifth Avenue in the building that once housed a branch of Takashimaya, the Japanese luxury store, and in his apartment on the Upper East Side. The auction was held on December 12 and 13, 2012, and was well received.
Greenberg began to collect Art Deco at Paris flea markets in the 1970’s but bought much of his collection on Madison Avenue from the gallery of Tony DeLorenzo and from the gallery of Barry Friedman, and some at auctions at Christie’s and at Sotheby’s Andy Warhol estate sale. Greenberg’s collection was installed in the penthouse at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, reached by a private elevator from the Rainbow Room, before he moved to Fifth Avenue more than a decade ago. He found the essence of glamour in French Art Deco.
“He showed an exceptional flair and very real expertise in his choices,” said Garner, who was pleased indeed with the response to this estate auction from collectors on both sides of the Atlantic. Of the 200 lots offered, 170 sold for a total of $17,237,438 (with buyers’ premiums). The sale was 85% sold by lot.
Carina Villinger, head of 20th-century decorative arts for Christie’s in New York, said she was delighted to see passionate bidding throughout the two-day sale by an international audience. Many lots brought well over estimates, and a world auction record was set for a work by Jean Dupas. That record was for a preparatory painting for his mosaic Allegorie du Tissu for the Pavillon du Textile at the 1937 Paris Exposition Internationale, which sold for $1,650,500 (est. $150,000/250,000).
Steven Greenberg was a legend in New York City. He made his first fortune on Wall Street as a major investor in such companies as Commodore, Bally, US Surgical, and Edgcomb Steel. Then he invested in hospitality and night club businesses. With partners, he owned the Gramercy Park Hotel, Roxy (a roller disco club), the Palladium, and more recently 230 Fifth Avenue, the leading rooftop bar venue in New York City. He wore his white hair long and swept back and could be seen in the city’s most expensive restaurants and in his first-row seats at Knicks’ games. At night this quintessential bachelor roamed the city in his stretch Phantom V Rolls Royce, usually accompanied by young women. He died at Memorial Sloan-Kettering of lymphoma in February 2012, at the age of 68. His business partner and best friend, Michael Scharf, wrote in Christie’s catalog that his “uncanny physical resemblance to Benjamin Franklin extended to more than appearance and included Franklin’s love of French art and taste.”
Greenberg had the financial resources and the eye for the best works. Those were presented in an evening sale of masterworks and the next day at a sale of more of them. The pictures and captions are evidence that there are others who collect with as much passion as he did. At the evening sale, one phone bidder ignored estimates and bought most of the lacquered metal vases by Jean Dunand. At the day sale a phone bidder, perhaps the same one, bought most of the Dunand small boxes and compacts and match cases, as well as four Dunand panels and a two-panel screen with competition from a collector in the salesroom and bidders on the phones. Dunand vases sold for up to $902,500 and boxes up to $16,250. A single wall panel by Dunand (after a design by Jean Lambert-Rucki) sold for $350,500 (est. $100,000/150,000).
A six-panel screen designed by Eileen Gray, with a deep brown lacquer surface that was incised and painted, 1922-25, sold for $1,874,500 to Dr. Stephen Kelly, an ophthalmologist and longtime collector turned dealer, who that very week opened a gallery in his townhouse at 154 East 71st Street. He said the screen was the one thing he wanted after having seen it in Steven Greenberg’s office before the collection was moved to Christie’s.
The screen marks a particular phase of transition in Eileen Gray’s art, one that shows her full understanding of Modernist design and the influence of the Dutch Constructivists. It is the largest of a small number of paneled screens by Gray and was among the fine group of works bought by her early patron Mme Jean-Henri Labourdette. It had remained in her family’s possession until acquired in the 70’s by Paris dealer-collector Jean-Claude Brugnot, by whom it was eventually sold at auction at Sotheby’s in New York in 1989. There it was bought by Steven Greenberg. Stephen Kelly said it was sent off after the sale to Paris for an Eileen Gray exhibition at the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou (February 20 to May 20). The screen already had an impressive exhibition history, having been shown at MoMA and at the Victoria and Albert Museum, as well as at DeLorenzo Gallery’s Eileen Gray exhibition.
Kelly bought a few more lots and underbid others the following day. Red-lacquered vases by Jean Dunand took his fancy, and he bought two for $25,000 (est. $15,000/20,000) and $20,000 (est. $15,000/20,000) and a small yellow one for $6000 (est. $6000/8000). He also bought, for $27,500, a box enameled in turquoise and lapis blues by Jean Goulden (1878-1946), a friend of Dunand, who made only a small number of enameled metal boxes. Kelly paid $43,750 for a covered box of ebony inlaid with ivory and silver by Albert Van Huffel. “I overpaid for it, but Van Huffel was an important architect, and his work is scarce. The underbidder was a dealer,” he said.
Kelly said everything in his townhouse (which is his gallery) is for sale. “I am still practicing ophthalmology, but I am cutting back,” he said. “I have a director, Margaret Kim, and the gallery is open Monday through Friday, ten to six.”
The pictures and captions show strength in the market for Art Deco. The prices reflect keen competition from collectors and the trade. For more information, see (www.christies.com) or call Carina Villinger at (212) 636-2240.
Jean Dunand, circa 1925 metal vase with lacquer and inlaid eggshell decoration, 10¼" tall, signed and numbered in lacquer “Jean Dunand” and “5684.” There was a bidding battle between two phone bidders and a bidder in the salesroom, who prevailed at $134,500 (est. $30,000/50,000).
Jean Dunand, after a design by Jean Lambert-Rucki (1888-1967), panel of lacquered wood inlaid with eggshell, 26½" x 19", signed in lacquer “Jean Dunand Lacquer.” It sold for $350,500 (est. $100,000/150,000) after a prolonged battle between a phone bidder and a bidder on line. The phone bidder prevailed. The same bidder bought several other Dunand panels in the sale.
Edgar Brandt (1880-1960), large (46" drop, 43" diameter) patinated wrought-iron chandelier with acid-etched shades with gold-leaf inclusion by Daum Frères. The metal is stamped “E. Brandt,” and each shade is engraved “Daum Nancy” with a cross of Lorraine. The chandelier sold for $458,500 (est. $150,000/200,000) to a European private collector.
Jean Dunand, circa 1925 etui, lacquered metal inlaid with mother-of-pearl and eggshell, the reverse entirely inlaid with eggshell, 2¼" long x 3½" deep, impressed “Dunand.” It sold to a phone bidder for $50,000 (est. $7000/9000).
Originally published in the April 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest