Spring’s Design



The big Decorative Art & Design sales of the year started in London at Phillips de Pury (Design, 7 April) and Christie’s (20th Century Decorative Art & Design, 20 April) and in Paris at Christie’s (4 May) again with 500 Ans: Arts Décoratifs Européens and will continue at Sotheby’s (XXth Century Decorative Arts & Contemporary Design) and Christie’s (Arts Décoratifs du XXème Siècle & Design) in Paris on 25 and 27 May.

Phillips de Pury kicked off the series on 7 April with a Design sale that generated £1.6m with 100 lots sold and an unsold rate of 32%.
It offered 149 lots including some major pieces by classic signatures such as Charlotte PERRIAND: a 4-metre Bahut (buffet) fetched £120,000 against a pre-sale range of £120,000 – £180,000 (one of her Bahuts, twice as long, sold for £139,282 on December 2010 at Phillips de Pury New York). The Phillips catalogue also contained 12 lots by Jean ROYERE including a Daybed which sold for £48,000 (est. £20,000 – £35,000) and a Set of six ‘Écusson’ dining chairs which fetched £45,000.
Another star of the sale was the young Dutch designer Sebastian BRAJKOVIC whose ‘Lathe VIII’, 2008 picked up £40,000 tripling his previous record in 2010 for another chair from the Lathe Chair series (Lathe III, £11,000). Ron ARAD was also one of the big names in the catalogue and his table Two Legs & a Table sold for £65,000 against a pre-sale estimate of £60,000 – £80,000. Italian design was given price of place at the sale Phillips sale with Franco ALBINI signing a new record at £40,000 for the sale of Unique sofa set. Collectors were very enthusiastic for Anna CASTELLI FERRIERI whose Unique room divider and pair of wall lights and Unique modular wall-mounted console fetched respectively £15,000 and £14,000, i.e. twice their high estimates.

Christie’s 20th Century Decorative Art & Design on 20 April generated a total of £997,400. Of the 92 lots presented, 39 were bought in. Six of the eight lots by the artist Giò PONTI failed to sell, as did Pair of Two-tier Occasional Tables by Jules LELEU estimated £8,000 – £12,000 and Oiseau d’argent by François-Xavier LALANNE estimated £30,000 – £40,000. On the other hand his Le Grand Requin fetched £70,000 i.e. £10,000 more that the high estimate.
The best result of the sale was generated by a Dimitri CHIPARUS work entitled Exotic Dancer Sculpture which fetched £160,000, doubling its high estimate. Numerous lots fetched above expectations, including a large wood panel entitled The Harvest by Jean DUNAND: £85,000 vs. an estimate of £30,000 – £50,000 and Leopard Chest of Drawers by Piero FORNASETTI: £32,000 (est. £20,000 – £30,000). In 1998 another edition of this “Leopard” Chest sold for $23,000 (£14,130) at Christie’s in Beverly Hills.
Christie’s 4 May sale in Paris 500 Ans: Arts Décoratifs Européens generated more than 5 million euros in revenue (including fees). The best result of the sale came from a bronze work by François LESPINGOLA which fetched €337,000, within its estimated price range. Other good results from the sale included a Console demi-lune and a Guéridon (pedestal table), both original Louis XVI era by the artist Adam WEISWEILER which fetched respectively €229,000 and €169,000.

Upcoming sales
Sotheby’s catalogue for 25 May contains a highly diversified selection of 160 lots. Among the classic signatures will be Emile-Jacques RUHLMANN with five lots that could generate a total of €410,000. His paire de tables d’appoint is one of the star lots of the sale carrying a pre-sale estimate of €120,000 – €180,000. Sotheby’s is also depending on big names from the Contemporary segment like Ron Arad, whose two works are expected to generate between €90,000 and €130,000, and Shiro KURAMATA whose How High the Moon sofa is estimated €30,000 – €50,000. One of the latter fetched £52,000 (€74,719) at Christie’s London in October 2007.
There are also key names from the Modern era like Serge MOUILLE with two lamps (Lampadaire Totem, est. €20,000 – €30,000 and Lampadaire très grand signal, est. €70,000 – €100,000) and the Italian master of Radical Design, Ettore SOTTSASS. Three Totem by the latter will be offered at between €10,000 and €15,000 each. On 15 March 2011, the Parisian auctioneer Tajan sold a Totem entitled Totem “Odalisca” for €32,000 that is identical to one of the 3 offered at Sotheby’s.
In the “affordable” segment, a number of industrially produced objects are offered in a price range of €1,500 – €6,000 at the Sotheby’s sale including pairs of chairs, side tables and soap holders by names such as Jean Royère, Paule LELEU, Jean PROUVÉ, Marc DU PLANTIER and Line VAUTRIN.

Two days later, Christie’s will be offering a selection of 52 works at its Arts Décoratifs du XXème Siècle & Design including four objects by Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann. Christie’s is expecting to generate more than €600,000 from the idol of French Decorative Arts. One of the Ruhlmann lots, a chest entitled Grande Cannelée à Redents, is expected to fetch €400-000 – 600,000.
The big name in animal sculpture, Rembrandt BUGATTI, is also in the catalogue with Lionceau et levrier entre ses pattes estimated €250,000 – €350,000. On 3 May 2011 a Bugatti bronze fetched $1.2m at Sotheby’s, nearly double its low estimate. Bugatti clearly has the wind in his sails at the moment: his price index has progressed 330% since 1998.
Christie’s is also depending on a number of key Modern signatures: 4 lots by Charlotte Perriand, 9 by Jean Prouvé. While Christie’s hopes to generate at least €80,000 from Charlotte Perriand’s Bibliotheque Murale ‘Nuage’ it will also be presenting a number of works by sought-after signatures in the more affordable price range of €1,500 – 5,000.

The Design market is currently taking stock of the price rise in the sculptural and decorative arts and on the new design transformation that increasingly resembles that of the Fine art market.