Phillips’ live auctions resume in London with rare works of design

Art Daily
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Gio Ponti, ‘Distex’ armchair, model no. 807, circa 1954. Estimate: £12,000 - 18,000. Image courtesy of Phillips.
Gio Ponti, ‘Distex’ armchair, model no. 807, circa 1954. Estimate: £12,000 – 18,000. Image courtesy of Phillips.

LONDON.- Following a rescheduled Spring season of sales, Phillips announced that live auctions will resume in London with the upcoming Design auction on 19 June. The pre-sale public viewing is currently set to happen by appointment only from 15 to 19 June, with the safety of clients and employees being the top priority. Collectors will also be welcomed into the saleroom remotely with a digitally enhanced viewing experience. Comprising 175 lots, the sale presents significant works from key periods of 20th and 21st century design, from French Art Deco and Contemporary through to Italian and Nordic Design, as well as British Studio ceramics.

Domenico Raimondo, Head of Design, Europe and Senior International Specialist, said: “Live sales continue to be a cornerstone of our business therefore it is with great joy that we are able to stage a full-scale preview of these exceptional works. Virtual tours will also enable collectors to ‘visit’ the preview exhibition and view the works in conversation with each other within the gallery. This June we are delighted to present a carefully curated selection of works celebrating design in its many forms and reflecting Phillips’ approach to giving a fresh perspective to traditional collecting categories. Following the successes of 2019, which demonstrated strong international demand for Italian and French Post-War design, we are offering exceptional examples of Italian Pre and Post-War design by Gio Ponti, Carlo Mollino, and including significant examples of French Art Deco from Albert Cheuret and Jean Dunang among others.”

Leading the sale is Claude Lalanne’s Unique low table which is composed from patinated bronze and copper in the form of interwoven vines, depicting the silhouettes of two tropical birds whose feathered heads double as groups of leaves. Designed in 1998 for a patron’s home in the Caribbean, the table reflects how Lalanne preferred to create unique pieces for individual clients around the world, most famously for Yves Saint Laurent and Salvador Dalí. Lalanne operated intuitively, taking inspiration from the gardens in Ury, France that surrounded her home and studio, where she made the present lot. This unique table reveals Lalanne’s imagination in full force, as it magnifies and extends the beauty of the tropics into a luxurious interior.

Born in Switzerland in 1877, Jean Dunand studied sculpture before moving to Paris where he apprenticed under the Art Nouveau artist Jean Dampt, working as a sculptor until 1907. In 1912, Dunand was among the first Western designers to begin working with natural lacquer, using traditional processes to develop the rare material which he applied as decoration for small objects and furnishings. Dunand also experimented with creating lacquered silk dresses and designs for couturiers including Jeanne Lanvin and Madeleine Vionnet. The present set of Art Deco nesting tables illustrates Dunand’s elegant eggshell lacquered furniture, which combines organic simplicity of form with increasingly stylised decoration. Descending across the three tabletops, the design features a geometric pattern integrated into the curved structure of the tables.

Edmund de Waal’s Kamen consists of five cabinets containing 115 round hand-thrown porcelain pots. The vessels are between two and four inches tall, arranged in five to seven groups per cabinet, and from two to nine pots per group. It is an intricate numerology, suggesting either a mathematical problem or a musical composition. De Waal’s first arrangements of pots were often set within carefully calibrated installations located in historic venues. In 2007, he realised three such projects: at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge; MIMA, in Middlesbrough; and Chatsworth, later realising Signs & Wonders, a permanent installation for the Victoria and Albert Museum. The present work is a more portable installation and can be situated on any wall.

Among the contemporary highlights to feature is Marc Newson’s 1993 ‘Orgone’ chair. More so than any of his other designs, the ‘Orgone’ chair channels Newson’s lifelong fascination with the streamlined ‘Continental look’ that characterises many classic Italian sports cars of the 1950s and 60s. A collector of rare vintage racing cars, Newson demonstrates the influence of the shape, speed and symbolism of those cars through his designs. The present chair is made up of compound curves which cradle the sitter’s body before swelling into fender-like contours at either end. With its sculptural shape and seamless aluminium surface, the ‘Orgone’ chair recalls the aerodynamic forms made possible by Italian car design techniques.

Shiro Kuramata first exhibited his now iconic ‘Miss Blanche’ chair in 1988. Created in homage to Miss Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams’ play, A Streetcar Named Desire, which Kuramata had seen earlier that year, this design initiated a series of works in acrylic. The chair’s arms and backrest comprise gentle curves whilst the overall structure retains a sharpness, interrupted by the asymmetrical pattern of the artificial roses. Kuramata’s designs were not conceived for serial production and were therefore produced in limited numbers, reflecting the importance of craftsmanship in his work. The present ‘Miss Blanche’ chair is number 21 from the edition of 56, executed in 1991—the year of Kuramata’s death. Examples of the ‘Miss Blanche’ chair are held in the permanent collection of international museums, including the Vitra Design Museum; Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco.

Further highlights include works by Alberto Giacometti, Axel Salto, Italian Post-War design including Fontana Arte and Studio BBPR, and Contemporary designers including Studio Job – Job Smeets and Nynke Tynagel.