Rivich to host Feb. 21 midcentury and postmodern design auction from Chicago’s hippest tearoom, Madame Zuzu’s, with online feed via LiveAuctioneers

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At Madame Zuzu’s Emporium, fans of vintage design will be treated to an artsy, outside-the-box auction experience “steeped” in whimsy and aromatic brews

Signed Joseph Burlini (American, b. 1937-) kinetic rainbow sculpture, 55 x 16 x 20in when swinging; base measures 9in square. Estimate $1,000-$2,000
Signed Joseph Burlini (American, b. 1937-) kinetic rainbow sculpture, 55 x 16 x 20in when swinging; base measures 9in square. Estimate $1,000-$2,000

CHICAGO – Auctions have always been entertaining, but Rebecca and Michael Rivich, co-owners of Chicago’s Rivich Auction, hope to propel the fun factor to a whole new level on February 21st with its “Shakedown 1979” sale. The 226-lot auction of affordable midcentury modern and postmodern design will take place online through LiveAuctioneers, with a live online feed and live bidding at Madame Zuzu’s Emporium in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park. The ultra-cool indoor/outdoor tearoom and retail establishment is owned by Grammy Award-winning Smashing Pumpkins founder Billy Corgan and his wife, Chloe Mendel. The auction’s title – an homage to Corgan – is actually the opening line of the Smashing Pumpkins song “1979.” 

Renowned for its rare and exclusive tea blends, scrumptious plant-based foods and abundant “good vibes,” Madame Zuzu’s, together with the Rivich Auction team, will welcome a limited number of masked, socially-distanced guests to the Art Deco tea salon on auction day. There, auction-goers will be able to enjoy their choice of teas and other menu options as they preview a sampling of auction items and bid. Auction start time is 11 a.m. ET / 10 a.m. local CT.

The hand-picked selection of auction goods “runs the gamut, with a little bit of everything represented,” said Rebecca Rivich. Categories include sterling silver tea sets and wares from the 1920s luxury era – some of it consigned by a prominent Chicago family; gold jewelry, modern and folk art; midcentury furniture and decorative accessories; important autographed sports memorabilia, industrial objects, and lots of funky finds from Midwestern homes. 

Among the cutting-edge artworks to be offered are a signed Joseph Burlini (American, b. 1937-) kinetic rainbow sculpture estimated at $1,000-$2,000; a large Merton E. Brown (American 1906-1996) abstract oil-on-canvas painting, $800-$1,200, and a Brian Overley painting, executed in house paint and acrylic on canvas, titled “Olympia.” Estimate: $400-$500

Brandon Johnson, a young Chicago artist who was classically trained at that city’s prestigious American Academy of Art, is a fast-rising presence in the Midwestern art-collecting community. “He puts a unique pop spin on classical pieces, and his work is really taking off amongst the tastemakers here in Chicago,” Rebecca said. Johnson’s oil-on-board painting titled “Wasn’t Real Anyways” will cross the auction block with a $500-$1,000 estimate.

Some particularly significant pieces come directly from the collection of two Chicago-area psychiatrists who acquired self-taught art over a period of more than 50 years. A premier example is a Kiyomi Iwata (b. 1941-) 7-inch-square post-modern textile artwork estimated at $600-$1,200. Iwata’s creations, which reflect both her Japanese heritage and the influences of living in her adopted United States, have been exhibited at a number of highly regarded venues, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the revered International Lausanne Tapestry Biennial in Switzerland. 

From the same collection comes an out-of-this-world David Holmes figural folk-art chair. Crafted in the form of a robot-like man, the fantasy figure has Adirondack-style tree-branch legs, a torso fashioned as a glass-windowed display unit, and a carved head with deadpan expression, goggled eyes and wiry tufts of “hair.” Measuring 44½ by 20 by 20 inches, this extraordinary artwork carries a pre-sale estimate of $800-$1,200.

A quintessential example of mid-century furniture style, a patterned sectional sofa designed by Jack Lenor Larsen (American, 1927-2020) for Directional is as deeply comfortable as it is colorful. Its overall pattern is predominantly sunset orange with black and burnished-gold accents. Estimate: $300-$500

The sale’s decidedly Midwestern flavor is capped with the addition of basketball memorabilia signed by hardcourt superstars from the Chicago Bulls franchise. A size 48 Chicago Bulls jersey made by Champion is in very fine condition and has been signed both on its front and back by the legendary Michael Jordan. It is estimated at $1,000 to $2,000. Another top prize is a Chicago Bulls 1992-’93 Championship basketball signed by the famed “Starting Six” – Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Bill Cartwright, Horace Grant, BJ Armstrong and John Paxson. Estimate: $300-$500

As the lyrics of the Smashing Pumpkins’ song “1979” presciently suggested 25 years ago, “On a live wire right up off the street, you and I should meet.” That “live wire,” or real-time feed, will go directly from LiveAuctioneers to Madame Zuzu’s on Sunday, February 21st. The auction start time is 11 a.m. ET / 10 a.m. CT. Madame Zuzu’s Emporium is located at 1876 1st St. Highland Park, IL 60035. Bid absentee or live online via LiveAuctioneers. For questions about any item in the auction, call Rivich Auction, 229-765-8219 or email [email protected]. Visit them online at www.rivichauction.com