Lambertville, NJ: Rago Arts and Auction Center’s Design Auctions brought in $5,137,719 on May 19- 20, 2018. A vast array of property, from early 20th century to modern design, plus contemporary ceramics and glass, including The Daphne Farago Collection of Decorative Objects (sold to benefit the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) as well as the The Washington D.C. collection of Debra Lee (President and CEO of BET Networks), drove a consistently strong sale across two days, four auction segments and almost 900 lots.
Estimates were surpassed and expectations were exceeded during a sale that earned an 85% sell- through rate, suggesting the markets for Contemporary Craft and Modern Design remain strong.
Modern Design Highlights
With over 350 lots, Modern Design was the largest and highest-earning session of the weekend. The auction segment commenced Sunday morning with the collection of Debra Lee, named one of the “100 Most Influential Women in Entertainment” by The Hollywood Reporter. The top lot from her collection, and the second-highest price achieved for the weekend was Lot 2100, Masai (Twelve Elements) by celebrated glass artist Lino Tagliapietra, which shattered the high estimate of $40,000 to achieve $118,750. Also of note from Ms. Lee’s collection: Lot 2102, a Jerusalem Cylinder by Dale Chihuly, which easily exceeded the estimate of $20,000 to sell for $37,500; Lot 2128, "Light Space" cast glass sculpture by Libenský and Brychtová, which sold for $28,750 against a high estimate of $20,000; and Lot 2126, a forged and fabricated steel plant stand by Albert Paley, which sold for $25,000.
Lot 2343, the highest-achieving lot of the day, was an exceptional and large Bush sculpture from midcentury modern designer Harry Bertoia, which soared past the high estimate of $125,000 to realize $275,000 in vigorous competition. Two additional works by Harry Bertoia were amongst the top ten lots of the weekend, including the Willow sculpture in Lot 2345, which sold for $53,125; and Lot 2347, a large Sonambient sculpture which sold for $46,875.
Other highlights from the Modern Design segment include Lot 2463, a large Mesa table with a rare ebonized lacquer finish by T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings, which exceeded the estimate to sell for $62,500; Lot 2410, a large and exceptional bench by George Nakashima for Nakashima Studio, which sold for $62,500 - easily tripling the high estimate of $20,000; Lot 2237, a large, patinated bronze coffee table by Ingrid Donat, the first offering of work by this artist at Rago, which sold for $59,375; Lot 2416, a rare Minguren I coffee table by George Nakashima which achieved $56,250; Lot 2233, a fine and unusual wall-hanging cabinet by Phil Powell, which surpassed the high estimate of $35,000 to sell for $53,125; Lot 2439, a rare three-seat sofa by Thomas Molesworth which sold for $38,750; and Lot 2363, Albert Paley’s “Eden Gate,” which sold for nearly two times the high estimate to realize $38,750.
Modern Ceramics & Glass Highlights
The Modern Glass & Ceramics portion was led by contemporary glass works. Notable works include Lot 1626, a massive Petroglyph vase by William Morris, which sold for $20,000 against a high estimate of $15,000; Lot 1644, “Swing 43,” a laminated plate glass sculpture from Japanese glass artist Niyoko Ikuta, which shattered the estimate of $3,000-5,000 to realize $17,500; and Lot 1622, “Mainframe #5” large glass sculpture by Jon Kuhn, which sold for $11,875 against a high estimate of $9,000.
Notable ceramic lots include Lot 1513, an original model of Waylande Gregory’s “Reclining Nude,” which sold for $11,250 - nearly three times the high estimate of $4,000; Lot 1514, a massive sculptural vessel by Paul Soldner, which sold for $8,750; Lot 1552, an untitled trompe l’oeil sculpture (Schlitz Beer Box) by Victor Spinski, which crushed the $1,500 high estimate to achieve $6,250; and Lot 1547, a large David Gilhooly sculpture from the Frog series, which jumped past the high estimate of $1,500 to achieve $4,325.
The Daphne Farago Collection of Decorative Arts Highlights
Rago was honored to present The Daphne Farago Collection of Decorative Arts. The top work of the segment was Lot 2047, a fine rocking chair by Sam Maloof, which exceeded the high estimate of $24,000 to achieve $33,750. Contemporary glass performed admirably in this session, particularly Lot 2000, a cast glass sculpture entitled “Table Laid for a Bride” by Libenský and Brychtová, which sold for $26,250 against a high estimate of $15,000. Lot 2011, “Tropical Storm,” a fine large lighting sculpture by Dan Dailey, featured on the cover of the SOFA Miami exposition catalog (1995), sold for $25,000 against a high estimate of $14,000; and Lot 2012, “Wild Spring Chaos,” a large filet-de-verre vessel by Toots Zynsky, also exceeded the high estimate and sold for $18,750.
Notable fiber art works included a fine collection of Japanese bamboo baskets with their original boxes. Lot 2053, “Sun” by Tanabe Chikuunsai III, which surpassed expectations and sold for $20,000 against a high estimate of $12,000; Lot 2057, “Line Constructed Layered Rings,” by Hayakawa Shokosai V, a Living National Treasure of Japan, sold for $18,750 – more than twice the high estimate of $7,000; Lot 2055, “Heart” by Tanioka Shigeo, sold for $17,500; and Lot 2056, “Ocean Whirlpool” by Monden Kogyoku, defied expectations and sold for $13,750 against an estimate of $2,500-3,500. Also of note from Ms. Farago’s collection: Lots 2027 & 2028 by Danish-Turkish ceramic artist, Alev Ebüzziya Siesbye, which each sold for nearly twice their high estimates to achieve $11,875 and $15,000 respectively.
Early 20th Century Design Highlights
Of the nearly 300 lots of early 20th century design on offer, works by American makers achieved the highest prices. Lot 1246, an oil painting by Louis Comfort Tiffany, likely a study for the larger painting, “Snake Charmer,” in the permanent collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, surpassed the high estimate of $12,000 and sold for $20,000. Several lots of lighting from noted American designers sold admirably including Lot 1275, a ten-light Lily table lamp by Tiffany Studios, which sold for $20,000 against an estimate of $8,000-12,000; Lot 1183, a rare floor lamp by Lillian Palmer, which sold for $16,250; Lots 1273 & 1274 by Tiffany Studios, each of which doubled its high estimate to realize $13,750; and Lot 1185, a fine table lamp attributed to Dirk Van Erp, which sold for $12,500 – more than three times the high estimate of $4,000.
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