Lambertville, NJ: Rago Auction’s January 19 -20 Design Sales brought in a total of $4,826,775 over the weekend. The two-day, 1,164-lot auction series brought impressive results from a wide range of property across five segments: Early 20th Century Design, Mid-Mod, Modern Design, Modern Ceramics and Glass, plus the single-owner collection “Lost City Arts: 36 Years of Collecting."
Early 20th Century Design Highlights
Works of early 20th century ceramics led a strong showing across this 428-lot sale. The top lot of the segment was also the first, a large Martin Brothers bird tobacco jar, which sold for $50,000. Other notable lots include: lot 48, a fine, large, double-sided vessel by George Ohr, the self-proclaimed “Mad Potter of Biloxi,” which sold for more than 5 times the high estimate to achieve $48,875; lot 5, a monk bird tobacco jar, also by the Martin Brothers, which sold for $37,500; lot 339, a tall Phänomen vase by Franz Hofstotter for Loetz, which sold for $36,250; lot 218, an exceptional vase with celadon and russet crystalline glaze by Adelaide Robineau, which realized $23,750; and lot 391, a rare and early Favrile glass turtleback lantern by Tiffany Studios, which achieved $26,250 against a high estimate of $20,000.
Works by Austrian makers also sold admirably in the sale, including several that deftly exceeded their pre-sale estimates: lot 340, an exceptional Loetz Phänomen vase that sold for $21,250 against a high estimate of $12,500; plus two works from the Wiener Werkstätte workshop of Vienna, including lot 314, a framed period photograph of Emilie Flöge, celebrated fashion designer and lifetime companion of artist Gustav Klimt, which quintupled the high estimate of $3,000 to sell for $15,000; and lot 308, a fine sterling silver basket by Josef Hoffmann, which realized a final sale price of $18,750, more than three times the high estimate.
Modern Design Highlights
The Modern Design sale opened with over 40 lots by Delaware Valley Modernists George Nakashima, Paul Evans, Phil Powell and Wharton Esherick, including the top lot of the session, lot 1023, a rare Argente cabinet by Paul Evans which sold for $62,500; lot 1025, a sculptured metal disk bar, also by Evans, which sold for $43,750; lot 1193, a Conoid headboard and platform bed by George Nakashima which sold for $43,750; and lot 1037, an exceptional bench-made two-piece display cabinet with illuminated vitrine made by Phil Powell in New Hope, PA, which sold for $40,325 against a high estimate of $30,000.
Estimate-shattering prices were achieved for several lots from the Modern Design segment including: lot 1059, a rare lamp by Donald Deskey for Deskey-Vollmer Inc. (an example of the same model is in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art), which soared past the pre-sale estimate of $10,000 to realize a final sale price of $47,500; lot 1155, an El Moro Desk and Matador II Chair by studio furniture maker Michael Coffey, which sold for $35,000, more than twice the high estimate; and lot 1103, dresser no. 2129 by Gio Ponti for Singer & Sons, which sold for $23,750, against a high estimate of $10,000.
Lost City Arts: 36 Years of Collecting
James Elkind, proprietor of Lost City Arts in New York City, is an experienced and trusted Bertoia scholar who has developed an expertise in furniture, lighting, and architectural elements. His collection summarized 36 years of thoughtful design connoisseurship and included over 100 lots of mid-century and contemporary design and sculpture.
This session offered up the top lot of the day with lot 1558, a monumental sculpture screen by Harry Bertoia, executed for the First National Bank of Miami in 1959, which sold for $125,000. Other notable Bertoia results include lot 1557, an untitled gong sculpture, which sold for $35,000, and lot 1563, a sonambient sounding sculpture by Val Bertoia, son of Harry Bertoia, which sold for $21,250.
Other noteworthy results from the session include: lot 1564, a pair of Heroic Sunburst doors made by Billy Joe McCarroll and David Gillespe for Forms and Surfaces, Inc., the cover lot of the sale, which sold for $16,250; lot 1500, a George Nakashima conoid dining table which sold for $15,000; and lot 1593, a large, untitled stainless steel sculpture by Beverly Pepper which achieved a sale price of $15,000 against a high estimate of $10,000.
Modern Ceramics & Glass Highlights
Two works by Betty Woodman stole the show in Rago’s Modern Ceramics and Glass auction, achieving the highest prices of the session. Lot 2113, an early pillow pitcher with tang-style glaze, defied expectations and shattered the pre-sale estimate of $2,000 - $3,000 to sell for $31,250, setting a record for the highest price achieved at auction for a Betty Woodman work since 2008; and lot 2112, a two-handled vase with polka-dots, which shot past the high estimate of $2,750 to sell for $20,000. For years, Rago has proudly presented works by Betty Woodman, the first living female artist to earn a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2006), and these exceptional results not only give the artist the recognition she deserves, but also demonstrate how strong the market has become for Woodman's works since her death just over a year ago.
Also of note from the Modern Ceramics session was a collection of 20 lots by American studio ceramicist Harrison McIntosh, who is celebrated for his unique ability to blend a Japanese aesthetic with the best of Scandinavian technique. Presenting several works by the same artist together in this way allows collectors to study the pieces and experience the variances in size, decoration, and production time. Comprised of particularly excellent examples of the artist’s work, this collection represented one of the greatest offerings of McIntosh ever brought to auction. Lot 2008, a fine, large, footed bowl, was the highest achieving work in the collection, selling for $9,375.
Notable art glass results were achieved by blue chip makers such as Dale Chihuly, Dan Dailey and Yoichi Ohira and include: lot 2150, a nineteen-piece Oxblood Seaform by studio glass master Dale Chihuly which sold for twice the high estimate to achieve $30,000; lot 2176, a large circus vase by contemporary glass maker Dan Dailey, which doubled its high estimate to sell for $30,000; lot 2162, a Yoichi Ohira Bolla vase, complete with the original drawing, which soared past the high estimate of $7,000 to sell for $20,000; lot 2178, a blown and sand-carved glass sculpture entitled Raven Wing by Preston Singletary, which sold for $11,250; lot 2180, a cast glass sculpture entitled Head with a Square Eye (Head V) by husband and wife glass-making duo Libenský and Brychtová, which sold for $23,750; and lot 2195, a large petroglyph vase by William Morris, which sold for $13,750.
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