T his December, Sotheby’s presents Design Week in New York, a stunning smorgasbord of 20th century design objects sourced across eras and continents.
Over four auctions, a curated selection of some of the most covetable and rare pieces on the market today launches with the prestigious Important Design auction, followed by The Cycad Collection: Masterworks by Tiffany Studios and Prewar Design on 6 December and The Doros Collection: The Art Glass of Louis Comfort Tiffany on 7 December – both offering exceptional and rare pieces from the legendary American designer. And this year, Design Week concludes with a very special moment: Royère x Warhol: Art and Design from the Collections of Peter M. Brant and Stephanie Seymour, a cross-category sale bringing together over 50 superb works from the couple’s esteemed collection.
Read on for a selection of highlights that will give just you a flavor of what’s in store this Design Week.
Sotheby’s Presents: Design Week
Design Week auctions begin on Wednesday 6 December with ‘Important Design’, a sale spanning the early 20th century, through Modernism and up to present-day future classics. A comprehensive study of design over the decades, with icons such as Tiffany and Lalanne, showcase a century of ideas, innovation and inspiration.
An Important Pair of Screens by Eileen Gray
Two of the most sleek and impressive pieces to have originated from Eileen Gray’s personal collection, these two screens, designed and executed circa 1922-25, are the physical manifestation of the artist’s mastery of lacquer on a large scale, seamlessly combining function and sculptural presence as Gray’s style transitioned towards Modernist abstraction. The subtle balance of vertical lines with soft curves at the bottom of the piece complement the flawless application of a rich black lacquer, creating a timeless and harmonious ensemble. The present screens are undeniably linked to a particularly experimental period of Gray’s career.
Claude Lalanne’s Two ‘Bambiloba’ Settees
Uniting form and function with whimsical beauty, Claude Lalanne found inspiration in the French countryside, creating many plant-inspired works that incorporated winding tendrils and vines on a grand scale, underlining their inherently sculptural character. These “Bambiloba” Settees are large and out-of-scale renditions of an organic motif, in a variegated gilt patinated bronze finish. “Bambiloba” is a fictitious term, an amalgamation of “bamboo” and “biloba,” that leaves us pondering which physical aspects of the present “Bambilobas” derive from direct observation as opposed to Claude’s boundless imagination. Rarely seen at auction, this offering provides collectors with the opportunity to acquire two complementary settees that have remained together since their creation.
François-Xavier Lalanne’s ‘Vache Paysage (Grand Modèle)’
Vache Paysage is one of the most meaningful figures in François-Xavier Lalanne’s remarkable procession of animal sculptures. His respect for the tradition of animalier sculpture, and the influence of master François Pompon, translate here in the surfaces of the black patinated bronze and the skilled craftsmanship of its execution, creating a naturalistic effect that contrasts with the Surrealist treatment of the form.
The recent exhibition of a Vache Paysage in the Trianon gardens of Versailles is a testimony to the very essence of the piece, in which François-Xavier invites us to pay closer attention to our environment, in a manner that frames the landscape as a work of art in and of itself.
An Important Coffee Table by George Nakashima
George Nakashima set his signature “free-edge” wood designs, with their quasi-fractal, quintessentially organic shapes as a jeweler might, mounting them on suitably restrained armatures. The present example dates to 1983, a significant moment in Nakashima’s career – the year he conceived the idea for his Peace Altars. These were initially inspired by a singular figured slab of Claro black walnut, 14 feet in length. It occurred to him that “such a magnificent tree – such beautiful wood – could be used to create a conference table where the people around it are discussing world peace.” Nakashima proceeded to make the table offered here from a spectacular root structure of Californian redwood.
Joris Laarman’s ‘Leaf’ Table
Joris Laarman’s “leaf” table ignifies an ideal interplay of technology and metalworking. Through its mechanized composition, the resin, steel and aluminum piece resembles the sturdiness of a tree trunk in its base and the intricate veins of a delicate leaf on its surface. Made of a single mold, the “leaf” table is one of the Forest Tables series, produced with Laarman’s method of algorithmic modeling and computer-controlled fabrication. The resulting pattern is a Voronoi diagram, a ubiquitous motif in nature. This dance of organic materials and modern design exemplifies Laarman’s interest in developing new ways of furniture production.
On 6 December, ‘The Cycad Collection’ presents an exceptional survey of masterworks by Louis Comfort Tiffany’s celebrated firm, including a wide range of leaded glass lamps, blown favrile glass and exquisite bronze accessories.
An Important ‘Wisteria’ Table Lamp
Designed in 1901 by Clara Driscoll, the Wisteria lamp quickly became one of the most expensive lamps in Tiffany’s line, its complex pattern comprising nearly 2,000 individually cut and selected glass tiles. As a result, each Wisteria lamp possesses its own distinct character and color palette. This particular example presents an exquisite range of deep cobalt blue glass, and the lower panicles are selectively accented in rich jewel-toned aqua. The fully saturated and artistic glass selection of the present example, which is over 100 years old, distinguishes it as one of the finest examples ever to appear on the auction market.
A ‘Dragonfly’ Floor Lamp
Dragonflies possessed endless appeal for Louis C. Tiffany and his team. As a subject, the dragonfly in its natural habitat would have presented Tiffany’s artisans with abundant opportunity for interpretation with an unlimited color palette. However, Tiffany appreciated more than just their beauty. As a collector of Asian decorative art, he would have been aware of the dragonfly’s significance in Asian cultures, representing power and agility to the Japanese and prosperity, harmony and good fortune to the Chinese. With so many admirable qualities, it is no surprise that the dragonfly became a popular motif in Tiffany’s production, including leaded glass, mosaics, enamels and jewelry.
A ‘Pony Wisteria’ Table Lamp
The “Pony Wisteria” model was an adaptation of Clara Driscoll’s iconic “Wisteria” lamp. Though smaller in scale, the “Pony Wisteria” displays all the incredible visual impact of its larger predecessor, but is more complex than the standard Wisteria, with a more sculptural and detailed casting, emulating the flower’s gnarled vine. The example offered here is distinctive because the traditional palette has been enriched with flaming red, orange and yellow glass representing a sunset sky. This shade is further distinguished by the rich, jewel-like translucent amethyst glass tiles selectively positioned adjacent to the sunset passages, evoking the warm sunlight breaking through the vines.
A Rare Four-Light ‘Lily’ Table Lamp
The vast majority of “Lily” shades are of plain, transparent, yellow glass with an exterior gold iridescence. The shades for the “Lily” lamp offered here are very different and highly unusual. Each has a design of elongated sections of striated pale green replicating slender leaves. These sections are reactive, converting to an azure blue near the upper rims. Equally noteworthy is the actual glass used to create the shades. In this case, it is dichroic, likely created by adding colloidal copper to the batch. When seen with reflected light, the glass base layer appears a dark amber. When seen with transmitted light, the shades change to a deep, rich scarlet red.
On 7 December, Sotheby’s will present volume III of the collection of Jay and Micki Doros, the most comprehensive assemblage of glass works by Tiffany Studios to ever come to market. Beautifully exemplifying Tiffany’s love of the natural world, these effulgent glass forms radiate and shimmer with delicate hues and vibrant colors, across every discipline of his art.
Sotheby's Presents: The Doros Collection
A ‘Peacock’ Paperweight Vase
Peacock-decorated Favrile vases were first displayed at the company’s 4th Ave showrooms in the early spring of 1897, but the lot offered here is very different from that initial production run. Made approximately 17 years later, this vase is transparent and does not feature aventurine, multicolored iridescence or the typical blue “eyes.” Instead, the transparent green body, with an interior ghost-like white trailing, practically glows and is the ideal background for the tall brick-red and cream feathers that vertically encircle the vase. A spade-shaped opening in each feather was created just below the shoulder, inside of which was placed an exceptional millefiori “eye” in shades of darker brick-red and plum.
A ‘Magnolia’ Cameo Vase
Although inspired by the European production techniques of the time, Tiffany’s cameo glass designs were created largely by using an engraving wheel, rather than acid. Furthermore, Favrile cameo pieces eschewed the European approach of one or two layers of glass; instead, Tiffany used sections of hot glass to provide additional colors. Finally, the decorative motifs favored by Tiffany were entirely different than much of the European work. While the latter was generally stiff and very literal, Tiffany’s designs were far more artistic and impressionistic. The exceptional vase offered here aptly displays the major distinctions between Tiffany’s cameos and those of his European competitors.
A ‘Morning Glory’ Paperweight Vase
The “Morning Glory” design first appeared in late 1913. The vase offered here fully displays the extraordinary skills of Tiffany’s glassworkers, working to a 1913 watercolor by Louis Tiffany of morning glories. Emerald, forest-green and green-streaked and pink-tinged leaves encircle the swollen upper half of the transparent, pale, green-tinted body. Numerous cream, fuchsia and violet morning glories are randomly situated, and their vivid colors are in striking contrast against the darker foliage. It abundantly demonstrates the supreme artistry of the craftsmen involved in its production and why the motif is justifiably considered one of Tiffany’s quintessential designs.
A ‘Parrots’ Mosaic Panel
Well before the founding of the Tiffany Glass Company in 1885, Louis Tiffany incorporated mosaic details in several of his most important interior design commissions, including the Veterans’ Room in the 7th Regiment Armory, the White House and Cornelius Vanderbilt’s mansion. The example offered here displays the finest elements of the company’s mosaic concepts. Probably designed by Louis Tiffany himself, it depicts two rainbow-colored, sharp-beaked parrots in flight among a network of branches, against a kaleidoscopic iridescent green-gold and sapphire background.
An 18-Light ‘Lily’ Table Lamp
This 18-light Clara Driscoll design is a wonderful illustration of the company’s ability to combine metal and glass. The bronze base is cast with a lower section of scalloped lily pads, continuing to a band of upturned leaves and spiraled vines, in a gilt-etched metal finish. From this rise 18 clustered stems, with a lower section (missing in many other similar examples) that curves outwards and descends to varying heights. The stems terminate in petal-shaped fitters, each holding an iridescent gold blossom of yellow Favrile glass, with ten undulating tips instead of the standard eight. This lamp epitomizes the collaborative design genius of Louis Tiffany and Clara Driscoll.
The final auction of Design Week takes place on 12 December with ‘ROYÈRE X WARHOL,’ comprising over 50 works by European and American designers, including Jean Royère, Jean Prouvé, Charlotte Perriand, Jean-Michel Frank, Franz West and Thomas Molesworth, together with superb works of contemporary art.
Jean Royère’s ‘Ambassador’ Sofa
In the 1950s, Jean Royère enjoyed a thriving international reputation, with activity in the Maghreb as well as in the Near and Middle East. He carried out prestigious decoration projects, notably in Lebanon, Egypt, Iran and Israel. In Jerusalem, he designed the Ambassador Hotel in 1955 and created the “Ambassador” sofa and armchairs. Their simple forms, inspired by Scandinavian furniture, and the elegance of their curves fully illustrate Jean Royère’s playful and elegant style. The chairs were notably installed in 1958 in the private cinema of the Shah of Iran.
Thomas Molesworth’s ‘Buffalo Hunt’ Chandelier
Exhibiting the designer’s characteristic use of fir and high-quality leather, this exceptional group exemplifies the his iconic Western aesthetic and use of the primary color against textured wooden backgrounds. The pieces from the Brant collection originate from some of Molesworth’s most important commissions, which, during the 1930s and 1940s, helped him to define the “Western Roomscape” that made him famous. Through thoughtful curation and commitment to the Western vernacular, the offered lots, all special orders ranking among some of Molesworth’s most superior and sought-after creations, offer collectors an excellent opportunity to acquire outstanding works by the artist with impeccable provenance.
Jean-Michel Frank’s ‘Aragon’ Low Table
Jean-Michel Frank’s “Aragon” table is emblematic of the style defined by the decorator in the 1920s and 1930s. In the present table, the oak is sanded, engraved and carved, giving the furniture a primitive look and revealing the material in its nearly raw state. In the designer’s interiors, his furniture, like Alberto Giacometti’s objects and lights, seems to have originated from other civilizations. Their archaic forms and the simplicity of the materials define Jean-Michel Frank’s unique sense of modernity in the 1920s and 1930s. The present lot is a superb example of this rare and celebrated form that encapsulates the designer’s exceptional craftsmanship and talents as a tastemaker.