Highlights of Design from Louis C. Tiffany to Les Lalanne

Highlights of Design from Louis C. Tiffany to Les Lalanne

On view 2–6 June, Sotheby’s Design Week in New York features the best design objects that the market has to offer.
On view 2–6 June, Sotheby’s Design Week in New York features the best design objects that the market has to offer.

T his Friday, Sotheby’s Design Week, presented in partnership with Genesis House, goes on view in New York for a week-long exhibition culminating in two extraordinary auctions on 7 June.

Highlights of the Important Design auction include exceptional works by Les Lalanne, Alberto and Diego Giacometti, Eugène Printz, Jean Dunand, Paul Evans, Harry Bertoia, Ron Arad, Frank Lloyd Wright and Tiffany Studios. The sale is followed by The Doros Collection: The Art Glass of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Amassed over decades of devoted connoisseurship, the couple passionately pursued the acquisition of objects that capture the unrivaled beauty and impeccable craftsmanship of Tiffany’s artistic expression in the glass medium.

Important Design

Coming to the block on 7 June, Important Design presents a curated survey of the last century, from notable examples of American Arts & Crafts furniture to significant offerings of post-war and contemporary design. The sale is anchored by masterworks by François-Xavier Lalanne, Alberto and Diego Giacometti, Eugène Printz, Paul Evans, Harry Bertoia, Frank Lloyd Wright and Ron Arad, among others.

François-Xavier Lalanne’s Extraordinary Guépards

These Guépard sculptures embody the mysterious yet seductive dream territory that constitutes much of François-Xavier Lalanne’s oeuvre. With sleek, elongated figures and highly textured golden skins punctuated by black rosettes, the leopards are among the only big cats to appear in the artisan’s legendary bestiary. Crafted with meticulous wire structures and metal plates, the sculptures’ grand scale and poised positions capture Lalanne’s fascination with statuesque animals frozen in time. Very few Guépards were made, yet another pair was included in Francois-Xavier and Claude Lalanne’s personal collection (sold at Sotheby’s in 2019), attesting to their special significance and reinforcing their iconic stature.

“The proof that wild animals live in direct contact with God is their capacity for stillness.”
François-Xavier Lalanne

Diego Giacometti’s “Racine” Guéridon

One of two tables to come from a distinguished European collector who was friends with Diego Giacometti for more than a decade, this “racine” guéridon is one of his rarest and most original creations in bronze. Showcasing his skillful adaptation of organic motifs into an abstract composition, the table is an extraordinarily modern piece of sculpture that distinguishes itself through its free-flowing and highly expressive sinuous lines.

An Important Bench by Isamu Noguchi

In 1956, famed Modernist architect Godron Bunshaft commissioned a number of works from Isamu Noguchi, including The Family, which set an auction record for the artist when it sold for $12.3 million last month, and this magnificent bench. Noguchi believed that art was inseparable from its environment. Carved from granite, the 17-foot-long structure flanked a plaza that he later described as his “first perfectly realized garden.” In three courtyards, Noguchi used biomorphic curves punctuated with stepping stones to create a sense of structure and controlled movement, while two others referenced the clean, crisp lines of the central building designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. In this bench, the weight of the granite is reminiscent of ishi (large stones) placed throughout traditional Japanese Zen gardens, which contrasts the delicately undulating design that’s suggestive of water.

“The essence of sculpture is for me the perception of space, the continuum of our existence. All dimensions are but measures of it, as in the relative perspective of our vision lie volume, line, point, giving shape, distance, proportion. Movement, light, and time itself are also qualities of space. Space is otherwise inconceivable.”
Isamu Noguchi in “A Sculptor’s World” (1968)

Greene & Greene’s “Lotus” Lantern from the Robert R. Blacker House

Greene & Greene, An Important and Rare “Lotus” Lantern from the Living Room of the Robert R. Blacker House, Pasadena, California (Estimate: $300,000–400,000)

Charles Sumner Greene and his brother, Henry Mather Greene, were the foremost architects of the American Arts & Crafts Movement on the West Coast. The largest and most iconic of their Japanesque “ultimate bungalows” is the Robert R. Blacker House. In the living room, a gilded frieze of low-relief lotus leaves and flowers extended upwards onto the earthen-toned ceiling, illuminated by the subtly twinkling light cast by six mahogany lanterns with stained-glass water lilies. The inspiration for this lantern may have been traditional Japanese bonbori, hexagonal paper lanterns that are often painted with flowers or other images.

Ron Arad’s Oh, the Farmer and the Cowman Should be Friends

Ron Arad, Oh, the Farmer and the Cowman Should be Friends (Estimate: $300,000–500,000)

A visionary artist, industrial designer and architect, Ron Arad transcends traditional disciplines, forging a path that blurs the lines between art and function with an eclectic body of work. His Oh, the Farmer and the Cowman Should be Friends infuses a functional shelving system with a playful dose of American pop culture. The innovative unit’s name derives from Oklahoma!, a musical about a romance between a cowboy and a farm girl, and alludes to the US cultural and political milieu. In transcending mere functionality and infusing his design with symbolic meaning, Arad invites us to consider the larger context within which we live and engage with one another.


The Doros Collection: The Art Glass of Louis Comfort Tiffany

Also on 7 June, The Doros Collection returns with a selection of art glass by Louis Comfort Tiffany. This second part of the legendary assemblage draws engaging and provocative parallels between masterworks that showcase the firm’s modern vision and fascination with abstraction.

Monumental Vase

Tiffany Studios, Monumental Vase (Estimate: $40,000–60,000)

Louis Tiffany’s artistic devotion to nature was matched only by his reverence for Asian art. Tiffany had an extensive collection of ukiyo-e prints and was an admirer of Katsushika Hokusai, whose landscapes infused actual locations with a sense of naturalism verging on abstraction. This monumental vase reveals Hokusai’s influence on Tiffany, especially in his interpretation of water. Here, yellow lily pads – rendered with a delicate iridescence – appear trapped in a maelstrom of multicolored waves against an opaque powder-blue ground.


An Early “Lava” Vase

Tiffany Studios, An Early “Lava” Vase (Estimate: $25,000–35,000)

It took skilled gaffers two to three years to perfect most of Tiffany’s motifs and decorations. “Lava” vases, however, with their thick gold threadings over a textured navy ground, took over ten years to master. Made circa 1895, this “Lava” vase is remarkable for being one of the glasshouse’s earliest attempts at the form. The rippled black sections on its dimpled body give it the texture of weathered leather, which is offset by glossy, striated earth-toned portions and divided by blue streaks that seemingly erupt from the base.


“Lava” Vase

Tiffany Studios, “Lava” Vase. (Estimate: $60,000–80,000)

“Lava” vases are rare for two reasons: they were extremely difficult to produce, and those that didn’t crack or shatter during the annealing process were considered outré by most of the company’s clients. Immensely desirable today, the vases stem from Tiffany’s love of Japanese art. The thick, irregular gold seams were likely drawn from the restoration technique of kintsugi, or “golden joinery,” originating in the 15th century as part of the philosophy of wabi-sabi, which promotes embracing flaws and finding beauty in imperfection. This attitude matched Tiffany’s own, as he implored his glassworkers to experiment and allow for “happy accidents.”


“Aventurine” Vase

Tiffany Studios, “Aventurine” Vase (Estimate: $20,000–30,000)

Tiffany never discussed any individual pieces of blown Favrile glass – yet this “Aventurine” vase was likely one of his favorites. The company chose it to lead their 1899 catalogue, then placed it in five additional publications over the next few years. Tiffany himself held onto the vase, displaying it in his Laurelton Hall mansion on Long Island and including it in his only authorized biography. His pride for the vase perhaps comes from its daring use of a 15th-century Venetian technique: adding sparkling metallic filings to molten glass allowed artisans to imitate the glitter of aventurine crystals. A similar effect is achieved here with copper filings, some of which rise to the surface and turn a bright shade of green.


A Rare “Flame” Table Lamp

Tiffany Studios, A Rare “Flame” Table Lamp (Estimate: $50,000–70,000)

Tiffany’s first table lamps were fuel-based and featured blown glass; leaded glass shades only began to appear as electricity became more prominent in the late 1890s. Soon after, these “ball”-shaped shades were introduced in small numbers. This example is notable for its fire motif, which also appears in the winter panel of Tiffany’s famed “Four Seasons” window, designed especially for the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris. This “Flame” lamp is apparently unique, depicting a roaring fire in shades of amber, orange and red from which rises billowing blue, violet and white smoke.


20th Century Design Design Week

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