Preview 10 Exceptional Highlights of 20th-Century Design

Preview 10 Exceptional Highlights of 20th-Century Design

Two auctions in New York bring together a selection of design objects spanning movements from early Tiffany Studios to contemporary design.
Two auctions in New York bring together a selection of design objects spanning movements from early Tiffany Studios to contemporary design.

F ollowing the DESIGN XX-XXI auction on 28 May in Paris, Sotheby’s Design Week heads to New York, where it will be on view in the galleries from 31 May through 5 June. Join us for two incredible auctions, including No Detail Is Small on 5 June, an evening auction featuring mid-century French design objects and contemporary art collected by Tamotsu Yagi, one of the most accomplished and visionary art directors of his generation, followed by the highly anticipated Important Design day sale on 6 June.

Below, explore 10 highlights from both extraordinary auctions in New York.

No Detail Is Small: Art & Design from The Tamotsu Yagi Collection

Created by one of the most accomplished and visionary art directors of our time, this collection tells the profoundly personal story of Tamotsu Yagi’s parallel journeys as both a collector and creator, embodying the principles of good design that Yagi has championed throughout his career.

Cy Twombly’s ‘Death of Giuliano de Medici’

Executed in 1962, at the zenith of Cy Twombly’s so-called “Baroque” period of the early 1960s, Death of Giuliano de Medici is a quintessential expression of the bold dynamism and abstract carnality that characterizes the best of Twombly’s practice. Conceived during his early years in Rome, the painting derives from a decisive moment in Twombly’s career during which he created a newfound form of abstract history painting, exploring a series of violent moments from history, particularly assassinations, revolutionizing the drama, dynamism and formal capacities of painting through his idiosyncratic work.

Jean Prouvé’s Unique Illuminated Table

The present table, a rare special commission produced for a close friend of Jean Prouvé, Dr. Gaston Vichard, is rendered especially unique for two exceptional features that were markedly different from all of Prouvé’s other similar tables: the inclusion of a thick glass tabletop and lighting strips affixed to each side of the table frame’s central crosspiece. These two additions complement one another remarkably, as the lighting strips illuminate the table from underneath the glass top, resulting in a diffused light that brightens not only the table itself but the space around it.

Richard Long’s ‘River Avon Driftwood Circle’

Beginning in the late 1960s, Richard Long began producing works based on walks that he took in England, including the present work, River Avon Driftwood Circle, consisting of 68 pieces of driftwood from a walk along the River Avon in southwest England. Long would arrange these found materials from his walks in circular or linear formations, using materials such as stone, wood and snow and bringing them into the gallery space as a way of recording his experiences and sharing them with the public.

Charlotte Perriand’s Important and Unique Bookcase

Originally commissioned for the office space of Galerie Steph Simon, a longtime collaborator of Charlotte Perriand who was pivotal in producing and distributing many of the designer’s creations, the present bookcase is spectacular in its monumental form and compositional freedom compared to other examples of the model. The asymmetry and variation in the depth of shelves was an intentional choice for the bookcase in order for the model to fit into the space, its zigzagging metal blocks creating a rhythm entirely unique to Perriand’s designs.

Jean Prouvé’s Rare ‘Kangourou’ Armchair

Modeled after Jean Prouvé’s popular “Visiteur” chair, the present “Kangourou” armchair captures the Prouvé’s constant interest in streamlining and adapting his designs. Featuring a ridged metal seat, oak backrest and wooden-ball feet, the armchair was christened the “Kangourou” for its low, slanted form that seemed poised to launch forward. The model was only produced on a commission basis, making it an especially rare opportunity to own one of Prouvé’s most coveted designs.

Important Design

On 6 June, Important Design features a thoughtfully curated selection of works ranging from exceptional lamps by Tiffany Studios to masterpieces of contemporary design.

Jean Royère’s ‘Sculpture’ Sofa and Armchairs

The present “Sculpture” suite, consisting of a sofa and two armchairs, is made up of cylindrical oak components that combine to create a highly sculpted frame that holds the contoured upholstered seats. Jean Royère’s “Sculpture” series is precisely what it claims to be – two sculptural floating panes supported by a simple wooden structure, seamlessly integrating comfort with luxurious and whimsical design.

Harry Bertoia’s ‘Untitled (Dandelion)’

In Untitled (Dandelion), Bertoia captured the ethereal and ephemeral bloom of a dandelion at its fullest and elevated it from a soft, fluffy weed to a metal beauty. Like much of the sculptor’s most recognized work, it is a form found in nature. Although it is not a kinetic or sound sculpture, it produces the sensation of movement and vibrancy.

An Important ‘Wisteria’ Table Lamp by Tiffany Studios

Originally designed in 1901 by Clara Driscoll, the “Wisteria” lamp is now widely recognized as an icon of American design and one of Tiffany Studios’ greatest accomplishments in leaded glass. Comprising nearly 2,000 individually cut and selected glass tiles from deep cobalt to vibrant green, the present “Wisteria” lamp’s glass selection is lyrical and dynamic, capturing the lushness of the wisteria vine in bloom.

Alberto Giacometti’s ‘Facettes’ Vase

Presented for the first time at auction after remaining in the same New York family since the early 1940s, Alberto Giacometti’s “Facettes” vase represents an extraordinarily rare work by the Swiss artist, with only one publicly recorded example in the collection of the Fondation Giacometti in Paris. Executed for Jean-Michel Frank around 1934, the piece encapsulates a particularly innovative phase in Giacometti’s oeuvre centered around experimentations with abstraction and a departure from traditionally figurative forms. The polyhedron was recurrent in Giacometti’s pictorial and sculptural production, perhaps most famously through his seminal sculpture Le Cube from the very same period which may have directly informed this form.

“The present work is an incredible rediscovery of one of Giacometti’s most elusive and sculptural works in plaster.”
- Louis Soulard, AVP Specialist, 20th Century Design

Charlotte Perriand’s Unique ‘Mexique’ Bookcase

The present bookcase, designed by Charlotte Perriand for the Maison du Mexique at the Cité Universitaire, Paris, was conceived to meet both design and architectural needs for student dormitories at the university as it served as both a storage space and a room divider. The bookcase, which was produced at around the same time as her similar bookcases for the Maison de la Tunisie at the Cité Universitaire, Paris, consists of similar, size-varying sheet-metal blocks that were truncated by diamond-point sliding doors typically clad in various colors. There were only 77 models produced for this specific commission, and of these, only one consists of sliding doors that are all in this particular shade of green, making it a rare chance to own a unique edition of one of Charlotte Perriand’s most iconic designs.

Design Week

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