Sotheby’s December auctions of 20th Century Design concluded in New York with a market-leading total of $26.4 million – far outstripping the series’ high estimate of $19.4 million, and with a robust 87.5% of lots sold across the trilogy of auctions.
Wednesday’s sales began with our annual December auction of Important Design, whose remarkable $13.9 million result ranks as the highest-ever total for a various-owner Design auction at Sotheby’s worldwide. The afternoon offered two dedicated sales of important works by Tiffany Studios works, whose combined result of $12.4 million marks Sotheby’s highest- ever total for a day of Tiffany sales. These results punctuate an outstanding fall season for Design at Sotheby’s worldwide, with record-breaking auctions in Paris that included the personal collection of celebrated interior designer Jacques Grange.
The momentous success of these sales has reinforced Sotheby’s as the market leader in this category, and now is the time to consign for our Spring 2018 auctions.
Below is a look at the important pieces and collections that drove this week’s sales in New York.
Important Design: Auction Total $13.9 Million, 84% Sold by lot
The morning auction was led by a suite of three works from Claude Lalanne’s highly-coveted “Crocodile” series, all emerging from the same Important Manhattan Collection. The group was highlighted by a “Bureau Crocodile” desk (Estimate $350,000–500,000), which sold for $2.2 million — a new auction record for any “Crocodile” work by Lalanne and the artist’s second highest price at auction. The trio’s two “Crocodile” Armchairs sold to the same bidder for $1.2 million and $975,000, respectively (Estimates $300,000–500,000 each). Cast by Lalanne from the body of an actual crocodile, the trio epitomizes the Surrealist influence that defines the artist’s work and exhibits one of her most masterful interpretations of the form, as well as her acute dexterity and poetic imagination.
A landmark offering of leaded glass windows from two of Frank Lloyd Wright’s seminal early commissions also highlighted the sale. Marking one of the most exciting moments in recent Wright scholarship, two rediscovered Important and Rare “Sumac” Windows – featured in a historic exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1907 – each achieved $435,000 (Estimates $200,000–300,000, respectively).
Designed for the Darwin D. Martin Complex in Buffalo, New York, one of Wright’s greatest architectural triumphs, An Important and Rare "Tree of Life" Window (Estimate $200,000–300,000) brought $435,000.
Tiffany: Dreaming in Glass: Auction Total $5.1 Million, 93% Sold by Lot
Our various-owner sale of Tiffany Studios designs was led by An Important and Rare "Cobweb and Apple Blossom" Table Lamp, which brought $1.2 million (Estimate $700,000–$1,000,000). Featuring a rare mosaic glass “Wheat” base, the work is one of three known lamps executed in this intricate motif and highlights two of Tiffany’s most ubiquitous inspirations: insects and nature.
An Important "Wisteria" Table Lamp was also among the sale’s top prices, fetching $975,000 (Estimate $600,000–800,000). Painterly yet sculptural, impressionistic yet conventionalized, the piece represents a multitude of influences drawn from art and the natural world.
Comprised of nearly 2,000 individually cut and selected glass tiles to articulate the shade’s dripping wisteria blossoms, the work’s complex design afforded Tiffany’s glass selectors with ample opportunity to experiment with color.
Masterworks by Tiffany Studios: The William A. Richardson Collection: Auction Total $7.3 Million, 98% Sold by Lot
Sotheby’s was honored to present 42 works from the collection of Mr. William A. Richardson, which was led by a superb Hanging Head “Dragonfly” Floor Lamp that fetched $675,000 (Estimate $300,000–500,000).
The lamp embodies Tiffany's craftsmanship with its striking, sublime color palette. The shade is accented with large cabochon jewels whose colors oscillate between shades of radiant blue and violet, changing with one’s view point. Tiffany achieved this dynamic effect by adding a second layer of ultramarine blue glass behind the opalescent cabochons.
Among Tiffany’s most artistic and complex floral designs, a “Poppy” Chandelier (Estimate $200,000–300,000) achieved $615,000.