New York Design Sales, June 2022 / Review
Lively bidding and some records broken … an analysis of the five major sales in June.
MORE THAN $75 million was spent by collectors in June at Christie’s and Sotheby’s over the course of five design sales in New York.
Christie’s kicked off on the 6th of June with the single owner sale ‘The Spirit of Paris’ (72 lots), which brought in a total of $11,510,070 ($9,144,261 hammer) against a total high estimate of $7,652,400.
The following day, the auction house held its various owner ‘Design’ sale (178 lots), which totalled $17,667,216 (hammer $14,188,600), against a total high estimate of $13,441,000.
At Sotheby’s, the collection of Delphine and Reed Krakoff (180 lots) totalled $12,893,580 (hammer price $10,233,000), below the total high estimate of $14,412,700. The various owner sale, however, totalled $22,448,788 (hammer price $17,903,800), satisfactorily above the total high estimate of $15,775,500.
Finally, the outstanding single owner sale ‘Crafting Modernism’ at Sotheby’s (78 lots) totalled $3,880,422 (hammer price $3,079,700), against a total high estimate of $5,698,000.
These sales presented an impressive number of rare and important works of design, and it is difficult to select only a handful to comment on. At Christie’s the highlights among the top lots were the straw marquetry cabinet by Jean-Michel Frank, which sold for $1,500,000 (Lot 4, hammer price $1,200,000, estimate $500,000–$700,000), a large ‘Mesa’ table by T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings, which sold for a record $428,400 (Lot 137, hammer price $340,000, estimate $200,000–$300,000) and the unique ‘Table aux Antilopes’ by François-Xavier Lalanne for $3,060,000 (Lot 140, $2,500,000 hammer, estimate $1,000,000–$1,500,000).
At Sotheby’s, the unique lantern by the American Arts and Crafts designer brothers, Greene & Greene, sold for $1,502,000 (Lot 375, hammer $1,200,000, estimate $150,000–$250,000), the charming ‘Cerf et Renard’ console by Diego Giacometti sold for $2,349,000 (Lot 421, hammer price $1,900,000, estimate $1,500,000–$2,000,000) and the exceedingly rare refectory table, with cement top, by Jean Prouvé for $1,623,000 (Lot 44, hammer price $1,300,000, estimate $350,000–$550,000).
The American Studio design sale at Sotheby’s was a test for this category, which is still emerging in the secondary market. Sadly it did not meet the success it deserved and left some of the more audacious works unsold such as the ‘Three-Legged Thumb’ desk and armchair by Wendell Castle (Lot 569, estimate $80,000–$120,000). At Christie’s, the stunning necklace by the American designer Harry Bertoia, offered in the various owner sale, also remained unsold – perhaps due to its robust estimate ($200,000–$300,000).
Nevertheless, works presenting more attractive estimates did not go unnoticed and resulted in impressive prices, perhaps proving that an auction handling pieces across a wide range of media and appealing to a broad variety of well-calibrated interests can still arouse passions. At Sotheby’s, an elegant floor lamp by Pierre Legrain sold for $151,200, more than ten times its estimate (Lot 307, hammer price $120,000, estimate $15,000–$20,000) and the ‘Minguren II’ dining table made by George Nakashima for Rupert Smith (chief printmaker to Andy Warhol) sold for $403,200 (Lot 545, hammer price $320,000, estimate $150,000–$200,000), a record for the model. At Christie’s, the stunning easel by Armand-Albert Rateau sold for $504,000 against an estimate of $25,000–$35,000 (Lot 33, hammer price $400,000).
These jaw-dropping results seem almost closer to contemporary art sale results than design. However, should one look more closely, there were only a few new record prices and the astonishing totals appear to be proportional with the robust estimates assigned to top lots and, critically, include the buyer’s premium fees. It is arguable whether these estimates are a reflection of the undeniably increasing interest in high-end design, the inflation that saw all art categories fetch high prices, or the incredibly competitive market for sourcing. Although the same names can be found in the top lots, it was reassuring to see a greater variety of designers and periods presented in the sales.
However, the bidding activity was lively and the market holds on, for now …
Christie’s The Spirit of Paris, 6th June 2022.
Christie’s Design, 7th June 2022.
Sotheby’s A Collection That We Dreamt Of: Art and Design from the New York Townhouse of Delphine and Reed Krakoff, 8th June 2022.
Sotheby’s Crafting Modernism, 10th June 2022.
Sotheby’s Important Design, 9th June 2022.