SALE REVIEW / The Collection of Michael Maharam

The sale of a distinctive private collection generates strong results.

Sotheby’s New York
15th October 2021

By Astrid Malingreau / 26th October 2021
Gerrit Rietveld, 'Rood Blauwe Chair', 1918-19. (Estimate: $150,000-$250,000. Sold for $403,200) COURTESY: Sotheby's

Gerrit Rietveld, ‘Rood Blauwe Chair’, 1918-19. (Estimate: $150,000-$250,000. Sold for $403,200)
COURTESY: Sotheby’s

AS MOST OF THE ART world was scouring the corridors of Frieze and Frieze Masters, the collection of the esteemed Michael Maharam was successfully going under the gavel at Sotheby’s New York. The live sale comprised 126 lots and totalled $3,159,639 including Buyer’s Premium – as well as the overhead premium of 1% introduced by the auction house ($2,496,855 hammer price) – against a total high estimate of $2,031,000.

“The sale doubled its low estimate, attesting to our strong leadership in the 20th century design market across categories and to the presentation of single-owner design collections specifically,” said Sotheby’s design specialist Louis Soulard.

Charlotte Perriand, 'Four-Legged Tokyo Bench', circa 1955. (Estimate: $40,000-$60,000. Sold for $81,900) COURTESY: Sotheby's

Charlotte Perriand, ‘Four-Legged Tokyo Bench’, circa 1955. (Estimate: $40,000-$60,000. Sold for $81,900)
COURTESY: Sotheby’s

The auction was spearheaded by a group of exceptional works by Gerrit Rietveld in which the iconic ‘Red blue chair’ sold for $403,200 ($320,000 without the fees, against an estimate of $150,000-$250,000) and the rare example of the ‘Danish’ chair sold for $378,000 ($300,000 hammer, estimate of $35,000-$50,000). For this last piece, the estimate might have been very low considering that only ten examples are currently known and that each was made with slight variations (making them particularly unique).

Gerrit Rietveld, 'Danish Chair', circa 1946-50. (Estimate: $35,000-$50,000. Sold for $378,000) COURTESY: Sotheby's

Gerrit Rietveld, ‘Danish Chair’, circa 1946-50. (Estimate: $35,000-$50,000. Sold for $378,000)
COURTESY: Sotheby’s

The collection, assembled over two decades, was beautifully photographed and the catalogue provided extensive historical background to the pieces – mostly thanks to the contribution of expert and advisor Simon Andrew.

“The Maharam collection confirmed the strength of Scandinavian and contemporary design on the international art market,” commented Louis Soulard. Indeed, amongst the strong results was a group of 17 ceramics by Axel Salto which sold for a combined $550,000 (with fees) – some selling up to three times the high estimate. The beautiful ‘Aktaen’ by Axel Salto, however, sold below the low estimate for $32,000 ($40,320 including Buyer’s Premium, against an estimate of $40,000-$60,000).

Axel Salto, 'Vase', 1967. (Estimate: $25,000-$35,000. Sold for $63,000) COURTESY: Sotheby's

Axel Salto, ‘Vase’, 1967. (Estimate: $25,000-$35,000. Sold for $63,000)
COURTESY: Sotheby’s

Another outstanding lot was the rare desk suite by Marcel Breuer dated circa 1926-1927, regarded as “amongst the very earliest examples of the architect’s signature tubular-steel furniture” as stated in Simon Andrew’s catalogue note. These museum-quality pieces sold below the estimate at $30,000 hammer ($37,888 including Buyer’s Premium against an estimate of $40,000-$60,000).

Marcel Breur, 'An Important Desk Suite', 1926-1927. (Estimate: $40,000-$60,000. Sold for $37,800) COURTESY: Sotheby's

Marcel Breur, ‘An Important Desk Suite’, 1926-1927. (Estimate: $40,000-$60,000. Sold for $37,800)
COURTESY: Sotheby’s

As the art market appears frenetically oriented towards the new, this sale is a further sign that outstanding lots of historical design are getting the attention of collectors. In addition, it confirms that collections reflecting a distinctive personal taste, developed over time, generate particular enthusiasm.

Axel Salto, 'Aktaeon Mask', circa 1932. (Estimate: $40,000- $60,000. Sold for $40,320) COURTESY: Sotheby's

Axel Salto, ‘Aktaeon Mask’, circa 1932. (Estimate: $40,000- $60,000. Sold for $40,320)
COURTESY: Sotheby’s

Michael Maharam ends the introduction interview with these words “Buy what you love (…) spend painful sums when there’s something you believe in and can’t live without, sooner or later you will forget the price though you will always own the pleasure.”

Design Agenda: The Collection of Michael Maharam at Sotheby’s New York.

Article by Astrid Malingreau
Article by Astrid Malingreau
Astrid Malingreau is an independent advisor focused on 20th century contemporary design. She previously worked for Christie's in London and New York as a specialist in decorative arts and design. View all articles by Astrid Malingreau