Phillips Design Sale: Autumn 2019
The Design Edit's preview.
30 Berkeley Square, London
17th October, 2019
PHILLIPS, A SIGNIFICANT player in the auction market for twentieth century and contemporary design, has a tempting array of historically significant pieces in this autumn’s sale. Marking, as Christie’s also has done, the centenary of the renowned Swedish weaving studio, Märta Måås-Fjetterström, they are fielding an enormous rug designed by the studio’s artistic director Barbro Nilsson in 1947, and woven at the studio’s headquarters in Båstad, Sweden, the same year. The unique 914 x 469.5 cm rug was commissioned by the Stockholms stads hantverksförening (Stockholm Craft Association) for the board of directors’ boardroom – and has been owned by the association ever since. It is estimated at £30,000 – £50,000.
Italian post-war design, this flourishing field, also features strongly. Domenico Raimondo, head of the European department and Senior International Specialist, was visibly brimming with excitement about the pieces his team have found for Thursday’s sale – including a unique executive desk by Gio Ponti (£60,000 – 80,000), from 1951. This piece shows all the formal virtuosity of this architect-trained designer, but also expresses his own unique sensibility and sense of humour. As Ponti once wrote, “I believe that all furniture, while being functional, must also touch the imagination of both he who designs it and he who also observes it.”
Also in the sale are two prototypes for ingenious bi-coloured folding coffee tables, from near the end of Ponti’s life, each estimated £30,000 – £50,000. These featured in the major retrospective exhibition ‘Tutto Ponti, Gio Ponti Archi-Designer’, which ran at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, from October last year until May. For the creations of a man approaching his eightieth birthday, they have a winning playfulness, and are both mobile and collapsible, owing to the clever use of castors and hinges.
By complete contrast, there is a charming low red asymmetric table by Ettore Sottsass from early in his career (around 1949), built for his own apartment. Simple as it is, it contains, as Raimondo says, “all the germs of his later pieces.”
The top lot, however, is a spectacular piece of contemporary design, a throne-like ‘Bone’ armchair (2008) – estimate £180,000-£220,000 – by the Dutch designer Joris Laarman. Designed by a computer, which was programmed to emulate the natural process of bone growth, this particular chair was cast from a mould using a mixture of Carrara marble powder and casting resin, giving it a beautiful chalky tone and subtle sheen.
A cast black marble version of this model sold at Sotheby’s New York in May 2018 for $300,000, a white version the December before, also at Sotheby’s New York, for $250,000, while an aluminium ‘Bone’ chair without arms, from an edition dated 2006, fetched a formidable £707,250 at Christie’s London in May 2019, on an estimate £400,000-£600,00.
In the accompanying film, The Design Edit invited Raimondo to introduce his top lots.
Phillips Design Sale, London Auction 17th October