Peter’s Auction Picks of the Day: December 5th

Architectural Designs

There are several important architectural designs in this auction that are getting a  lot of attention and have been previously been published and  used in various exhibitions for example the floor light by Philip Johnson (Lot 217), which happens to be Philip Johnson’s own floor light from his glass house in New Caanan, Connecticut. Other examples were produced and other important collections, private and public, have various examples of this lamp.

Two Frank Lloyd Wright chairs in this sale have been seen many times in many exhibitions, including the wonderful Cherokee red office chair from the Johnson Wax building (Lot 274).

However, I think my favorite design in the sale that has a close connection to architecture is Rodney Walker’s custom coffee table (Lot 190). This table was the architect’s own coffee table, which appeared in many of the press photos for his own home. In fact when he re-designed the house for his family the press photos again show the same table, one of the only designs that transferred from the old house to the new house.

It has a wonderful shade of green plastic laminate top, which is edged  in a wood veneer. It is held up by three impossibly thin, elegant bent plywood legs, which give the effect of a floating free-form shape, almost like an element from a Calder mobile or a Hans Arp sculpture, floating just inches off the ground. This shape is made of several complex curves and may be among the first kidney-shaped coffee tables of the post-war period. Unlike the other architectural elements in this sale, here is truly a unique piece that has yet to be widely viewed and is an excellent candidate for upcoming exhibitions on post-war architecture and design in California.

Lot Information:

Lot 190
Rodney Walker
Custom coffee table
executed c. 1950
Wood with Formica laminate top
10″ x 80″ x 42.25″
Designed and built by Rodney Walker and pictured in September, 1952 House Beautiful in the Walker family home on Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles, where they lived from 1951 to 1956. Also part of the interior design of Walker’s family home in Ojai, where the family lived from 1958 to 2003.
Provenance: Craig Walker, California; Private Collection, California; Literature: House Beautiful, September 1952
Estimate $5,000 – 7,000 

Lot 217
Philip Johnson
Floor lamp
Edison Price, Inc.
designed 1953
Bronze, painted steel, and aluminum with original power transformer of bakelite and steel.
and Richard Kelly
40″ x 25″ diameter with shade
Accompanied by copy of a letter of provenance from Philip Johnson
Literature: Design 1935-1965: What Modern Was, Martin Eidelberg, Abrams, 1991, pg 204
Provenance: Philip Johnson, New York; Private Collection, California
Estimate $25,000 – 35,000

Lot 274
Frank Lloyd Wright

Side chair
Made by Metal Office Furniture Company (later Steelcase, Incorporated)
designed 1936-39
35″ x 18″ x 20.5″
Custom designed for the S.C. Johnson Wax Building
Literature: Frank Lloyd Wright Interiors and Furniture, Heinz, St. Martin’s Press NY, 1994, pg 185
Estimate $20,000 – 30,000


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