Peter’s Auction Picks of the Day: December 9th

A Moment of Clarity

Since yesterday we looked at what a great master can do with the color red, today I thought we’d go the opposite direction and look at some fabulous examples of what an artist can do with works drained of all hue, yet reflect and refract every color in the rainbow; in other words, objects made of glass.

Timo Sarpaneva was a key figure in establishing Finland as an innovative force in modern design–and glass was his most famous medium.  Sarpaneva’s fulsome, organic shapes were already hailed in US publications by the time he approached the majestic Kayak (Lot 224) in 1957.  Less canoe than a speed boat of the future or the Nautilus as interpreted by spring water, one feels a work of art perfectly at ease, yet its shape cuts through the air like a diamond bullet caught in freeze frame.

One of the most charming works in our December sale is by another Finnish design great, Kaj Franck, whose Chimes (Lot 36) dangle like daisy-chained raindrops in a musical row.  In a window sill, they’re brilliant in the daytime and glamorous at night.  Placed deeper in a room, the perfectly crafted bulbs bring whimsy, airiness, and redefine any background.

For that special host with nothing to hide, not even the tea bags, may we serve up Wilhelm Wagenfeld’s classic 1931 Bauhaus-influenced Tea Set (Lot 301)?  Its sleek and unsentimental industrial design is softened just enough by the delicacy only glass provides.

But proving this elusive material doesn’t always soften its environment, let us examine the Glass Armchair by Shiro Kuramata (lot 248). This artist, whose designs are often compared to haiku for their spare “visual” poetry, uses sharp, precisely cut planes of glass to reveal a decidedly uninviting and precarious perch. However, with only 40 produced, it is sure to be a desirable form in the future, making for a great potential investment.

What’s lost in even the best catalogue photos of any mirror is its primary function: how does it, literally, reflect the room in which it presides?  Neal Small’s Angled Mirror (Lot 439) is all 70s, upscale, NY apartment fabulous, but placed in context, the mirror fragments and deconstructs anything in its path.  In our gallery, Small’s glammy wonder is currently neighbors with the sexy Avanti automobile–and every chiseled reflection turns the silky car into a Cubist masterpiece.  Clear glass doesn’t always clarify–in the hands of a great artist, it can downright fool you.  With these pieces, truth and lies are equally beautiful.

Lot Information:

Lot 224
Timo Sarpaneva
designed 1953
Model no. 3867
Etched “Timo Sarpaneva Iittala 57″
1.5″ x 13″ x 2.75”
Literature: Finnish Glass: Brochures from the 1950s, Finnish Glass Museum, 1994, pg 13
Estimate $20,000 – 25,000

Lot 36
Kaj Franck
Chimes (10)
Nuutajarvi Notsjo
designed c. 1955
Longest piece: 25.5″h
Distributed by Frank Bros.
Estimate $3,000 – 5,000

Lot 301
Wilhelm Wagenfeld
Tea Set
Schott & Gen Jena’er Glassworks, Jena, Germany
designed 1931
Marked “Schott + Gen Mainz JenAer Glas” and “Jenaer Glas Teho”
Pot: 4″ x 9.5″ x 6″; Tray: 11.25″; Sugar: 2.25″ x 3.75″; Creamer: 1.75″ x 5″ x 3.875″; Saucers: 5.75″; Cups: 1.5″ x 5.25″ x 4.325″ and two are 1.75″ x 4.75″ x 3.75″
Comprised of pot, infuser, tray, sugar bowl, cream, and 9 cups and saucers
Estimate $2,000 – 3,000

Lot 248
Shiro Kuramata
Glass armchair
Mihoya Glass Co., Ltd, Japan
designed 1976
Laminated glass
From an edition of 40
35.25″ x 35.25″ x 23.75″
Estimate $30,000 – 50,000

Lot 439
Neal Small
Angled Mirror
c. 1970s
Mirror on painted plywood mount
34″ x 58″ x 4″
Estimate $1,000 – 1,500

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