Category Archives: Peter’s Auction Picks

Peter’s economic, historical, and personal perspectives on select items in each auction. Posted daily during the auction preview.

Peter’s Post-Auction Picks: Top 5 Unsold Investment Lots

The December 11, 2011 Important Modern Art  & Design auction was LAMA’s highest grossing sale since opening in 1992.  The auction saw bargains to records and everything in between. The sell through rate was roughly 72%, but some may wonder, “What happens to the other 28% that did not sell?” Well, we sell these unsold lots post-auction, meaning you can beat the competition and purchase these pieces NOW.  These unsold lots are not to be taken lightly – some key works slipped through the cracks in Sunday’s auction. Peter Loughrey, Director of LAMA, picks his top five unsold investment pieces that are ready, waiting, and available for purchase. Better than money in the bank, these five pieces will definitely go up in value:

#5 //

Lot 52
Donald Judd
Untitled

Judd, a giant in the Minimal/Conceptual Movement, will always be a sought after name. These works have consistently sold for more, however this one is slipping through the cracks. (Buy it now price: $3,250)

#4 //

Lot 103
Frank Gehry
Desk

This unique desk, created the same year as the architect’s own iconic house, is a  beautiful large writing desk. Unique examples from Gehry are taken for granted in Los Angeles, but are coveted in Europe. You can buy this one close to the source for very little. Literally and figuratively a “blue” chip investment. (Buy it now price: $18,750)

#3 //

Lot 217
Philip Johnson
Floor Lamp

Other examples of this iconic floor lamp have recently sold in the $10,000 – 15,000 range, however exceptional examples have changed hands for over $25,000. This example belonged to the designer himself and has the preferred earlier bronze colored patina. Additionally, this example was used in the architect’s famous Glass House.  It is sold with a copy of a letter from the architect confirming the authenticity. This is a historical object that will never lose its appeal.  (Buy it now price: $31,250)

#2 //

Lot 317
Andy Warhol
Flowers

One of Warhol’s most iconic images and also the one that you will most likely never get tired of looking at (who wants to stare at Mao all day?), Flowers in this colorway is selling for a historically low price right now. If you don’t believe Warhol prices will go back to where they were in 2008, then this piece is not for you. However, if you want the surest thing we have ever sold, buy this now and let me sell it for you 5 years from now.  (Buy it now price: $25,000)

#1 //

Lot 152
Robert Graham
Elisa

One of Graham’s most iconic sculptures, Elisa is one of a grouping from 1993 where each casting had a unique patina. Since no two are the same, each work is like getting an original bronze by the late master. Other examples have a history for selling for more and will again in the future. (Buy it now price: $50,000)

See something you like?
Email Shannon@lamodern.com to make an offer.  For a full list of unsold lots please visit the LAMA Homepage.

Peter’s Auction Picks of the Day: December 10th

Young(ish) Artists in LA

Today we look at a five great artists who have emerged from the
Southland in the last thirty years. Each possess some version of that
rebellious, post/anti-hippie alternative spirit that was sometimes too
jaded to fight the good fight against the dark days of the big
shoulder-padded, Gordon Gecko, “Dynasty” era.

Now residing in Venice, CA, Raymond Pettibon first made a name for
himself with the underground music scene of the 1980s. An entire
generation of punk kids know him for his Black Flag and Sonic Youth
album covers, among others. While Pettibon expanded to fine art
mid-decade, his punk spirit positively throbs with excitement in
Thinking of You (Lot 55) (with 46 added drawings).

 

 

 

The standard edition of his published tome raised eyebrows, among
other parts, by only depicting large–very large–silhouettes of male
members, accompanied by the artist’s usual provocative text. However,
the version up for auction on Sunday is a very special copy of this
hardest of hardbacks–a one of a kind work in and of its self.
Pettibon (impishly? generously? both?) not only signed and dedicated
the book but added substantial text and filled dozens of the empty
opposing pages with ink and watercolor drawings of soaring, jaunty,
and yes, optimistic genitalia. Humorous as they all are, one senses a
master’s hand furiously at work. Insert a large, firm bid and this
big boy could be yours.

Jonas Wood’s Ewing’s Card (Lot 199) from the artist’s athletic trading
card portraits combines a LA denizen’s natural tendency to worship
the physical and the driven with a child-of-the-80s’ ironic distance.
In the words of art critic Roberta Smith, Woods’ is a “highly personal
but impersonally observed reality.” Ewing’s form is at once idealized
and disjointed–employing a ball player who is an icon for an entire
generation just now exiting its youth. Sigh.

Tom Sachs, who perfected his fabricating skills during an internship
with Frank Gehry in Los Angeles, has a lifelong obsession with that
ultimate Gen X icon of hipster disdain: Hello Kitty (Lot 200).
Meditating on his–and our–fetishization of luxury goods, Sachs takes
a Gucci hat box lid and in its interior paints a striking, zen-like
portrait of his beloved feline’s disembodied head. Sachs was
attracted to, as he puts it, the cartoon’s “almost Buddhist sense of
nothingness,” an apt metaphor for what Mike Nichols called, “the Los
Angelization of America.”

Emerging from the MFA program for the California Institute of the Arts
outside Los Angeles and now located in Palm Springs, Jim Isermann is
represented by the Untitled (Lot 92). This acrylic painting of one
highly-stylized flower in bloom is unguardedly lovely, with soothing,
“pretty” pinks and oranges in a peaceful array over a life-giving
sunny yellow orb. But as with most of Isermann’s oeuvre, this beauty
is double-edged. His works are always sincere in their optimism and
willingness to please, in their longing vision for a better day soon
to come yet… somehow–alchemically– a sadness creeps in. Isermann
verges on lamenting future Utopias past, paradises lost before they
were ever found. Always there is the fear that the current hope is
bound to disappoint.

This duality of reverence and remorse finds one of its most poignant
iterations in Tim Hawkinson’s Untitled (Double Flags) (Lot 201). As
we mentioned in the catalogue, Hawkinson uses distinctly inventive
methods with the skill of a special effects wizard to explore
existential themes of human consciousness, the passage of time, and
our relationship with the objects we create and consume. While Double
Flags can be seen as a nod to recent art history–an homage to Jasper
Johns’ own conflicted take on the American Flag–Hawkinson combines
visual audacity with technical mastery, allowing the intersecting Old
Glories to collide in a spectacular manner that mocks the worst of our
nation’s kitsch and faux-authenticity even as it transcends it. The
red stripes of one flag smash into the white stripes of the other and
where they meet they form the schmaltziest symbol of Americana, the
quaint, “unpretentious” checkered table-cloth. Hawkinson attacks how
the flag has been co-opted by some who have wrapped it in
sentimentality until it has become a divisive annointer of who is a
Good American and who is not. And yet… like Isermann, like
Johns… this epic in miniature seems to long for that which it
deconstructs, and seems willing to embody all that it questions. Even
those of us lost in the endless summer of LA still pine for
“realness”. Even for the Letterman-fed children of our most ironic
time, sincerity survives… hope survives.

Lot Information:

Lot 55
Raymond Pettibon
Thinking of You (with 46 added drawings)
Renaissance Society of the University of Chicago
1998
Book with original ink and watercolor drawings
Special edition
Inscribed on inside of front cover
12.25″ x 9.25″ x 1.25″
Regular limited edition of catalogue for Pettibon’s exhibition at the Renaissance Society in 1998 was 2000. This special edition features original drawings, overdrawing, and messages from the artist.
Estimate $18,000 – 25,000 

Lot 199
Jonas Wood
Ewing’s Card
2005
Gouache and pencil on Rives BFK paper
Signed and dated with title verso
Image: 27.75″ x 20.25″; Sheet: 30.25″ x 22.25″
Estimate $4,000 – 6,000 

Lot 200
Tom Sachs
Hello Kitty
circa 2000
Acrylic and pencil on gift box lid
16″ x 18.25″ x 1.75″
Estimate $8,000 – 12,000

Lot 92
Jim Isermann
Untitled
1985
Acrylic on wood board
Signed and dated verso
48″ x 48″ x 1.75″
Estimate $4,000 – 6,000

Lot 201
Tim Hawkinson
Untitled (Double Flags)
1990
United States flags and gingham napkin on canvas
Signed and dated verso
22″ x 21″
Estimate $6,000 – 8,000

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
Kayak
Iittala
designed 1953
Glass
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
Crystal
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

Peter’s Auction Picks of the Day: December 8th

Original Red

While walking around the showroom, it occurred to me how often my gaze turned to all things bathed in red. Modern designs tend to have simple shapes and silhouettes, yet the mere addition of a bold color can turn any object into a statement piece — not only for a given room, but for the artist himself.

Each of the following lots bear an original shade of red, synonymous with the designer and iconic to the modern movement.

Lot 286, the Charles & Ray Eames Ten Panel Screen is drenched in their representative red aniline dye. If I say the words  “Eames” and “red” this is the color that immediately comes to mind. This is what I love about Eames red:  it is so powerful and so colorful and yet it doesn’t take over the room if you don’t want it to. The wood and the dye are constantly interacting, forming a communion between modern and natural.

The Jean Prouve Antony Chair, Lot 111, comes in a form that you may not have seen before.  Many of us are familiar with the piece in its bare wooden form. Originally, however, the Antony Chair came with a colorful seat cover.  As the chairs began to hit the retail market 15 years ago, sellers threw out any covers that were not in flawless condition, opting instead to show the bare wood, which is striking in itself.  This tendency has made this chair with the original cover quite rare and desirable.  Hence, the example in this auction is a rare opportunity to enjoy this chair in its original and intact form.

Lastly, one could not write a piece about original reds in design without mentioning Frank Lloyd Wright’s signature color, Cherokee Red.  This auction features an outstanding example of the architect’s favorite hue with this side chair (Lot 274), custom designed for the legendary S.C. Johnson Wax Building. As Wright often covered his support beams and metal detailing with this color, I believe this reflects his love for Native American culture in particular and of the Southwestern landscape in general. I feel the reason he covered his support beams and metal work so often in this shade is because for him, it symbolized a monumental strength and solidity–not of a bland, modern gun-metal skyscraper or an artifact of old world dreary grey, but a color that captures the hope and exuberance of the American experience.

Lot Information:

Lot 286
Charles & Ray Eames
Ten Panel Screen
Herman Miller
designed 1946
Red aniline dye
Model no. FSW-10
Each panel: 67.7″ x 9.75″
Literature: Eames Design: The Work of the Office of Charles and Ray Eames, Neuhart, Abrams, 1989, pg 79
Estimate $8,000 – 10,000 

Lot 111
Jean Prouve
Antony chair
designed 1954
Metal and molded plywood with vinyl cover
33.5″ x 19.5″ x 27.5″
Provenance: With Anthony Delorenzo, New York. Private Collection, acquired from above c. 1998-99.
Literature: Jean Prouve, Galerie Jousse Seguin, 1998. pg. 148-149.
Estimate $15,000 – 20,000 

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 

Peter’s Picks of the Day: December 7th

Provenance

Provenance is one of those great subjects in the art and antique world that will always mysteriously add value to objects and works of art. Provenance can add value because it belonged to a celebrity, like Liz Taylor’s jewelry, which will forever be known as belonging to her. Those examples will always be more sought after than other similar examples that belonged to someone less famous.

Many times provenance is important simply because you have the complete lineage of the history of ownership of an object. In many cases, this is very important when you are talking about objects that may possibly be a fake or a forgery. Provenance becomes very important in proving that this actually has existed all through its life, which is the root of the word ‘provenance’. This auction features two pieces with exceptionally rare and special provenance. How often do you see works in 20th century design where listed on the provenance is the actual designer who designed the piece himself?

Lot 217 is a Philip Johnson floor lamp that was designed by the architect for his famous glass house in New Canaan, Connecticut who famously found that there was poor lighting design for a house that didn’t have any exterior walls, so he created with Kelly this unique standing lamp with a raised column that would produce a very bright beam of light that was reflected back down to the floor and would spread out to light the entire room. Lot 217 is the actual lamp that Philip Johnson designed and created for his house. In his letter he explains that this is the example from his house.

Lot 233 is a 1963 Studebaker Avanti R2, the most powerful production car of its day happens to be the only other fiberglass bodied production car besides the Corvette to be made in America. The car was famously designed by Raymond Loewy over a 2 week span in Palm Springs in the early 1960’s and the example we have in the auction was ordered from the factory and delivered to Raymond himself. Original documentation was found with Raymond Loewy’s name on it. There are also photographs of him standing next to the car with unique items delivered on this example that were delivered to no other versions of this model. In addition, there are small plaques he made for the side of the car and the dashboard which explains that this car was specially delivered to him in California in 1962.

Both the Philip Johnson floor lamp and Raymond Loewy’s Avanti are exceptionally rare examples of provenance where the actual designer is the first owner of the work. They will forever be seen as the most desirable example of the form in the future and as such becomes an important opportunity to acquire these works which may never be duplicated.

Lot Information:

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 233
Raymond Loewy
Avanti
Studebaker
1963
Model 63R2 (Super Charged)
Provenance:
Raymond Loewy, Palm Springs (c. 1962 – ?);
John Myer, Venice, California ( ? – 1986);
Joe Molina, San Fernando, California (1986 – 1987);
McCormick’s Exotic Car Auction, Palm Springs (1987);
Dennis Boses, Los Angeles (1987 – 1989);
Gene Watson, Washington D.C. (1989- 1998);
Private Collection, Los Angeles (1998 – present).
Estimate $60,000 – 80,000 

Peter’s Auction Picks of the Day: December 6th

What’s Next

Many times in our preview perspective bidders or just admirers of design ask me, what do I think is the next big thing, what is it that in a few years we will all look back and say “Wow, I should have bought that”?

In this sale there are many pieces that I think could be the next important objects that will be highly sought after. We have a long history at LAMA of introducing these pieces to the market well before there is a critical mass of buyers. For various reasons some objects are plentiful early on in the market place and as they become rarer, exhibited and publicized the price tends to increase accordingly.

Lot 120, the Chihuly chandelier is a tight tangle of fluid forms that resemble sea anemone, strands of kelp, and even mythic sea sprites. Comprised of over 190 individually hand blown works of glass they are assembled together to arrange a complex and pleasing mass of shapes and colors that epitomize Dale Chihuly’s inventive works. One might wait months or even years for Chihuly to create a work of this magnitude and typically pay in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, at auction now and in the near future extraordinary works like this will show up, and may be a tremendous opportunity to acquire works  without the waiting list or the large financial cost.  Certainly twenty years from now, I would not be surprised if someone looked back at the catalogue and say “Could you imagine back in 2011 there were Chihuly installations that were selling for so little?” Act now and you too can acquire what’s next.

Lot Information:

Lot 120
Dale Chihuly

Gilded Opal and Deep Garnet Chandelier
Studio
custom executed March 2004
Blown glass chandelier
Approximately 5′ x 6′
Estimate $40,000 – 60,000

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