Tag Archives: George Nelson

Save the Date for LAMA’s Best Sale Yet

Save the date for the
December 11, 2011 
Important Modern Art & Design Auction,
LAMA’s most impressive sale
since opening in 1992.

Highlights include:

a 1906 Greene & Greene linen cabinet from the Dr. W. T. Bolton House #3

one of two unique George Nelson Marshmallow sofas

John Chamberlain mixed media relief sculpture from 1962

Diamond dust Shoes by Andy Warhol

one of only a handful of Isamu Noguchi Chess tables known to survive


Andy Warhol
Screenprint with diamond dust
From edition of 60
40.25″ x 59.5″
Signed with edition verso
Estimate $70,000 – 90,000

Timeless Timepieces: George Nelson’s “Radically Modern Clocks”

“What is a clock, anyway?”

In the late 1940s, George Nelson and fellow designer Irving Harper were sitting around a table with their team at the Howard Miller Clock Company. After someone posed this simple question, they began sketching and came up with a fundamental design of six lines bisecting at a common midpoint. This scaffolding became their elemental blueprint from which a myriad of clocks evolved for the next forty years.

Under the direction of George Nelson (1908-1986), architect, writer, and industrial designer, the Howard Miller Clock Company produced imaginative wall and table clocks that epitomized twentieth-century modern design. When Nelson joined the team at Howard Miller in 1947, he was frustrated with the “Kleenex culture” of “disposable” American consumer products and sought to establish a distinct niche in a market that he saw as producing “things to use and throw away”. The result was a series of “radically modern clocks”.

He believed that people seldom used numbers on a clock to tell time; rather, they approximated the hour based on the position of the hands. He also observed – due to peoples’ preference for wristwatches – that the function of wall clocks had transformed into “decorative elements in the furnishings of rooms.” The chrome Spoke clock (1955) demonstrates this seamless minimal design that functions effectively as a timepiece with large hands that point to twelve number spaces.

Throughout the 1950s and 60s, the company began experimenting with unusual materials and intricate, playful features. The Motion Notion line, designed in 1959, may have been inspired by Nelson’s collection of antique toys. This Motion Notion table clock, rather than traditional hands, incorporates striking geometric forms attached to rotating discs to indicate time. According to a contemporary critic, the clocks in this series transcended their primary function and became “conversation pieces”. Until his death in 1986, Nelson continued to innovate household objects while fulfilling his design objective: “The purpose of good design is to ornament existence, not to substitute for it.”


Contributing Writer, Paul DesMarais

Lot Information:

Lot 13
George Nelson  
Spoke clock  
Howard Miller, designed 1955  
Model no. 2227  
Retains Howard Miller label verso  
Estimate $1,000 – 1,500
June 26, 2011 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot 21
George Nelson  
Motion Notion table clock  
Howard Miller  designed 1959  
Model no. 2270 C-PB  
Retains Howard Miller label  
6″h x 5.25″diameter  
Estimate $6,000 – 8,000
June 26, 2011 Modern Art & Design Auction


Eisenbrand, Jochen, ed. George Nelson: Architect, Writer, Designer, Teacher. Wel am Rhein: Vitra Design Museum, 2008. Print.

Peter’s Auction Picks of the Day: March 3rd

The Classics

This sale is exciting because of all the rare and sometimes obscure designs we happen to be offering in this catalogue. It is not every sale that we have unique works by Sottsass, architectural relics by Albert Frey, and superb provenanced examples from Billy Haines.

But let’s not forget about the classics…

Great examples by Charles Eames, George Nelson and Alexander Girard have a tendency to go overlooked with so many attention-grabbers. The upholstered bench by Alexander Girard, Lot 10, is an outstanding, one-owner survivor that is nearly impossible to source. It also comes with three nice large swatches of Girard designed fabric.

The two desks in the auction by George Nelson (Lot 150 and Lot 152) are both excellent examples from the more delicate Sway desk from 1956 to the more robust Roll Top desk from 1964. These are not only nice, original examples from the period, but they are also very good value pieces, compared to any new desk you see today. 

The Charles Eames ESU-421-C (Lot 180) is also a fine example, which is nearly identical to the model currently in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum in New York. I would suggest taking a second look at this piece, as now it is probably the best time to acquire a work of this importance. It’s never a bad idea to take a long view of collecting like the Met has.

Lot 10
Alexander Girard upholstered bench
Model no. 66333
Herman Miller
designed 1967
Retains remnants of upholstery tag together with three Girard fabric samples two are “Quatrefoil” and one “Miverel Stripe”
Bench: 14″h x 36″ x 36″
Estimate $3,000 – 5,000

Lot 150
George Nelson
Swag Leg Desk
Model no. 5850
Herman Miller, designed circa 1956
Retains Herman Miller medallio
34.5″h x 39″w x 29″d
Estimate $2,500 – 3,500

Lot 152
George Nelson
Roll Top Desk
Action Office Series
Herman Miller, designed 1964
33″h x 66″l x 32″d
Estimate $3,000 – 5,000

Lot 180
Charles & Ray Eames

Storage Unit
Model no. ESU-421-C
Herman Miller, designed 1950
58.675″h x 47″w x 16.75″d
Estimate $16,000 – 20,000

Photography for the May 23, 2010 Auction Catalog

Yesterday we officially started photography for the May 23, 2010 Modern Art & Design Auction Catalog. Once photography is done we will go straight into designing the catalog, which will be available for purchase at the beginning of May.

George Nelson Desk with Return

Durot Chair and Bertoia "Diamond" Chair

LA Modern Auctions Preview Day 1: Peter’s Picks

The day has come, the LA Modern gallery is now open to the general public for preview. Preview is open through Saturday December 5th, leading up to Auction Day, which is December 6th.   Today there was buzz around the Stan Bitters Ceramic Garden Table and Stool Set, Lot 238, probably because we rarely sell items by Bitters that are not pots and planters. At least one previewer has remarked that this set has an appeal regardless of the name and could image it in any outdoor setting.  Stan Bitters’ remarked on his table and stools saying, “This is a classic ceramic garden table and stool set that I designed in the 60’s for Hans Sumpf Co. This stool represents the classic flower form applied to stool tops, tables, and pots.”

Stan Bitters Ceramic Garden Table and Stool Set, Lot 238, Estimate $2,000-3,000

Also, the George Nelson “CSS” Unit, Lot 38, received attention today. The design is modular so that shelves can be lowered and raised or added and subtracted as needed. Designed in the late 50s the line was available into the early 70s. Peter commented on the shelf stating, “the ‘CSS’ is a Mid-Century classic, incredibly utilitarian. Great as a small workstation or can be expanded with growth.” This particular example has two cylindrical lamps, which are getting to be very rare. The interior of the drop down desk has small drawers and cubbyholes to hold documents and letters.

George Nelson "CSS" Unit, Lot 38, Estimate $5,000 - 7,000