It has become a tradition for the “modern” crowd in south Florida to head to West Palm Beach on the Saturday following Thanksgiving for an enjoyable day of browsing, bidding and buying. That’s when Palm Beach Modern conducts its carefully curated Winter Fine Art, Decorative Arts & Modern Design sale. This year’s event, slated for November 30th, features 320 handpicked lots that auctioneer Rico Baca describes as “a very nice mix that hits all of the categories people are currently interested in.”
Traditional modern is a staple at Palm Beach Modern Auctions’ (PBMA) sales. “Furniture that is classified as traditional modern looks modern but has unmistakable classical elements,” Baca explained. “For example, the opening lot of our sale, a pair of T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings lounge chairs, would suit any modern interior, but if you analyze their design, which has a real purity to it, the classical influence is unmistakable.” The chairs are offered as a single lot with a $1,500-$2,500 estimate.
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright was the quintessential example of a visionary designer who could reinvent the classics and always get it right. A pair of nightstands Wright designed for Henredon, Lot 224, estimated at $2,000-$3,000, features Greek-key detailing, an embellishment Wright favored. So do Lot 223, a Wright for Henredon mahogany cabinet/server/10-drawer dresser estimated at $3,000-$4,000; and Lot 225, a two-drawer nightstand estimated at $1,500-$1,750. “Generally, we don’t include Henredon in our sales, but these particular pieces are desirable because they are Wright designs,” said Baca.
Several distinctive pieces of furniture from Vladimir Kagan’s early days with Dreyfuss are entered as Lots 15, 16 and 17, and each is accompanied by its original sales receipt. A Kagan-Dreyfuss walnut cocktail table with mosaic tile, a lined planter and shelf could bring $2,000-$3,000; while a two-door stereo cabinet carries a $1,500-$2,500 estimate. Kagan’s two-piece suite composed of a travertine wood and glass cabinet with separate wall-mounted cabinet with sliding glass doors is expected to make $3,500-$5,000.
Described by Baca as “Hollywood Regency,” Lot 38, a Karl Springer patterned end/side table is estimated at $2,000-$3,000. It is followed by a scarce Karl Springer lounge chair constructed of oak wood and reeds, with upholstered seat and back cushions. The chair is offered with its matching ottoman and is estimated at $3,000-$4,000.
Lots 53 to 60 contain large Murano lamps, some in pairs and nearly all designed and manufactured by Barovier & Toso. A fine pair of early glass and brass lamps by Ercole Barovier is estimated at $1,500-$2,000.
A great selection of Italian design is featured in the sale, with highlights including Lot 67, a Gio Ponti rosewood and chromed steel six-drawer desk estimated at $7,000-$10,000; and Lot 66, an unusual Osvaldo Borsani wood with brass 12-drawer chest of drawers, est. $2,000-$3,000. Lots 69-72 showcase the unmistakable design ethic of Aldo Tura. A still-affordable name, Tura’s metal and goatskin bar trolley with collapsible sides, ushers in the selection. A second Tura bar cart, Lot 70, is push style and made of lacquered goatskin. Each of the carts is estimated at $1,000-$1,500. Lot 71, also a trolley-style cart, carries a presale estimate of $500-$750.
Editions featuring bold graphics were a big hit with collectors at PBMA’s November 2nd auction, so a quality selection is being included in the company’s upcoming auction, as well. “There are lots of great names Damien Hirst, Jim Dine, Marc Quinn, Alex Katz and each of the works is nicely presented,” said Baca. An impressively sized entry is Lot 90, a Donald Baechler 9-color screen print, 34/50, titled “Flowers in Vase.” It measures 58 inches square and has an A.W. Massey Fine Art gallery label on verso.
Following the editions, the auction will take on a French flavor, with a superb selection of furniture by revered designers. Highlights include Lot 107, a chic Jacques Charpentier leather and stainless steel sofa, est. $5,000-$7,000; and Lot 106, a cutting-edge Boris Tabakoff dining table of chromed metal, glass and acrylic, with four matching chairs having upholstered seats. The estimate for the set is $4,000-$5,000. Other prized pieces of French origin include Lot 111, a Pierre Paulin “ABCD” sofa, est. $3,000-$5,000; Lot 112, a rare Maison Jansen “Petales” coffee table with four adjustable surfaces that rise for dining, est. $7,000-$9,000; Lots 115 and 116, writing chairs by Pierre Jeanneret, est. $2,000-$2,500 each; and Lots 117 and 118,“Hirondelle” tables by Jean Royere, est. $2,500-$3,500 each.
An important Italian design is Lot 140, a set of eight sleek Gabriella Crespi “Sedia 73” adjustable dining chairs of stainless steel with gray leather seats and backs. Accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from the Gabriella Crespi Archives, the group is expected to realize $25,000-$35,000 at auction.
Lots 151 through 155, inclusive, are allocated to the clean but elegant furniture designs of Christian Liaigre for Holly Hunt. The selection includes three sofas with pillows, a set of six leather dining chairs, and an armchair; with estimates ranging from $500 at the conservative end to $8,000 at the high end. “Christian Liaigre is a name that couldn’t have been hotter this summer,” said Baca. “He has an equestrian background and uses only the best leathers. He’s also a master when it comes to stitching.”
Four consecutive lots, from 237 to 240, are devoted to a collection of coveted Paul Evans brutalist furniture designs. Carrying the top estimate at $7,000-$9,000 is Lot 237, a pair of Evans “Patchwork” mixed metal and slate occasional/end tables. Lot 238 is a matching cocktail table estimated at $4,000-$6,000. Among the many other fine-quality mid-century lots are pieces by Saarinen, Eames, Jindrich Halabala, Milo Baughman, and Philip & Kelvin Laverne.
There’s a touch of the unexpected in every PBMA sale, and this time it appears in Lot 235, a pair of fantastic copper and wood sculptural doors by Roy R. Butler. Signed and dated 1978, the doors appear to have been inspired by Michelangelo’s fresco painting “The Creation of Adam.” The doors may close on one lucky bidder in the $10,000-$15,000 range.
Palm Beach Modern’s Nov. 30 auction will be held at the company’s exhibition center at 417 Bunker Rd., West Palm Beach, FL 33405, and will commence at 12 noon Eastern Time. Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.com or Artfact.com. Preview 10-5 Mon.-Fri.; or from 9 am. till noon on auction day. Contact: 561-586-5500, info[.]modernauctions.com.
Visit Palm Beach Modern Auctions online. View the fully illustrated auction catalog at LiveAuctioneers or Artfact.