A Super Hip Fair on the Upper East Side (no, that’s not an oxymoron)

On Thursday night, I went to the Armory for the opening of The Salon: Art + Design.  I’ve returned to the fair three times since then, so obsessed am I with the Salon dealers and their offerings!  Unlike some fairs, this one seems quite manageable: it’s smaller than most hosted by the Armory – it has only 53 dealers, while most have in excess of 60.  And this fair just oozes cool – the majority of dealers are European, many coming from Paris; and the American dealers are showing some young designers, like the Haas Brothers, who are 28.  Mostly, though, The Salon is a great place to learn and to find inspiration: the exhibitors are showing both blue-chip designers, like Les Lalanne, and Gio Ponti; as well as relatively new designers, like Vincent Dubourg, and the aforementioned Haas brothers, who have recently created a collection for Versace Home.

Here are some (of the many!) galleries whose exhibitions caught my eye:

Galerie Jean-David Botella, Paris

Talk about blue-chip!  Jean-David Botella has a rare suite of furniture by Carlo Bugatti; an incredible collection of convex mirrors with resin frames by Line Vautrin; and a blue rhinoceros and topiary turtle by François-Xavier Lalanne.  These artists are “have-to-knows” for your cocktail conversations!!


My colleague, Mary Beth Donohue, said she pictures this Lalanne turtle at one end of a swimming pool. I agree, and I think it would look wonderful on red brick.  (Except that the swimming pool costs less than the turtle!)


Galerie Jean-David Botella 2

A corner of Jean-David Botella’s booth. I am amazed by the delicacy and ephemeral beauty of Line Vautrin’s creations. In the lower right of this photograph is a collection of drawer pulls by Line Vautrin.

The Carpenters Workshop Gallery, London and Paris

I was blown away (quite literally) by the work of Vincent Dubourg, whose aluminum console tables and cabinets look as if they are exploding right in front of your eyes.


Vincent Dubourg, b. 1977
Commode Inner Vortex, flanked by Doors I and II

R 20th Century Design, New York

Most of the pieces in this space were by living (and in many cases, young!) artists.  In the reflection of the blossoming tree branch mirror by David Wiseman (b. 1981), you can see a group of serpent-like candlesticks by Jeff Zimmerman (b. 1968), made of white handblown glass.


David Wiseman will collaborate with designers on unique commissions. I would love to work with him one day – something to aspire to!

On my third visit to the show, I went on a tour led by Steven Gambrel (my new idol!).  He was also drawn to R 20th Century, but for something totally different: a Unique “Hex” Stool in brass tiles by the Haas Brothers.  I have to admit that I’d never heard of the designing duo.  Now I’m looking forward to seeing more of their animal-form creations at Art Basel in two weeks.  I’ll keep you posted!


Unique “Hex” Stool, 2012, Brass, The Haas Brothers, Los Angeles, CA,
17″ by 12″ by 15″


Robilant + Voena, London | M.F. Toninelli Art Moderne, Monte Carlo

I remember the dealers, Edmondo di Robilant and Marco Voena, from my days as a cataloguer in the Old Master Paintings department at Sotheby’s.  I loved this Mirror Painting by Michalengelo Pistoletto (b. 1933).  The artist made his first Mirror Paintings between 1961-1962 as a way to directly include the viewer and real time in his work, and to open up perspective.  What a fun concept!


My colleague Lauren Frasco is “included” in this Mirror Painting of a young boy and his dog.

I hope this post has provided some mid-week distraction (if not inspiration!).  It certainly has for me ;) !

- Elizabeth Pyne


Rago Re-Cap

At Rago, deals for McMillen and extravaganzas for big collectors can all be had!

I am happy to report (both for my ego’s sake and Rago’s!) that each of my three picks from last week’s auction sold for above their high estimate.  Most dramatically, the Bertoia sculpture, “Devon Dunes,” sold for $162,500, against an estimate of $50,000 – 75,000.

McMillen bought a great Paul Evans dining table (lot 744), and an orange-red Raymond Loewy cabinet (lot 1169).  I’m really excited about an Italian mirrored bar cabinet that we got for less than we’d anticipated.  It’s very rare to find an antique mirrored cabinet – this one is from the 1940s – without any cracks or missing panels, so I really couldn’t believe our luck!  (Oh, and did I mention the interior of the cabinet is illuminated?!)


Mirrored Bar Cabinet, 1940s
Antiqued, etched and beveled mirror


David Rago, co-director and founder of the auction house that bears his name, gave me his thoughts on the sale results.

Good Buys

Lots 1033 and 1034, The Bertoia Bush Sculptures, were reasonable at $22,500 each.  (Considering another Bush form sculpture sold a few weeks ago for $64,900, I’d say that Rago’s Bertoias were quite reasonable indeed!)


Harry Bertoia (1915-1978)
Untitled sculpture (Bush), Pennsylvania, 1970s
Patinated bronze and copper
9″ by 12″


There were some “out and out bargains” in James Mont.  With the exception of the “spinning top” lamps (see last week’s blog) and a pair of lounge chairs (lot 798), works designed by Mont were either passed or sold under the low estimate.  The dining set below, which had an estimate of $3,000-4,000, failed to sell last Sunday.  Putting aside that it’s by a famous 20th century designer, what a steal to be able to get an entire dining set for as little as $3,000!!  (If I bought this I would probably repaint it and reupholster the seats, taking away some re-sale value, I know!)


James Mont (1904-1974)
James Mont Design
Dining Set: table and seven chairs, New York, 1960s
Enameled Wood, printed vinyl
Chairs: 35″ by 20 1/2″ by 23″; table: 30″ by 72 1/2″ dia

What Was Unusually Hot

I didn’t know much about the furniture designer, Wendell Castle, before I went to Rago last week and saw his funky, zig-zaggy carved furniture.  Not surprisingly, Castle was strong across the board, with multiple bidders in the room, on the phones, and on the internet, vying for his pieces.  Lot 1056, a jaggy, amoeba-like coffee table, was one of my favorites, and a great example of his whimsical design.  Estimated at $18,000 – 24,000, this table sold for $26,250.


Wendell Castle (b. 1932)
Coffee table, “Theme and Variations I,” Scottsville, NY, 1996
Pommele sapele, chip-carved and crackle-lacquered wood
Carved Castle 96
16 1/2″ by 48 3/4″ by 34″
Provenance: Original Owner, purchased from the artist


Rago’s strong suit is American Organic Modern design, and some of the lesser known Studio designers brought surprisingly high prices last week.  One such designer is John Cederquist (b.1946), whose kooky fish bench, lot 1061, sold for $16,250 against an estimate of $5,000-7,000.  I have to admit that I was not crazy about this bench when I saw it at Rago; it looked to me like something that belonged at the Lobster Inn, in Southampton, N.Y…  But now that I’ve done a little research on John Cederquist and his work, examples of which are in The Smithsonian American Art Museum, and The Museum of Arts and Design here in New York City, I’ve decided that I might need my own Cederquist creation!


John Cederquist (b. 1946)
Folding Fish Bench from the “Conservation Series”, California, 1991-2007
Mixed woods, aniline dyes and epoxy resin
49″ by 81″ by 36″
Provenance: Original owners, purchased from the artist



I hope you’ve learned a little bit about Rago and 20th/21st Design from this post.  We are grateful to David Rago and his team, especially Anthony Barnes, who sent us the above images.

The next Modern auction is in March 2014.  We can’t wait!

- Elizabeth Pyne


A Favorite Auction in a Quieter Locale…

One of my favorite sales of the fall auction season takes place at Rago Arts, in Lambertville, N.J. Because of Rago’s proximity (it’s right across the Delaware River) to New Hope, P.A., the auction house has direct access to private collections with pieces by great Modern furniture designers like Paul Evans and George Nakashima, both of whom worked in New Hope.


An exhibition space at Rago, showing, among other things, a Paul Evans occasional table and “Patchwork” Cabinet; an Antonio Citterio sofa for B&B Italia; a Pedro Friedeberg “Hand and Feet Chair”; and an Angelo Lelli ceiling lamp



Me with David Rago, the owner of the auction house. I’ve learned so much from David and the specialists at Rago, like Jad Attal.  We also love Mick Byers!


Below are some of my favorite pieces from the October 27th sale. Note: I am not showing you any of the lots I am bidding on.  If there’s one thing I learned in my seven years at Sotheby’s, it’s that in matters of bidding, you must always keep (or clutch rather) your cards close to your chest!


Paul Evans

I absolutely love this cabinet (and I sure wish I’d seen it before writing my last post on Black & White).   I was hoping to buy this for a project of mine, but unfortunately, it’s too deep for the space in question.


Paul Evans (1931-1987)
Paul Evans Studio
Custom two-door Argente Cabinet, New Hope, PA, 1970s
31 3/4″ by 48 1/4″ by 21 3/4″
Provenance: Original Owner, purchased from the artist

Harry Bertoia

You may know the artist Harry Bertoia and his iconic wire furniture for Knoll, like the Diamond and Bird Chairs.  They are made “mainly of air” so that “space passes right through them.” (Bertoia’s words, not mine!)  This sculpture also has an ethereal quality.  I think it is particularly beautiful.


Harry Bertoia (1915-1978)
“Devon Dunes”, Pennsylvania, 1958
Patinated and Gilt Bronze
8 1/2″ by 49 1/2″ by 27 1/2″
Provenance available: Original Correspondence between artist and owner

James Mont

One of the more scandalous designers of the mid-20th century (the gangster “Lucky” Luciano was amongst his close friends), James Mont is known for his bold and whimsical pieces.  These table lamps, designed to look like spinning tops, may just be the cutest lights I’ve ever seen!


James Mont (1904-1974)
James Mont Design
Pair of Table Lamps, New York, 1960s
Turned and polychromed wood, wrought iron, two sockets, wicker and vellum shades
Overall: 30″ by 17″ dia

I’m sure you’re all dying to know: Am I getting a good deal when I shop at Rago?!

Let’s just say that whenever I stop bidding on a piece, more often than not, that same piece will show up a week later at a Manhattan dealer for three or four times the hammer price…

So yes…I’d say that I’m getting a good deal.  And so might you!

- Elizabeth Pyne