"The French Eye: Modernism, Style & Design" auction at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg in New York on Apr. 25, 2002, did quite well, totaling $1.2 million with premium, just about in the middle of the presale estimate. About 95 percent of the 85 lots sold (many of the lots had no reserve, and the house charged a commission for the sale). The material came from a California home that had been styled by Robert Couturier; its owners were not disclosed.
The top lot, a large (ca. 48 x 40 in.) faceted octagonal mirror by Serge Roche, ca. 1935, picturesquely marked with signs of age, sold for $114,700, above its unpublished presale low estimate of $100,000. Mirrors proved to be in exceptional demand at the auction, with three others from the 1950s designed by the Surrealist jeweler Line Vautrin going to dueling telephone bidders for upwards of 10 times their estimates, at $33,350, $23,000 and $14,950, respectively. "One discovery of the sale," said Phillips' expert James Zemaitis, "is the market for mirrors by Vautrin."
"And Royere is almost unstoppable," Zemaitis added. The distinctively designed pair of six-light sconces, fashioned by Jean Royère with a tubular red-painted metal framework ca. 1950, sold for $68,500 (est. $30,000-$40,000). The Royère pair of wrought-iron chenets, ca. 1950, which bring a rare modernist panache to the lowly andiron, sold for $25,300 (est. $5,000-$7,000).
The rage for Jean-Michel Frank, on the other hand, seems to have peaked. An elegantly simple dressing table of polished sycamore with a fold-up mirror, ca. 1935, sold for $57,500, beneath the presale estimate of $60,000-$90,000, and the Frank daybed, ca. 1940, went for $32,200, also well under its presale low estimate of $50,000.
The auction opened with several pairs of gilt-bronze doorplates by Diego Giacometti; one lot of two pairs sold for $14,950, well over the high estimate of $9,000. Giacometti's plaster models for a lion, cat and leaf decoration went for a song, selling for under their $5,000 presale estimate for $2,300, $2,185 and $2,300, respectively.
The next furniture sale at Phillips New York is "20th-21st Century Design Art," with items ranging from Mies and Panton to contemporary, on May 22, 2002.