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Artnet Design

by Brook S. Mason

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Leading off the this season’s design sales is the design auction at Phillips de Pury & Company, which kicks off at the firm’s Park Avenue showroom at 2 pm on May 25, 2011. The 176-lot sale, which is expected to fetch $2.7 million-$3.7 million all told, features 20th-century and contemporary design along with studio ceramics by Brit legends Lucie Rie and Hans Coper as well as Japanese master Sueharu Fukami, Italian designer and Memphis founder Ettore Sottsass and others.

The most gripping ceramics lot has to be Katsuyo Aoki’s ghoulish porcelain skull, Predictive Dream XV, 2010. Pegged to bring $6,000-$9,000, this ceramic nod to Damien Hirst by the Tokyo-born female artist comes with its own aluminum carrying case.

Speaking further of ceramics, Maarten Baas’ dining table and chairs from 2006-07, titled Clay, is also on the block. Baas hand-modeled these furnishings then lacquered them in kindergarten colors like orange, green and blue. The table is estimated at $30,000-$40,000, while the set of chairs is $12,000-$18,000.

The top lot is bound to be the Harry Bertoia stainless steel Dandelion sculpture, ca. 1960, estimated at $150,000-$200,000. In the last decade, fans of midcentury design have led the way in energizing the works of this sculptor. 

Also on the block is the Tokyo-based design firm Nendo’s iconic Cabbage Chair, ca. 2008, made of reams of tissue fabric, with an estimate of $12,000-$18,000 (edition of 40). Nendo’s fluttery object is prized by museums and can be found in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Cooper-Hewitt and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, among others.

What’s more, Nendo is about to get the full museum treatment, as the High Museum of Art in Atlanta has commissioned an entire installation of 12 pieces, from tables to chairs, for “Modern By Design,” June 4-Aug. 21, 2011. The High owns three Cabbage Chairs, no less.

Wedged in among examples by the usual designers like Charlotte Perriand and Vladimir Kagan is a walnut and lacquered wood sideboard from 2000 by Seattle designer Roy McMakin, who shows his hybrid takes on Shaker simplicity at Matthew Marks Gallery in Chelsea. The sideboard is long (close to ten feet), lean and surprisingly chic, and estimated at $30,000-$40,000.

Among McMakin’s admirers is artist John Baldessari, reportedly to the point that the California artist’s entire home is filled with his designs. And last year unconventional San Antonio art space Artpace devoted a solo show to McMakin, titled “Other Chest of Drawers & Other People.”

Sotheby’s New York 20th-century design auction is slated for a little later, June 15, 2011, while Christie’s sale is on the following day.

BROOK S. MASON is U.S. correspondent for the Art Newspaper, and also writes for the Financial Times and other publications.