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Tim Andreadis
Department Head

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Published: 20 July 2017

Opposites Attract in MidCentury Modern Design

Over the last few sale seasons, Head of 20th century Design, Tim Andreadis, has kept tabs on trending designs. In retrospective, he noticed the vast differences between collectors and compiled a list of contradicting styles on the rise at auction.

 

Geometric Solids and Exploded Forms
The dissimilarity in these two pieces is abundantly clear. Though they were both created utilizing the same passion for design. On the left sits a a Karl Springer long chest circa 1977, while an Albert Paley coffee table resides on the right.

Springer found fame as a designer in the 1970-80s after opening his own design studio. The designer travelled extensively leading workshops, resulting in exposure to the new materials that drove him to fame. The geometric shapes he created utilized lucite, brass and sharkskin among others.

The long chest featured here is indicative of Springer’s aesthetic. It was created with polished stainless steel and mirrored glass. Last year at Freeman’s the chest sold for $11,000.

Just a few months ago Freeman’s sold a piece very different from the Springer chest, an Albert Paley coffee table, at the single-owner sale, 1,000 Years of Collecting: The Jeffery M. Kaplan Collection.Paley is one of the most distinguished metal sculptors in the world. He was the first metal sculptor to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Institute if Architects in 1995. Paley’s experience is varied. He worked as a jewelry designer after receiving an MFA from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia and a few years later accepted a commission from the Smithsonian museum to design the portal gates for the Renwick Gallery.

This extensive experience from small to large allowed Paley to experiment in other mediums and forge other functional items like the table shown above. The piece was fabricated from steel and glass and featured Paley’s signature and design date, 1991. The table sold for $8,125.

 

Natural and Man-Made Materials
American black walnut and rosewood told their story to George Nakashima on the left, while pictured on the right, acrylic and glass were made to tell a similar story of curved lines and flat surfaces by Jeffery Bigelow.

Both Nakashima and Bigelow created design styles all their own in the 20th century. Bigelow’s most popular work features man-made materials like acrylic, glass, bronze and lucite. Although the materials he used were’t necessarily a celebration of nature, they took on lines found in there, staggered table bases resembling shale-riddled hillsides.

The cocktail table featured here was part of the American Furniture + Decorative Arts sale in 2011. The table was created erected from acrylic and glass and showcases bowed legs and the designer’s signature from 1985. It sold for $2,500.

Nakashima took a very different approach to designing furniture than Bigelow. The architect and furniture designer believed in creating a new life for the trees he used in his work. Nakashima let the material decide what it should become and the results were breathtaking.

Featured here, a special Conoid dining table circa 1984. The table was created with American black walnut and rosewood and celebrates the trees natural shape. It was offered in Freeman’s 2016 Design sale and sold for well above its $30,000-50,000 estimate at $84,500.

 

Neutrals and Bold Colors
One is colorful, somewhat reminiscent of Henri Matisse’s fluid style while the other is heavily influenced by architecture and utilizes only black, white and what lies in-between. Both pieces featured here, however, were created by artists who utilized the form of the object to influence its final appeal.

Pictured on the left, a figurative vessel created by sculptor, Rudy Autio. Pieces by Autio can be found in prominent museums across the globe for their innovative forms and use of color. This large glazed stoneware vessel was crafted in 1995 by Autio and is emblazoned figures of women and horses. The piece was offered in the 2016 Art + Design sale and sold for $7,150.

On the right, a cabinet from Architect and artist, Piero Fornasetti. The piece is representative of Fornasetti’s heavy use of black and white and exhibits his passion for ancient architecture. This lithographically-printed and painted wood cabinet was offered in the 2016 Art + Design sale as well. It was estimated between $20,000-30,000 and sold for $42,250.

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