Published: September 15, 2020
Review by Greg Smith, Catalog Photos Courtesy Alderfer Auction
HATFIELD, PENN. – Twentieth Century art and design from both American and European makers made its way across the block at Alderfer Auction’s September 3 sale. The online-only sale went 95 percent sold for the Pennsylvania auction house.
Though the sale’s top end was largely dominated by Americans, the European design team of Ueli Burger, Elenora Peduzzi-Riva, Heinz Ulrich and Klaus Vogt snaked their way into the top lot as a DS-600 or “nonstop” sofa with 22 sections made $14,760. Produced by Swiss design manufacturer De Sede, the sofa has attained cult status for its customizability of form and length. According to De Sede, the sofa derived inspiration from the Tatzelwurm, a mythical lizard-like creature with a cat head that appears in alpine folklore.
Rolling in behind were two works by father and son Harry and Val Bertoia. Selling for $5,228 was a sonambient sculpture by Val with long beryllium copper rods that rose 80 inches high. The brass base was marked “308.” Behind at $3,075 was a Harry Bertoia suspended rod sculpture in brass, which was a collaboration of sorts. The catalog noted that Val had converted the work, with 477 decorative holes, into a gong. It measured 16½ inches diameter and included a certificate of authenticity.
American designer Vladimir Kagan was featured with ten lots in the sale. Selling the best were three lots of four swivel armchairs, two of which sold for $2,768 and the other $2,091. The chairs featured a maple frame and an orange suede upholstery. Designs in a burl maple veneer proved popular, with a sofa table on a lucite base taking triple estimate at $2,337 and a continuous form sofa table with brass and chrome trim selling for $2,214. A burl maple console cabinet with tambour doors and a slide out platform brought $738.
Artwork complemented the design offerings, led by an Alexander Calder signed lithograph that brought double estimate at $2,767. “Point of No Return” was numbered 88 of 100 and measured 21¼ by 28¼ inches. At the same price was “L’Occupation,” an original oil on paper by Red Grooms that featured images of Superman, Nietzsche’s A Critical Life and Édith Piaf. Silhouettes of tanks, soldiers and barbed wire were overpainted across the entire work. Piaf is among France’s most celebrated performers of the Twentieth Century, though she was labeled a traitor and collaborator during the World War II Nazi occupation for having performed at cabarets and brothels reserved for German officers and French collaborators. She defended herself after the war and claimed she was instrumental in numerous escapes from prisoner camps, where she also performed. She was forgiven and her stardom only grew from there until her death at age 47 due to liver cancer.
Other popular furniture designs include a 102-inch example of George Nelson’s platform bench, which sold for $1,230 after 12 bids. Produced as part of his first collection for Herman Miller in 1946, Nelson’s bench remains an iconic design that produces solid sales for the company even today. Though they were without cushions, a pair of lounge chairs designed by Ib Kofod-Larsen for Selig sold double estimate for $1,169. From the same designer and company came a sled chair with a teak frame, also without cushions, that brought $800.
Apart from the Bertoias, other sculpture was found in the sale and at more modest prices. Among them were two Curtis Jere steel welded wall-mounted works featuring a flock of seagulls that took $861 and $984. Continuing in the aviary theme was an 84-inch-tall stone Shona sculpture of a bird tree by William Murenza, a Zimbabwean artist who is from a family of sculptors. The work sold for $800. Another Shona work in the sale hailed from Zimbabwean Christopher Thandi, who was also from a family of artists. That sculpture, an 81-inch-tall work of two giraffes with their necks intertwined, brought $554. Rising 74 inches tall was a steel and acrylic sculpture from contemporary Massachusetts artist David Phillips that sold for $554. The work featured spiraling and tiered platforms of welded steel, each platform with a colored acrylic cylinder rising from it. Another Phillips work appeared in the auction, though with a drastically different brutalist style. The form featured three concentric rings welded to each other at angles with drip welds coming off the sides. Bidders took it to $400.
Alderfer has a full line up of online sales, including a doll sale on October 7. For information, www.alderferauction.com or 215-393-3000.
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