Design Diary

A personal review of design creations.

Phillips Autumn Design Auction

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On October 17th, Phillips is hosting its seasonal design auction sale with 156 lots from great designers of the 20th Century.

From Italian masters like Gio Ponti to Art deco maestro like Josef Hoffmann, the sale also include more recent works from Joris Laarman or Rick Owens.

Here is a very subjective and personal selection with various bid prices.

You can browse and download the catalogue here.

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Lot. 2: Rare cabinet by Pietro Lingeri (1930).

Burr walnut, veneered-wood, glass, brass, brass-plated steel.

Estimate EUR 7,900 - 10,200.

The IV Triennale introduced architecture as one of its central themes. The exhibition initiated Rationalism into modern architectural discourse. Five architects from the Gruppo di Como: G. Terragni, M. Cereghini, G. Giussani, G. Mantero and P. Lingeri, presented designs for a Modern Tailor’s Shop. The architects worked with 40 small workshops from the Brianza & Como areas to realise their designs.


Lot. 8: Important and rare illuminated drinks cabinet by Pietro Chiesa (ca. 1939)

Coloured mirrored glass, mahogany-veneered wood, mahogany, painted wood, laminated wood, glass, brass. Manufactured by Fontana Arte, Milan.

Estimate: EUR 79,200 - 102,000.


Lot. 9: Two ‘Sasso’ adjustable table lamps, model no. Lta 1 by Luigi Caccia Dominioni (ca. 1948)

Anodised and painted aluminum, brass, polished river stone. Manufactured by Azucena, Milan.

Estimate: EUR 17,000 - 22,600


Lot. 35: Table lamp, model no. 12827s by Vittorio Gregotti, Lodovico Meneghetti and Giotto Stoppino (ca. 1960)

Painted aluminum, brass, brass-plated steel, glass. Manufactured by Arredoluce, Monza.

Estimate: EUR 2,300 - 3,400

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Lot. 36: Pair of rare armchairs by Uno Åhrén (ca. 1931).

Painted elm, fabric. Manufactured by Svenkst Tenn, Stockholm. The present design was exhibited at the Swedish Exhibition of Industrial Art, Dorland House, London, 17 March–22 April 1931 and Svenskt Tenn’s inaugural furniture exhibition, Galerie Moderne, Stockholm, September 1931.

Estimate: EUR 3,400 - 5,600.

The founder of Svenskt Tenn, Estrid Ericson commissioned Uno Åhrén to design furniture for the company in the early 1930s. The clear distinction between the cushions and painted-wood frame of the present model armchair refects Åhrén’s functionalist approach to industrial design, whilst retaining a distinctively Nordic humanity through the use of natural materials. The armchair was paired with an abstract sealskin rug designed by the architect Jan Ruhtenberg at both the London and Stockholm exhibitions. Åhrén also designed a variation of the model in tubular metal, manufactured by Gebrüder Schürmann, Germany, for the International Exhibition for Interior Design (IRA), Cologne, which opened in October of that year. The armchair designs demonstrate the infuence of Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand and Pierre Jeanneret’s tubular steel ‘Fauteuil Grand Confort’ armchair, designed in 1928 and exhibited at the Salon d’Automne, Paris in 1929.

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Lot. 41: Sofa by Ragnar Östberg (1930).

Birch, fabric. Manufactured by Upsala Möblerings AB, Uppsala.

Estimate: EUR 4,500 - 6,800

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Lot 43: Coffee Table by Gio Ponti (ca. 1940).

Walnut-veneered wood, walnut, painted wood, glass. Together with a certificate of expertise from the Gio Ponti Archives.

Estimate: EUR 6,800 - 9,100

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Lot. 44: Mirror by Osvaldo Borsani (early 1930s)

Walnut, mirrored glass. Manufactured by Arredamenti Borsani Varedo, Italy.

Estimate: EUR 4,500 - 6,800

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Lot. 45: Tree lidded boxes, models nos. 1781, 2121 and 2183 by Fontana Arte (1960s)

Glass, copper, nickel-plated brass, painted wood, mahogany. Largest box acid-etched Fontana/Italy and incised with manufacturer’s mark FX.

Estimate: EUR 2,300 - 3,400

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Lot. 60: Rare bookcase by Gio Ponti (ca. 1950).

Cherry-veneered wood, cherry wood, laminated wood, brass. Together with a certificate of expertise from the Gio Ponti Archives.

Estimate: EUR 7,900 - 10,200

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Lot. 64: Flower-holder by Max Ingrand (ca. 1954)

Coloured Glass, glass, nickel-plated brass. Manufactured by Fontana Arte, Milan.

Estimate: EUR 3,400 - 5,700

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Lot. 65: Pair of rate table lamps, model no. 584/G by Gino Sarfatti (ca. 1957)

Acrylic, brass, painted steel.

Manufactured by Arteluce, Milan.

Estimate: EUR 7,900 - 10,200

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Lot. 68: Illuminated wardrobe by Gio Ponti (early 1950s)

Mahogany-veneered wood, Mahogany, glass, brass.

Together with a certificate of expertise from the Gio Ponti Archives.

Estimate: EUR 9,100 - 13,600

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Lot. 106: ‘Tapis volant’ (Flying carpet) daybed by Maria Pergay (ca. 1968)

Stainless steel, fabric.

Estimate: EUR 62,300 - 84,900

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Lot. 133: Settee by Augusto Romano (1940s)

Ash, fabric, brass.

Estimate: EUR 4,500 - 6,800

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Lot. 151: Table lamp, model no. M 3038 by Josef Hoffmann

Designed in 1919, executed 1919-1925.

Brass, fabric shade. Executed by the Wiener Werkstätte, Vienna.

Estimate: EUR 13,600 - 20,400

Design Auctions at Phillips

Lot 2 - Set of six armchairs and two stolls by Carlo Mollino (ca. 1959). Est. USD 20-30,000

Lot 2 - Set of six armchairs and two stolls by Carlo Mollino (ca. 1959). Est. USD 20-30,000

On June 6th in New York, Phillips is presenting 150 lots from great design masters of the 20th century for its last auction of the season.

With a prestigious list of designers, this auction sale is giving collectors a great opportunity to acquire some stunning pieces.

Here is a very personal selection of 12 creations (including the hero picture):

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Lot 6 - Wall Unit by Gio Ponti (ca. 1950).

Estimate USD 15-20,000. Spell-veneered wood, painted steel.

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Lot 7 - Adjustable floor lamp (model #1045) by Gino Sarfatti (ca. 1948).

Estimate USD 5-7,000.

Painted aluminum, brass.

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Lot 10 - Rocking Chaise (model #PS 16) by Franco Albini (ca. 1959).

Estimate USD 8-12,000. Walnut, fabric, cord.

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Lot 19 - Wall light by Venini (ca. 1950).

Estimate USD 3-5,000.

Glass, painted steel.

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Lot 25 - Pair of wall lights by Franco Buzzi (ca. 1952).

Estimate USD 4-6,000.

Polished and painted brass.

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Lot 36 - Illuminated bar cabinet by Giovanni Gariboldo (ca. 1949).

Estimate USD 7-9,000.

Maple-veneered wood, brass, glass.

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Lot 48 - “Banco Onda” by Jorge Zalszupin (ca. 1960).

Estimate USD 12-18,000. Stained wood-veneered plywood, chromium-plated metal, leather.

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Lot 51 - Console table by Vladimir Kagan (ca. 1952).

Estimate USD 8-12,000.

Walnut-veneered wood, walnut.

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Lot 62 - “Black and White Oval Pot” by John Ward (ca. 1996).

Estimate USD 4-6,000.

Hand-built glazed stoneware.

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Lot 85 - Unique “Butterly Love Sear” by Wendell Castle (ca. 1967).

Estimate USD 60-80,000. Stack-laminated oak

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Lot 125 - Important sideboard from the Maharaja of Indore’s Banquet Hall, Manik Bagh Palace (Indore) by Eckart Muthesius (ca. 1931).

Estimate USD 200-300,000. Stained American walnut-veneered wood, stained American walnut, sycamore, nickel silver drawer handles, white metal inlays.

'Tutto Ponti' from the spoon to the city

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The most iconic Italian architect and designer of the 20th century is settling in at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (MAD) for a rare and complete retrospective of his prolific career from 1921 to 1978. 

‘Tutto Ponti: Gio Ponti, Archi-Designer’ is a vibrant homage to the man who shaped our lives for decades, added iconic buildings to his home city of Milan and brought sophistication to pure lines of furnitures. It presents a chronological view of Ponti’s six-decade career in the fields of architecture, design, interior design and publishing. 

The main hall is punctuated by five sections featuring major commissions, furniture, lighting and textiles, as well as architectural projects detailed chronologically through drawings, models, photographs and films from the period.

Six “period rooms” conclude the visit with spectacular reconstructions emphasising the global aspect of his work. The garden-side gallery explores the collaborations that he undertook with major art-object manufacturers such as Richard Ginori, Christofle (hero picture) and Fontana Arte, as well as with artisans and smaller companies. 

Over 400 pieces, some of which have never left their place of origin, trace this multidisciplinary display that combines architecture, furniture and interior fittings for private homes and public buildings (universities and cathedrals). The exhibition design was conceived by the agency Wilmotte & Associés in collaboration with the graphic designer Italo Lupi. 

Every year in Milan, I go on a trail hunting when I am in town for the Salone del Mobile. According to Domus, there are 60 buildings in the city made by the Italian genius.

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After staring his career in 1921, he rapidly got his first award two years later at the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Paris in 1925.

The following year, he designed his first architectural work abroad, the Ange volant villa close to Paris, and collaborated with Christofle (Paris) and Venini (Murano). In parallel, Ponti created a series of modestly priced furniture with simple forms, called La Rinascente, for the department stores, thereby making the decorative arts accessible to the greatest number.

Thanks to his connections with the movement Labirinto which gathered designers and manufacturers, he was able to spread his ideas and promote new talents thanks to the exhibitions that he organised at the Monza Biennial, and especially through Domus, which he founded in 1928.

In the 1930s, his architectural practice took a modernist turn with the construction of Case Tipiche and the offices for the company Montecatini in Milan.

He designed lighting for Fontana Arte, silverware for Krupp, fabrics for De Angeli-Frua and Ferrari and furniture for Casa e Giardino.

In the 1940s, Gio Ponti diversified his activities with monumental frescos, oil paintings, and writing, opera and the cinema, creating new screenplays as well as sets and costumes for la Scala in Milan. At the end of the war, as a major protagonist for the “made in Italy” movement, he promoted Italian design abroad through his journal Domus and the exhibitions he organised. He also conceived of two emblematic objects: the aerodynamic coffee machine La Cornuta (1949) for Pavoni and the Leggera chair for Cassina.

From 1950 to 1960, now famous, Gio Ponti’s style reached an international audience with private architectural commissions in Venezuela, the United States, the Middle East and even Hong Kong. He created two of his masterpieces during this period: Villa Planchart in Caracas and the Pirelli Tower in Milan. Lightness, transparence, clarity, colour and simplicity: these were his key words. 

In 1957, the chair Superleggera, one of the lightest in the world, became the icon of his furniture designs.

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In the 1970s, he envisaged his architectural façades as if they were folded pieces of paper pierced with geometric forms, as in the Taranto Cathedral (1970, above) and the Denver Art Museum (1974). He also took a new approach to furniture design, which became more flexible, mobile, light and luminous in order to adapt the space to contemporary lifestyles.

The beautiful exhibition illustrate what Italian architect Ernesto Nathan Rogers (1909-1969) mentioned about Ponti: “from the spoon to the city”, a perfect embodiment of the personality of the Milanese architect, whose projects could range from the infinitely small to the infinitely large.

’Tutto Ponti’ runs until February 10th, 2019.

Important Design: A Personal Selection

Pair of benches by Ico Parisi (ca. 1950), fabric, oak-veneered wood, oak, painted wood. Est. GBP 8-12,000.

Pair of benches by Ico Parisi (ca. 1950), fabric, oak-veneered wood, oak, painted wood. Est. GBP 8-12,000.

The design auction season is back. On October 18th, Phillips will present its ‘Important Design’. Here is a personal selection.

With 76 artists, designers or architects listed for the auction in London, Phillips presents 166 lots with estimates between USD 3,500,000 and USD 5,155,000.

‘Important Design’ will offer a chance to purchase works by Diego Giacommetti, Sir Edwin Lutyens, Gio Ponti, Jean Royère, Charlotte Perriand, and Jean Prouvé. To those names, one can also include Ettore Sottsass, Jr. Ron Arad, Wendell Castle, Zaha Hadid, and Marc Newson.

I picked two mirrors: Lot 1: Max Ingrand, model no. 2045 (1964. Est. GBP 40 - 60,000) and Lot 31: Gio Ponti, Rare Table Mirror (ca, 1950. Est. GBP 7 - 9,000).

For the cabinet and table section, I chose Lot 3: Pietro Chiesa, Early drinks cabinet (1935. Est. GBP 5 - 7,000), Lot 39: Jean Royère, ‘Trèfle’ sideboard (ca. 1960. Est. GBP 80 - 100,000) and Lot 104: Bruce Mclean, Unique Console (1987-1988. Est. GBP 5 - 7,000).

An auction without light features will not be complete, so I selected the four items. Lot 63: Gino Sarfatti, Set of four wall lights, model no. 262 (ca. 1971. Est. GBP 4 - 6,000); Lot 88: Vilhelm Lauritzen, Pair of early and large adjustable table lamps (designed 1928. Est. GBP 15 - 20,000); Lot 131: Ettore Sottsass Jr, Unique ‘Urano’ ceiling light (ca. 1957. Est. GBP 50 - 70,000) and Lot 140: Angelo Lelii, Two ‘Cobra’ table lamps, model no. 12919 (ca. 1962. Est. GBP 4 - 6,000).

To finish with some colours, Lot 9: Venini, Pair of table lamps (ca. 1950. Est. GBP 5 - 7,000).