• 90% sell-through rate on 446 lots
• Strong prices achieved for icons of modern design
• Noguchi ‘’Rudder’’ table and stools realize $124,200
Pasadena, CA—John Moran Auctioneers’ February 5th Decorative and Fine Art Auction was an exciting spectacle for collectors of mid-century modern design and Native American artifacts, the sale room energized by a crowd of very motivated bidders attracted by the high quality property consigned from private collections and estates. The large room at the Pasadena Convention Center was filled with hundreds of floor bidders, joined by more than 600 other prospective buyers bidding online and via telephone. The sale achieved a 90% sell-through rate for the 446 lots.
Much of the electricity in the highly charged atmosphere was generated by an exceptional group of furnishings by renowned mid-century modern designers. They were led by a dining set designed by Isamu Noguchi (1904 – 1988) for Herman Miller in 1944, comprising four ‘’Rudder’’ Model IN-22 stools and a Model IN-20 table. The discovery of the group, in the sewing room of the former owner, was a bonanza. Even a single Rudder stool is an exceptionally rare sighting. The Rudder stool, which is constructed of a shaped wooden seat mounted to a single parabolic wooden leg and two straight metal legs, was manufactured for only a short time, and the production line model was normally made with either a natural birch finish or an ebonized finish to the wood, with the metal legs in a chrome finish. The examples offered at Moran’s were unsigned, and exhibited certain idiosyncrasies, such as an unusual tobacco-brown stain on the wooden parts and a black finish on the metal legs, as well as tool marks to the hardware and other signs of handiwork not typical of production line pieces.
Offered singly in four lots, each carried a conservative pre-sale estimate of $3000 – 5000. Moran’s expectations for prices well above this level grew steadily in the days leading up to the sale, as inquiries poured in and interest from well-known dealers and modern design experts grew intensely keen. While the experts’ opinions varied, some of those who previewed the stools speculated that they were possibly prototypes made in Noguchi’s studio.
Two Italian marble sculptures are alluring 19th century works of art. The first, a seated maiden in a flowing, sheer sheath, poses with an open book to her side. Signed “A. Fulli”, the sculpture carries an estimate of $4000 to $6000. The second work, by Vittorio Caradossi (1861 – 1909), is offered at $10,000 to $15,000, and portrays a classical maiden inquisitively inspecting two doves who have alighted nearby.
When the stools finally went on the block, the phone lines were fully booked, but the most determined competitors chose to bid in person. The bidding for each lot showed the same pattern, starting off tumultuously, the bids flying fast and furious between the floor and phones with Auctioneer and President John Moran expertly controlling the melee, then winding down to a tussle between three floor bidders. Each stool ultimately went to the same buyer, individually realizing $24,000, $22,800, $36,000 and $30,000. Combined with the price of $11,400 achieved for the table, the group realized a collective $124,200. (All prices quoted include the buyer’s premium of 20% for cash payment or 22.5% for credit card payment.)
Other highlights from the modern design category include:
• Seven lots of verdigris bronze tubular patio furniture designed by Walter Lamb for Brown-Jordan, including tables, chairs, rockers, chaise lounges and a settee, for a total of 19 pieces, collectively realized $20,880
• A circa-1960 example of the Arredoluce ‘’Triennale’’ three-arm floor lamp, an Italian classic that is still in production (estimate $1500 – 2500) found a buyer at $3,368.75
• A color lithograph titled ‘’Dog Barking at Moon’’ by Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo (1899 – 1991) achieved $5,819 (estimate: $1500 – 2500)
• Three lots of art glass by contemporary American master Dale Chihuly (b. 1941), each consigned from a private collection in Seattle, Washington: a flamboyantly colored ‘’Macchia’’ basket (estimate: $2000 – 4000) realized $5,400, another ‘’Macchia’’ featuring a speckled cobalt body and red lip wrap (estimate: $2000 – 3000) that also realized $5,400, and a two-piece ‘’Seaform’’ set in striated pink with black lip wraps (estimate: $2000 – 3000) sold for $5,206
Arts and Crafts objects were also well represented in Moran’s twentieth century design selections, with twenty eight lots led by a large collection of art pottery as well as Gustav Stickley oak furniture, lighting and metal ware by Tiffany Studios and Dirk van Erp. Copper and mica lamps by West Coast craftsman Albert Berry (1878 – 1967) are a rare and much sought-after find, and the one offered at Moran’s was gracefully designed with a gently flaring bell-shaped shade. Offered for $2000 – 3000, it realized $11,400.
Based in Southern California, Moran’s is well known for its success in selling Native American objects, and since their record sale in June 2012 of a Navajo First-Phase Chief’s blanket for $1.8 million, Moran’s has attracted a deluge of consignments in the category. The house achieved yet more success with Navajo textiles on February 5th, selling a 1920’s pictorial rug woven in red, cream and black wool with cow figures in each of the four corners (estimate: $1000 – 1500 for $5,100, and a Second Phase woman’s wearing blanket for $5,100, well above the pre-sale estimate of $2000 – 4000. A Southern Plains beaded umbilical fetish also far surpassed expectations, realizing $2,280 (estimate $800 – 1200).
Moran’s is always accepting consignments of decorative and fine art, antiques and jewelry. Their next sale is scheduled for March 12th, and will feature Continental, British and American furniture, porcelain, silver, bronzes, glass and eclectic estate items, as well as American and European paintings and sculpture. Moran’s April 23rd sale will offer over 200 American paintings, and their May 21st HQ auction will be devoted to fine jewelry. More Native American and modern design items will be featured in their June 18th auction. For more information on any of these sales please contact the offices of John Moran Auctioneers at 626-793-1833 or