Phillips' December Design Sale to showcase works by 20th century French masters and contemporary designers

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Phillips' December Design Sale to showcase works by 20th century French masters and contemporary designers
Jean Dunand, Pair of monumental vases, circa 1913. Estimate: $200,000 - 300,000.

NEW YORK, NY.- Phillips' forthcoming Design auction in New York will showcase remarkable works spanning the 20th and 21st centuries. The diverse array of materials offered reflects the category's breadth and the exceptional skills of designers worldwide, with selections encompassing French Design, Contemporary Design, and Ceramics, along with Italian lighting and other classics such as American and Scandinavian Design. The pieces will be on view from 30 November to 5 December at 432 Park Avenue, with the auction set for 2pm EST on 5 December. Noteworthy highlights in the sale include a pair of monumental Jean Dunand vases, Rembrandt Bugatti’s Petit Éléphant en marche, and a Marc Newson Orgone Chop Top coffee table, among others.

Cordelia Lembo, Head of Design, New York, said, “From one of Rembrandt Bugatti’s prized elephant sculptures, to ceramics by Lucie Rie and Hans Coper, to Marc Newson’s Orgone Chop Top coffee table – our December auction brings together a true range of all that this collecting category has to offer. Coming off the tremendous strength of the British ceramics single owner offering in London this November, the New York auction will present a survey of British and American ceramics – once again affirming Phillips’ position as champions of this market. These offerings will spark conversations with collectors, curators, and experts and demonstrate the enduring interest and robust market for these works. Over the past year, it’s been clear that there continues to be international and steadfast demand for the names that have come to define 20th century Design. We are delighted to present such a strong selection of works by these creators in our New York sale on 5 December and look forward to welcoming everyone through our galleries when the exhibition opens to the public on 30 November.”

20th Century French Design

Representing the most important designers working in France in the 20th century, makers such as Jean Dunand, Rembrandt Bugatti, and Paul Dupré-Lafon, among others, are featured through out the Design sale.

Jean Dunand is renowned for his work in dinanderie, the art of hand- hammered metal. Inspired by ancient amphorae, the pair of vases on offer in this sale are remarkable examples of this craft due to their extraordinary tall yet lean stature, standing at 37 inches (94 cm). Unlike other examples of the form from the designer which sit on a stand, the present vases sit directly on the ground adding to their dramatic stoicism.

An admired Italian-born sculptor represented in the sale is Rembrandt Bugatti with one of his most celebrated works, Petit Éléphant en marche, conceived circa 1912. Bugatti spent much of his time at the Jardin des

Plantes zoo in Paris and the Antwerp Zoo in Belgium where he tirelessly observed, with extraordinary empathy, how the animals behaved, moved, and interacted with each other and the public. The present offering – a sensitive portrayal of an elephant in motion – is one of only eleven known casts made of the model and, as signified by the letter “M” impressed alongside the foundry mark on the base, was included in the private collection of A.A. Hébrard. Bugatti’s elephants are amongst his most sought after works and Petit Éléphant en marche demonstrates his absolute mastery of the expressive potential of bronze.

Contemporary Design

The sale also encompasses an extensive array of exceptional works by contemporary creators, ranging from renowned figures like Marc Newson and Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne to talents such as Ron Arad, Hervé van der Straeten, and more. The present offering demonstrates that even as the market for contemporary design develops interest in the most seminal designers remains strong.

The present Orgone Chop Top coffee table is the quintessential emblem of Marc Newson’s relentless and often groundbreaking experimentations with various materials, processes, and techniques. The Orgone pieces varied in their object type and form, but they share a similar visual language, specifically an hourglass motif. In Newson’s Chop Top versions of his Orgone works, he “cuts” the tabletop in half and places glass on the top so that one can see the interior of the table. Four holes in the table’s interior, that give the appearance of vortexes, form the coffee table’s legs. This aspect of the design is similar to many of Newson’s works that play with dimensionality, revealing voids and centers.

In the past fifteen years, the work of François- Xavier and Claude Lalanne has gone from the private, cult domains of Yves Saint Laurent and the Agnellis to something akin to maximum exposure. The Crococurule in this sale is especially unusual in Claude’s oeuvre in that it incorporates a classical chair form, rather than imitation of branches or vines, as seen in her other furniture pieces. Roman in origin, the curule was a seat of honor reserved for magistrates and emperors. By replacing the typical fur with a cast of a crocodile skin, Claude rendered an honorific chair into pure sculpture, in the grandest Surrealist tradition. The naturalistic texture of the animal form cast in metal is a surprising juxtaposition between the cold material and the organic source of inspiration. This playful and unusual merger is signature to the Lalannes’ work making even the most variable work sought after by collectors internationally.


In the recent Phillips London Design sale held in November, the enduring allure of ceramics, particularly those crafted by Lucie Rie and Hans Coper, resonated worldwide, garnering immense results for their work. The New York Design sale continues this exceptional offering with pieces by Rie and Coper along with other ceramics by Jennifer Lee, Doyle Lane, Toshiko Takaezu, and others. This survey stands as a testament to Philips’ dedication and cultivation of this sale category and will be accompanied by remarks from important dealers, collectors, and experts in this field to further explore the significance of this collecting category.

Further demonstrating the valuable role of pioneering ceramics collectors, the sale will offer works from the collection of Stephanie A. Juster, whose collection includes works by Lucie Rie, Hans Coper, Ron Nagle, Toshiko Takaezu, Elizabeth Fritsch, and Gwyn Hanssen Pigott. Two works by Jennifer Lee come from the collection of Brian Harding. Collections such as these demonstrate the vibrancy of this market and present an entry point for new and returning buyers similarly inspired to collect in this category.

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