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Strong international turnout for Palm Beach's Modern's April 11 Mad Men Tribute Auction
George Nakashima (American, 1905-1990) geometric triple cabinet with front sliding doors, $17,080. Palm Beach Modern Auctions.

WEST PALM BEACH, FLA.- Bidders didn’t want the fun – or the bidding opportunities – to end at Palm Beach Modern’s April 11 Mad Men Tribute Auction, the company’s highest-grossing sale of the winter season. In all, the 550-lot selection of premium-quality midcentury furniture, art, decorative accessories and luxury goods realized $900,000 (all prices quoted include 22% buyer’s premium).

“There were more than 600 bidders online through LiveAuctioneers and probably 125 people in the audience who stayed for hours into the auction, even after their lots of interest had sold,” said Rico Baca, auctioneer and co-owner of Palm Beach Modern Auctions (PBMA). “Phone lines were especially busy for the art and Nakashima furniture, and we had a record number of absentee bids.”

An emphasis had been placed on securing midcentury pieces by the most sought-after designers from Italy, France, Denmark and the United States as an homage to the final season of AMC’s smash hit TV show Mad Men. “More than any other media influence of the past 20 years, Mad Men awakened a whole new generation of buyers to the décor and fashion of the late 1950s through 1960s,” Baca observed.

Modern furniture – which has roared at past PBMA auctions – continued its winning streak, with intense competition for “name-brand” pieces. It was also a very good day for modern art, especially works by top-tier 20th-century artists. “With each sale we conduct, there is increasing interest in original works, editions and sculptures. We are very focused on developing this area of our business,” Baca noted.

The highest-priced lot of the day was a 33½ by 22½-inch original artwork by Oswaldo Guayasamin (Ecuadorian, 1919-1999), a master painter and sculptor whose depictions of human and social inequalities brought him international recognition and many prestigious prizes. Accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from the Foundation Guayasamin, the painting in PBMA’s sale settled within estimate at $39,040.

An Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987) screenprint titled Flowers is pictured in the 4th edition of Andy Warhol Prints: A Catalogue Raisonne 1962-1987. Formerly in the collection of Dimitri Levas, New York, it was bid to $21,960, the upper end of its estimate range. Also, a large original Donald Sultan (American, b. 1951-) charcoal work titled Black Lemons and Eggs surpassed its $8,000-$12,000 expectation to close at $15,000; and a lithograph/screenprint titled Eskimo Curfew, from a Frank Stella (American, b. 1936-) signed edition, changed hands at $7,930.

Of several Harry Bertoia (Italian/American, 1915-1978) sculptures entered in the sale, an abstract titled Hedge, which was accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from the artist’s son, Val Bertoia, fared best at $8,540.

Leading the midcentury furniture offerings was a pair of versatile Philip & Kelvin Laverne (American, 1907-1987 and b. 1937, respectively) Etruscan tables that could be used individually or combined to form a dining table. The versatile duo made $32,500.

A handsome George Nakashima (American, 1905-1990) geometric triple cabinet with front sliding doors was a three-dimensional testament to the revered craftsman’s training in architecture (masters degree, MIT). It finished close to its high estimate at $17,080, and was followed by a Nakashima burl wood lamp, which sold for $9,760.

Two sophisticated designs by Jacques Duval-Brasseur (French) were auctioned consecutively and with pleasing results. An illuminating center hall table whose freeform tree-shape base “sprouted” upward through the glass top made $10,000; while a floor lamp with a shimmering, jagged-edge shade and porcupine-spiked adornment went a bit farther at $10,370.

A chic De Sede DS600 “Nonstop” sofa of 31 separate, detachable sections was an eye-filling design with its voluptuous contours and deep pink grapefruit color. Measuring more than 23ft in length and offering endless opportunities as living room seating, the sofa ended its bidding run at $17,080.

Other furniture highlights included a metal and glass industrial-style table by Joseph D’Urso (Ref. Knoll – A Modernist Universe, Brian Lutz, pg. 202), $8,750; a sleek coffee table in the manner of Romeo Rega, $9,375; and a 7-piece outdoor living suite by Maurizio Tempestini, $5,185. Several chandeliers were auctioned, including a dazzling Sputnik-style example that rocketed to $13,420 (estimate $4,000-$6,000).

Designer jewelry is a fast-growing category at PBMA. The April 11 sale featured pieces by many of the names preferred by today’s collectors. Highlights included a Chanel rutilated quartz and diamond ring, $7,930; a Bulgari 18K gold link necklace and bracelet, $5,490; and a Tiffany & Co. 18K white gold bracelet watch, $5,185.

“It was exciting to see how international our audience was for this sale,” said Baca. “In addition to the more than 500 US bidders, there were active participants from Canada, Puerto Rico, Asia, Australia, the UK and many other European nations. It seems every culture can appreciate how special midcentury design really is.”

Baca added that, because of their increasing number of consignors, PBMA will host two November sales rather than one. The merchandise will be divided into a Modern Art & Sculptures event, with a second auction devoted to Modern Design, Art and Luxury Accessories.

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