From minimal to maximum. From the iconic to the outrageous. Auction highlights and previews, design trends, photos, stories, philosophies and the allure of vintage modern design and decorative arts.


Claude and Francois Lalanne Furniture and Design

From an exhibit at Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York, NY 2006-2007

From Christie's Yves St. Laurent auction 2009


Eileen Gray 'Satellite' Lamp Sells for $3.8 million at YSL

In cream-painted aluminium, composed of three superimposed flat rings in ascending scale mounted in alternation with three stepped conical shades in descending scale. Estimate $775k-$1 million.

Brancusi Sculpture Sets Record at YSL Auction

A sculpture by Brancusi entitled "Portrait de Mme. LR", which is part of the Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Berge art collection, is presented Saturday Feb. 21, 2009 at the Grand Palais in Paris. The sculpture set sales records Monday night when a collector bought it for $36,792,835

YSL Auction sets records for Matisse, etc.

A painting by Henri Matisse sold Monday for euro32.1 million ($41.1 million) _ a record auction price for a work by the artist _ at an art sale from the estate of Yves Saint Laurent, Christie's said.

The sale came at the start of a three-day Paris auction of art from the collection of the late French fashion designer that some are calling "the sale of the century."

A Piet Mondrian painting that had inspired one of Saint Laurent's most memorable dresses sold for nearly euro20 million.

Sales reached euro206 million ($263.6 million) in the auction's first day _ marked by six world record prices for works by individual artists at auction, Christie's auction house said. Fierce bidding in the cavernous, glass-topped Grand Palais museum hall quieted concerns that the global financial crisis might damage the auction's prospects.

"I never doubted the success of this sale," Pierre Berge, Saint Laurent's longtime partner, told reporters after the auction. "When you have a collection of this importance, and of this demand, you stop being an amateur art lover _ and you become more or less an expert."

Matisse's 1911 oil painting "Les coucous, tapis bleu et rose," (The Cowslips, Blue and Rose Fabric) sold for a total of euro35.9 million, including the buyer's premium, Christie's said.

Mondrian's 1922 painting "Composition in Blue, Red, Yellow and Black," with rectangles of saturated colors that had inspired Saint Laurent's 1965 shift dress, sold for euro19.2 million ($24.6 million), or about twice the pre-auction estimate. A wood sculpture by Constantin Brancusi entitled "Madame L.R." went for euro26 million ($33.3 million). Those prices exclude the buyer's premium.

Christie's officials said they were still working on confirming the identities of the buyers, who mostly came from North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Eileen Gray 'Dragons" chair sells for $28 million at YSL Christie's

In the form of unfurling petals, upholstered in brown leather, the frame in sculpted wood, lacquered brownish orange and silver and modelled as the serpentine, intertwined bodies of two dragons, their eyes in black lacquer on a white ground, their bodies decorated in low relief with stylised clouds

The unique and remarkable 'Dragons' armchair was acquired from Miss Gray by Suzanne Talbot, the first patron to provide her with an opportunity to create a complete environment. The exotic, symbolist character of the piece situates it conceptually within the first phase of Miss Gray's creative cycle. It aligns with the figurative panels and screens that can be traced to her first public exhibit in 1913 and the first published feature on her, in British Vogue, of 1917; it has an altogether different spirit from that evidenced in reductionist features such as the 'brick' wall panelling and screens that gave the Suzanne Talbot apartment so radically modern a character. The armchair distils all that was so personal and so magical in the first, intimately expressive phase of Miss Gray's career -- surprising, imaginative, subtly sculpted and crafted, it is a masterpiece of invention and execution.


Modern Furniture Prices for 2009. Market Trends

The market for mid- to upper-range modern furniture and decorative arts in 2009 is flattening as the global economic downturn spreads into the antiques and collectibles markets. The market for mass modern seems to have peaked in 2008 and is now completing a flattening phase tending towards lower prices for lesser pieces and flat prices for rarities.
Modern decorative arts are still bucking the downward price spiral experienced in the antiques market recently.
The retail markets for high end are spotty as dealers fight in smaller circles for less goods. Buying trends for mass modern seem to be slowing as bargain shopping is the order of the day. Decorative arts, in particular remain strong as precious metal prices rise vs. the stock market.
Prices at local and regional auctions for named pieces are strong against the nationals and online auctioneers as bargains in the high end realm seem lesser and lesser daily. Mass modern and decorative arts by better manufacturers, even later, are flattening in price with few exceptions. Dealers and collectors are still willing to pay high prices for better pieces of studio work, one offs, or custom designs by a handful of better-known 20th century designers and architects, but the frequency of these offerings at auction seems to have diminished in the last quarter tending towards a future of less lots at higher prices as stalwart auction houses are calling consignors to lower reserves on previously estimated items to 'clean out the pipes.' Consignors seem to be leaning conservative on both consignments and reserves.
As in other recessionary years, rarities, provenance, collections, sets and multiples are what the market seems to want in 2009.


Monet oil painting tests art market

A stunning Monet oil painting of his wife Camille reading in a rich meadow sold for well below its estimate last night, providing a critical clue to the state of the art market in the recession.

The sale of Monet's Dans la Prairie, left, at Christie's in London, which had a pre-sale estimate of £15m, highlighted the difficulties. It sold for £11,241,250.