Modern Design and Native American Artifacts Bring Big Numbers at John Moran Auctioneers’ February 5t -- 90% sell-through rate on 446 lots
-- Strong prices achieved for icons of modern design
-- Noguchi ‘’Rudder’’ table and stools realize $124,200
News-Antique.com - Mar 06,2013 - 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.
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