Author Archives: Nick Stenzel

  1. Notable Figures in Folk, Outsider &
    Self-Taught Art + Americana

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    by Aron Packer,
    Senior Specialist,
    Contemporary &
    Outsider Art

     

    As we approach our first ever Folk, Outsider & Self-Taught Art + Americana auction on Thursday, August 12, 2021, we would like to provide background on some notable figures, including several with works set to be offered during the sale. For historical context on these overlapping artistic movements, we invite you to read a previous article, Folk, Outsider & Self-Taught + Americana Art Auction on August 12,” which covers the release of Jean Dubuffet’s 1947 manifesto on art brut (“raw art”), the publication of Roger Cardinal’s influential book Outsider Art in 1972, and various important contemporary exhibitions and fairs showcasing Folk and Outsider artists.

    Consignments Invited for Folk, Outsider & Self-Taught Art + Americana on August 12

     

    On August 12, we will feature quite a range of artists from Chicago, the Midwest, and beyond, such as: David Butler, William Dawson, Howard Finster, Lee Godie, Mr. Imagination, Eddy Mumma, Judy Onofrio, Elijah Pierce, Jack Savitsky, Pauline Simon, Charles Steffen, Jimmy Lee Sudduth, Myrtice West, Willie White, Wesley Willis, Snap Wyatt, and others.

    If you would like to consign artwork for potential inclusion in the Folk, Outsider & Self-Taught Art + Americana auction on August 12, please email photos with any relevant details to info@toomeyco.com or complete our Request an Estimate form. The consignment deadline for the sale is Friday, July 9, but early submissions will be given priority consideration.

    Submit Art Consignments for August 12

    Biographies of Folk, Outsider & Self-Taught + Americana Artists

     

    Ultimately, the best way to get a sense of Folk, Outsider & Self-Taught Art + Americana is to learn about the artists themselves and view examples of their work. Presented below are concise biographies for selected artists as well as relevant results and previews of material that will be offered at auction on August 12.


    Eugene Von Bruenchenhein (American, 1910-1983), Chicken Bone Chair, circa 1970, chicken bones, paint, airplane glue and varnish, 8″h x 4 1/2″w x 7″d, Art & Design, March 8, 2020, Lot 41
    Estimate $7,000-9,000
    Sold for $8,750

    Eugene Von Bruenchenhein was an American self-taught artist from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Over the course of 50 years, from the 1930s until his death in 1983, Von Bruenchenhein produced an expansive oeuvre of poetry, photography, painting, drawing, and sculpture.

    His body of work includes over 1,000 colorful, apocalyptic landscape paintings, hundreds of sculptures made from chicken bones, ceramics, cast cement heads, pin-up style photos of his wife, Marie, plus dozens of notebooks filled with poetic and scientific musings. Never confined to one particular method or medium, Von Bruenchenhein continually used everyday, discarded objects to explore imagined past and future realities.


    Born in 1955, Joe Coleman is an active American artist best known for his intricate paintings, along with illustrations, performance art, and his work as an actor. He has achieved legendary status among collectors of Outsider Art, and while one may debate whether or not Coleman should be labeled as such, he is like no other, and his desire to live and celebrate the fringes on which he works, makes him a truly unique artist who defies categorization.

    Coleman’s paintings can take years to complete. Working often with single hair brushes, Coleman slowly builds his compositions over time, not unlike a Medieval or Renaissance master. His subjects have included the likes of renowned Outsider artist Henry Darger as well as many notorious figures, including Charles Manson and John Dillinger.

    (For additional background, see a previous article: “Joe Coleman and The Mystery of Woolverine Woo-Bait)

    Joe Coleman (American, b. 1955), The Philosophy of Humbug, 1999, acrylic on panel mounted on clown costume, 24 3/4″ x 30 1/2″, The Estate of Candice B. Groot Fire & Form Part II, November 12, 2016, Lot 236
    Estimate $10,000-15,000
    Sold for $45,750


    David C. “Snap” Wyatt was the most well-known painter of circus banners, primarily working in the 1940s and continuing into the 1970s. He was famous for his bold, stylized figures with quick caricatures. Only the essential details of the performer were outlined in black to make them stand out. Wyatt’s bright and colorful banners drew in crowds with the mystery of what lay inside the tent. Considered among the top circus artists in the field, Wyatt’s huge canvases played to attendees’ sense of wonder and directed them to walk right inside to view sideshows.

    After growing up in Asheville, North Carolina, Wyatt joined the circus at age 14. Initially, he performed magic and mind reading before transitioning to touching up and painting original sideshow banners. During the Great Depression, Wyatt studied art at the Cooper Union in New York City and refined his skills in a Coney Island studio. After World War II, Wyatt relocated to Tampa, Florida and began a three-decade stretch of remarkable productivity, painting up to 200 circus banners per year. Wyatt’s art was largely thought of as a commercial curiosity in his heyday, but his work has since garnered greater appreciation for its skill and ingenuity. Today Wyatt’s banners are housed in several museums and galleries and regularly attract strong bidder interest at auction.

    Snap Wyatt (American, 1905-1984), AKO Alive., oil on unstretched canvas, 108″ x 102″, Folk, Outsider & Self-Taught Art + Americana, August 12, 2021
    Estimate $1,000-2,000


    Lee Godie (American, 1908-1994), Figures (recto), with Valuable Hand (verso), watercolor and ballpoint pen on window shade, 28″ x 18 1/4″, Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art
    February 25, 2021, Lot 9
    Estimate $600-800
    Sold for $2,600

    Lee Godie (born Jamot Emily Godee) was an American self-taught artist who was active in Chicago during the late 1960s until around the early 1990s. She was a prolific artist who was known for her paintings and modified photos.

    Godie was a self-described French Impressionist. She was particular about who she sold her art to and even to whom she talked, preferring to interact with artists. She would only sell her work to those she liked.

    Examples of her artwork may be found in the permanent collections of the American Folk Art Museum in New York City, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock, the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.


    Chicago native Wesley Willis was a complex human being who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in his late 20s, but the voices he began to hear, along with related maladies and tics, contributed to the powerful art and music that he would later create. In the mid 1980s, Willis was given space to draw and trained informally at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he also first took up playing music on a keyboard. Art historian Rolf Achilles gave Willis postcards of Chicago that served as models for Willis’ freeform, perspective renderings of the skyline. Eventually, Willis started drawing en plein air all around the city and selling his works for $10 or $20 each. Although Willis regularly broke formal rules in composing his architectural sketches, he nonetheless created consistently compelling packed urban visuals across a broad artistic spectrum.

    In the 1990s, Willis pursued music in tandem with his art, generating over 50 albums and 1,000 songs in a coarse yet jaunty style in which profanity was commonplace and he incorporated aspects of pop culture and lines from advertisements with tracks like “I Whipped Batman’s Ass” and “Rock N Roll McDonalds” over Muzak-influenced instrumentation on his programmable Technics keyboard. Willis went on to perform live and tour as the front man for The Wesley Willis Fiasco, whose sound had a harder edge than Willis’ solo recordings. All the while, Willis continued to produce his lively drawings of Chicago from all manner of angles. In recent years, Willis’ cult following has expanded such that his music is streamed regularly online and his drawings command ever higher resale prices.

    (For additional background, see a previous article: “The Artistic Rendering of Wesley Willis”)

    Wesley Willis (American, 1963-2003), River City, 1986, ballpoint pen and marker on Crescent board, 28″ x 40″, Art & Design, December 6, 2020, Lot 129
    Estimate $600-800
    Sold for $3,900


    Mr. Imagination a.k.a. Gregory Warmack (American, 1948-2012), Self-Portrait, 2001, styrofoam pumpkin mold, mixed media and bottle caps, 18″h x 11″w x 12 1/2″d, Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art, February 25, 2021, Lot 14
    Estimate $400-600
    Sold for $1,625

    Mr. Imagination was born Gregory Warmack, the third child in a family of nine, in Chicago and had no formal training as an artist. In 1978, he was shot in the stomach during a mugging and lapsed into a coma. During his hospitalization, he had a spiritual vision that he described as “very peaceful, almost as if I was traveling through history and looking at ancient civilizations.” The incident spurred Warmack to focus on making art, and shortly after he began using the name Mr. Imagination.

    In the 1970s and 1980s, Mr. Imagination worked extensively on sculptures carved from industrial sandstone or hundreds of bottle caps fastened to the surfaces of sculpted objects. He also used paint, wood, nails, putty, and cement, and incorporated found objects, such as tools, instruments, and mirrors. Many of his works were thematically influenced by African and Egyptian masks and dress. Mr. Imagination’s first solo exhibition was assembled in 1983 at the Carl Hammer Gallery in Chicago. He lived and worked in Chicago until 2001, when he relocated to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. In January 2008, his home was destroyed in a fire and he moved thereafter to Atlanta, where he continued working and exhibiting until his death at age 64.


    William Dawson moved to Chicago as a young man and worked in the produce industry. He is known for his three-dimensional wood carvings as well as paintings on wood and paper. Dawson’s work was featured in the groundbreaking show, Black Folk Art in America: 1930-1980, at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC in 1983, as well as several other exhibits and publications.

    His art at first consisted simply of works he whittled out of pieces of scrap wood he found in alleys or on the street. He then added such materials as chicken bones and driftwood. His most frequent early carvings were totem pole stacks of faces. In later years, he added painting to his body of work. His work is now in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC, the American Folk Art Museum in New York City, and other esteemed institutions.

    William Dawson (American, 1901-1990), Three Birds, 1990, acrylic on board, 10 1/4″ x 19 1/2″, Folk, Outsider & Self-Taught Art + Americana, August 12, 2021
    Estimate $200-300


    Charles Steffen (American, 1927-1995), Dying Snapdragon, 1994, pencil and colored pencil on taped ledger paper, 16 3/4″ x 12″, Folk, Outsider & Self-Taught Art + Americana,
    August 12, 2021
    Estimate $1,000-2,000

    Charles Steffen was born into a family of eight children in Chicago. He studied drawing, art history, and photography at the Illinois Institute of Technology in the late 1940s. Around 1950, while still in school, he suffered a mental breakdown and was institutionalized at Elgin State Hospital from 1952 through 1963, undergoing treatments and electroshock therapy for schizophrenia.

    Steffen continued to make art while institutionalized. After leaving the hospital, unable to take a job, he moved into his childhood home with his sister, Rita. Steffen spent most of his time drawing, mainly on brown wrapping paper, with graphite and colored pencils. When the family home was sold upon his mother’s death in 1994, Steffen moved into a small room in a men’s retirement home in northern Chicago.

    Previously, Rita had instructed her brother to destroy his piles of drawings now and then, believing them to be a fire hazard. Upon his move, Steffen was prepared to throw away a vast body of drawings but instead gave pieces to his nephew, Christoph Preissing, who had shown interest in his work. When Steffen’s drawings were discovered in storage around 2006, they became a significant part of the newly increased public awareness of Outsider art. 


    Elijah Pierce is one of the most well-known wood carvers in the American Folk tradition. He carved animals, figures, and narrative reliefs with religious stories. Settling in Columbus, Ohio, he opened a barber shop. He carved sculptures during every spare moment in the shop. Memories of his childhood inspired him to carve images based on scenes from the Bible.

    He believed God had given him the talent to carve and that his life’s purpose was to make manifest “every sermon [he] never preached.” Pierce was honored with the National Heritage Fellowship for his art and influence in the wood carving community in 1982. His work is included in the collections of the Columbus Museum of Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC, among many others.

    Elijah Pierce (American, 1892-1984), Eagle and Eaglets, wood, paint and rhinestone, 10″h x 11″w x 3 1/4″d, Folk, Outsider & Self-Taught Art + Americana, August 12, 2021
    Estimate $800-1,200


    Jesse Howard created an art environment on his property in Fulton, Missouri comprised of hundreds of hand-painted signs. Howard’s preferred canvas was most often a wooden plank or scrap metal salvaged from farm equipment with a flat surface big enough to whitewash with house paint and cover with various political, social, and local rants. His work is held in the permanent collections of the American Folk Art Museum in New York City and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Howard was also part of the seminal Naives and Visionaries show at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in 1974.

    Jesse Howard (American, 1885-1983), Judas Which Was Guide to Them …, oil on board, 11 3/4″ x 24 1/4″, Art & Design, September 16, 2018, Lot 73
    Estimate $1,000-2,000
    Sold for $5,200


    Howard Finster (American, 1916-2001), George at 23, 1988 (#8130), paint and marker on wood, 9 1/2″h x 6 3/8″w x 3 5/8″d, Folk, Outsider & Self-Taught Art + Americana, August 12, 2021
    Estimate $400-600

    Howard Finster was an American artist and Baptist minister from Georgia. He claimed to be inspired by God to spread the gospel through the design of his swampy land into Paradise Garden, a Folk Art sculpture garden with over 46,000 pieces of art. Finster came to widespread notice in the 1980s with his album cover designs for the bands R.E.M. and Talking Heads.

    Seeing no contradiction between his divine artistic mission and commercial success, Finster would sometimes make copies of his own work, not unlike Andy Warhol, when demand dictated, occasionally getting help from family and friends. In fact, Finster fully embraced his celebrity, appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and in People magazine.

    Popular among Folk Art collectors, works by Finster are also housed within the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Milwaukee Art Museum, and elsewhere.


    Jimmy Lee Sudduth was raised on a farm at Caines Ridge, near Fayette, Alabama. He began making art as a child, surrounding the porch of his parents’ house with hand-carved wooden dolls and drawing in the dirt or on tree trunks outside. As his talents became known in the community, he began collecting pigments from the earth, along with rocks, plants, foodstuffs, and industrial products for use in his finger paintings.

    Sudduth used his fingers because, as he claimed, “they never wore out.” His numerous works were typically executed on found surfaces such as plywood, doors, and boards from demolished buildings. He experimented with mixing his pigments with various binders to make them adhere better, including syrup, sugar, soft drinks, and caulk.

    Jimmy Lee Sudduth (American, 1910-2007), The White House, 1980, paint and traces of mud on panel, 24″ x 30″, Folk, Outsider & Self-Taught Art + Americana, August 12, 2021
    Estimate $1,000-2,000


    Mose Tolliver (American, 1920-2006), Male Portrait, acrylic on found wood, 23 3/8″ x 25 5/8″, Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art, February 25, 2021, Lot 15
    Estimate $600-800
    Sold for $2,470

    Alabama artist Mose Tolliver was self-taught and signed his work, “Mose T”, with a backward ’s’. He regularly worked with house paint on plywood, creating whimsical animals, people, and flora.

    Tolliver’s painting style is flat, full frontal, or straight profile with a muted palette. Never able to walk well following a work injury, he painted many self-portraits with crutches or would sit on his bed and balance painting surfaces on his knees.

    Tolliver’s themes were drawn from his direct experience with subjects who tended to be familiar to him. Tolliver’s work has been exhibited in the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC as well as the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts in Alabama.


    David Butler was one of the first recognized stars of Southern African-American yard art. Butler installed a fantastic, tin zoological environment on and outside his home in Patterson, Louisiana over the course of several decades. Butler turned to art in middle age, after a work-related injury at a sawmill. However, he managed to bridge his private environment and the broader art world, first rising to prominence with the landmark 1982 exhibition Black Folk Art in America, 1930-1980 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC.

    Only a year later, his yard environment was dismantled when illness required him to move in with family. The classic works for which he is known are brightly-colored tin cut-outs, sometimes incorporating found objects, mounted both in windows and on poles and stakes in his yard.

    David Butler (American, 1898-1997), Hearts (two), paint and tin, one with ribbon, 11 3/8″ x 5″ and 4 3/4″ x 10 1/2 (offered together); Heart (from the environment), paint on tin, 8″ x 9 1/4″, Folk, Outsider & Self-Taught Art + Americana, August 12, 2021
    Estimates $500-700 & $400-600


    Purvis Young was an American artist from the Overtown neighborhood of Miami, Florida. Young’s work, often a blend of collage and painting, utilizes found objects and the experience of African-Americans in the South. A self-taught artist, Young gained cult recognition on the contemporary scene, with his celebrity collectors including Jane Fonda, Damon Wayans, Jim Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, and others.

    In 2006, a feature documentary entitled Purvis of Overtown was produced about his life and work. His art is today found in the collections of the American Folk Art Museum in New York City, the National Museum of African-American History and Culture and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

    Purvis Young (American, 1943-2010), Horses, paint on found wood, 16″ x 32″, Art & Design with Tradition & Innovation, December 8, 2019, Lot 35
    Estimate $1,000-2,000
    Sold for $1,690

  2. Herman Miller + Knoll &
    the Changing Home + Office

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    by Carl Liggett,
    Specialist, Modern Design
    &
    Don Schmaltz,
    Senior Specialist, Modern Design

     

    Introduction

     

    You may have heard the news. Just last month, two American titans of modern furniture design and production combined as Herman Miller acquired Knoll. The merger is set to be completed this year and, according to Herman Miller, “will create the preeminent leader in the field of modern design.” In an odd combination of both celebration for their shared futures, and perhaps a touch of lament over the loss of their storied competition and independence, Toomey & Co. Auctioneers will be offering a brief survey of many of the most iconic Herman Miller + Knoll-produced designs from throughout both companies’ histories. This selection of pieces will conclude our Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art auction on Wednesday, May 19, 2021 and represents both early examples and more recently produced iconic designs whose value and usefulness has not waned.

    Charles Eames (1907-1978) & Ray Eames (1912-1988) for Herman Miller
    FSW-10 screen
    Zeeland, Michigan, circa 1950
    ash plywood, canvas
    100″w x 6″d x 67 5/8″h
    Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art, May 19, 2021, Lot 320
    Estimate $3,000-5,000

    Herman Miller + Knoll Merger and New Home + Office Realities

     

    Throughout most of Knoll’s history, it has been one of Herman Miller’s largest competitors in the world of modern furniture design and manufacturing for both the home and office. But this past year has demanded adjustments to how many of us live and work, creating parallel changes in demand for certain types of goods such as office furnishings. Some related broader trends were already beginning to occur. Even before COVID-19 challenged us all with new realities in daily life, retail and other businesses were making adjustments.

    Harry Bertoia (1915-1978) for Knoll
    Bird lounge chair and ottoman
    East Greenville, Pennsylvania, 2020
    neutral bouclé fabric, chrome-plated steel, rubber
    chair: 39″w x 34″d x 39 1/2″h; ottoman: 24 1/2″w x 17 1/2″d x 15″h
    Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art, May 19, 2021, Lot 362
    Estimate $1,000-2,000

    Auction houses also were already moving increasingly online. In some ways, the pandemic seems to have simply fast-forwarded the pace of such transitions. Similarly, the merger of Herman Miller and Knoll largely stems from the need for pandemic-era adaptation. The movement toward working from home and an increased desire to improve the quality of that environment is a shift that has affected both the auction business and these large design firms. In a press release announcing the merger on April 19, 2021, Herman Miller President & CEO Andi Owen explained:

    Alexander Girard for Herman Miller
    framed International Heart textile
    Lot 322 | Estimate $200-300

    “As distributed working models become the new normal for companies, businesses are reimagining the office to foster collaboration, culture and focused work, while supporting a growing remote employee base. At the same time, consumers are making significant investments in their homes. With a broad portfolio, global footprint and advanced digital capabilities, we will be poised to meet our customers everywhere they live and work.” — Herman Miller President & CEO Andi Owen

     

    As purveyors and aficionados of mostly vintage modern design here at Toomey & Co., we are not thinking quite as much about what it means for the new company’s joint market position today, not to mention the $1.8 billion acquisition price tag. We primarily know Herman Miller and Knoll as the hugely admired originators (or at least licensed manufacturers and/or distributors) of much of the most iconic modern design ever created. Therefore, the merger is also an opportunity to look back at the companies’ immense influence on modern design and their formerly autonomous legacies.

    History of Herman Miller

     

    George Nelson (1908-1986) for Herman Miller
    Thin Edge nightstand, model 5207, together with headboard (not shown)
    Zeeland, Michigan, 1950s
    rosewood, aluminum, lacquered wood, porcelain
    nightstand: 17 3/4″w x 19 1/2″d x 23 5/8″h; headboard: 79″w x 2 1/2″d x 32 1/2″h
    Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art, May 19, 2021, Lot 324
    Estimate $1,000-2,000

    Initially founded as the Star Furniture Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1905, Herman Miller is the somewhat older of the two companies. It became Herman Miller Furniture Company in 1923 under the newly acquired leadership of Dirk Jan De Pree. It was D.J. De Pree that brought in the hugely impactful Gilbert Rohde, who can be credited with moving the company in a modern direction in terms of both design and business viability. (For more on Gilbert Rohde, see a previous article, Art Deco Material from The Estate of Michael Rabkin.)

    After Rohde’s death in 1944, De Pree can also be credited with bringing in the architect George Nelson as the new Director of Design. His collaborative firm George Nelson & Associates, which also included the underappreciated designer Irving Harper, is responsible for many of Herman Miller’s best-known creations, such as Lot 324, a nightstand from the Thin Edge line.

    Charles Eames (1907-1978) & Ray Eames (1912-1988) for Herman Miller
    DSR-1 chairs, pair
    Zeeland, Michigan, circa 1960
    zinc-plated steel, original vinyl upholstery, fiberglass, plastic
    19″w x 22 1/2″d x 31″h
    Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art,
    May 19, 2021, Lot 328
    Estimate $600-800

    As Director of Design, George Nelson also recruited a dynamic duo who would become among the brightest stars of American modern design by means of their work with Herman Miller. The sale will feature many designs by Charles and Ray Eames, including four Herman Miller-produced 670 / 671 lounge chairs with ottomans. Lot 331 is a particularly fine example that was produced in 1978, is in excellent vintage condition, and features a rosewood-veneered, bent-plywood frame. Lot 351 is a rare matching pair of cherry-veneered lounge chairs and ottomans that was produced in 1991. The sale will also feature a version of the chair in all black (Lot 353), made in 2014, as well as a recent production La Chaise lounge chair by Vitra (Lot 352).

    Charles Eames (1907-1978) & Ray Eames (1912-1988) for Herman Miller
    670 / 671 lounge chair and ottoman
    Zeeland, Michigan, 1978
    rosewood, brown leather, aluminum
    chair: 34″w x 32″d x 32 1/2″h; ottoman: 26″w x 22″d x 17″h
    Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art, May 19, 2021, Lot 331
    Estimate $3,000-5,000

    History of Knoll

     

    Knoll was founded by Hans Knoll in New York City in 1938, but the company is more firmly associated with its guiding light, Florence Knoll. Florence was an architect, designer, and business leader who married Hans Knoll in 1946 and assumed control of the company in 1955 following her husband’s death. Her minimal modernist style came to define the company’s aesthetic, while she also massively increased Knoll’s size and influence. There are many famous designs we associate closely with Knoll, but the clean-lined cabinets designed by Florence Knoll are perhaps our most direct association with the ‘Knoll look.’ Lot 335 is an always desirable wall-hanging version of this cabinet design in walnut with sliding white doors.

    Florence Knoll (1917-2019) for Knoll Associates
    wall-mounted cabinet
    New York, New York, 1966
    walnut, painted wood, leather
    72″w x 15 1/2″d x 18″h
    Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art, May 19, 2021, Lot 335
    Estimate $2,000-3,000

    The laundry list of influential designers who contributed work to Knoll throughout its history is jaw-dropping, and many of them are featured in our upcoming sale. Marcel Breuer’s Wassily chairs are among the more notable designs in the Knoll catalog, and a fine Italian-produced pair in excellent vintage condition is available as Lot 337.

    Marcel Breuer (1902-1981) for Knoll / Gavina
    Wassily lounge chairs, pair
    USA/Italy, circa 1970
    leather, chrome-plated steel
    31″w x 28″d x 28 1/8″h
    Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art, May 19, 2021, Lot 337
    Estimate $1,000-2,000

    The bent-wire forms of Warren Platner are similarly classic Knoll designs, and four lots of this line of furniture will also be up for bid as Lots 339-342. Other Knoll-produced pieces in this sale include designs by Eero Saarinen, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Harry Bertoia, Robert Venturi, and Kazuhide Takahama.

    Warren Platner (1919-2006) for Knoll International
    Platner Collection lounge chairs, set of four
    New York, New York, 1979
    chrome-plated steel, original maroon upholstery
    37″w x 24″d x 30 1/2″h
    Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art, May 19, 2021, Lot 339
    Estimate $4,000-6,000

    Conclusion

     

    For us, the ongoing presence and production output of Herman Miller and Knoll to this day is a warm reminder of the importance of their early influence, the overall strength of their businesses, and the continued relevance of their best design creations. If you have been a fan of Herman Miller and its products, it is likely that you have also had a similar affection for Knoll, or vice-versa. It is exciting and not all that difficult to imagine them working together. We are certain that the merger of these two pioneers of modern design and manufacturing will allow them to thrive in a changing home/office landscape and continue providing exceptional innovative original as well as classic design into the future.

    Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) for Knoll Studio
    MR20 lounge chairs, pair
    New York, New York, 2000s
    red leather, chrome-plated steel, belt leather
    25 3/4″w x 38″d x 33 1/2″h
    Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art, May 19, 2021, Lot 357
    Estimate $1,500-2,500

  3. Bidding on the Toomey & Co. Website

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    In order to simplify bidding on our website, we have created this visual guide taking you through the process in a detailed, step-by-step manner. Below are instructions along with corresponding screenshots for both web and mobile use. Feel free to let us know if you have any questions by emailing web@toomeyco.com.

    Log In or Sign Up Page

    First of all, you will need to register with us to bid. If you already have an account, then log in using the email you used to register, enter your password, and click Login. In case you have forgotten your password, there is a reminder option. If you do not yet have an account, you may create one by clicking on ‘Register’ in the Sign up area. Click the green button immediately below to log in or sign up if you like now.

    Log in / Sign up

    Web

    Mobile

    Lot Detail Page

    On any given lot detail page within the online auction catalog, you have the option to submit a lot inquiry, save the lot to your favorites, or leave a bid. To continue leaving a bid, click on the green ‘Leave a bid’ button.

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    Leave a Bid Page

    Here you have the option to place either a telephone bid or an absentee bid (online). For a telephone bid, you must check the box under To leave a telephone bid. If you wish to leave multiple absentee bids, select the ‘click here’ link under To leave an absentee bid (see the highlighted text below: “If you wish to leave multiple bids on this sale”). To leave a single bid on the lot in question, enter your bid amount in the gray field, check the box to agree to the Terms & Conditions of Sale, and click on ‘Place bid.’ You should see a confirmation screen and will then receive an email listing your bid.

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    Leave Multiple Bids Page

    If you clicked the link to leave multiple bids on the Leave a bid page, you will be redirected to the Leave multiple bids page. Here you will have the option to place bids on as many lots in the current sale as you want. Simply enter each bid in the corresponding gray field on the right (and check the box next to the icon if you want to bid by telephone). To place your bids, you must scroll to the very bottom of the page, check the box to agree to the Terms & Conditions of Sale, and click on ‘Proceed to bid confirmation.’ You should see a confirmation screen and will then receive an email listing your bids.

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  4. Folk, Outsider & Self-Taught Art +
    Americana
    Auction on August 12

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    by Aron Packer,
    Senior Specialist,
    Contemporary &
    Outsider Art

     

    On Thursday, August 12, 2021, Toomey & Co. Auctioneers will hold its inaugural Folk, Outsider & Self-Taught Art + Americana auction with an array of fascinating works on offer by artists with non-traditional backgrounds exhibiting a diverse range of styles from Chicago, the Midwest, and beyond. We already have some exciting consignments slated for the sale, including material by: David Butler, William Dawson, Howard Finster, Lee Godie, Mr. Imagination, Eddy Mumma, Judy Onofrio, Elijah Pierce, Jack Savitsky, Pauline Simon, Charles Steffen, Jimmy Lee Sudduth, Myrtice West, Willie White, Wesley Willis, Snap Wyatt, and others.

    If you would like to consign artwork for potential inclusion in the Folk, Outsider & Self-Taught Art + Americana auction on August 12, please email photos with any relevant background details to info@toomeyco.com or complete our Request an Estimate form. The consignment deadline for the sale is Friday, July 9, but early submissions will be given priority consideration.

    Submit Art Consignments for August 12

     

    Joe Coleman (American, b. 1955), The Philosophy of Humbug, 1999, acrylic on panel mounted on clown costume, 24 3/4″ x 30 1/2″, The Estate of Candice B. Groot Fire & Form Part II, November 12, 2016, Lot 236
    Estimate $ 10,000-15,000
    Sold for $45,750

    “What is Outsider Art?”

     

    That is the question I get asked most often once I tell people what kind of art I work with or what is my favorite kind of art. It is also the question that whole conferences are based on, as well as important art fairs in New York, Paris, and elsewhere. Recent books and magazine articles have claimed that Outsider Art has finally arrived in the mainstream, but that process has been underway for decades now.

    Pauline Simon (Russian/American, 1898-1976), Ubangi, oil and graphite on canvas, 32″ x 23″, Folk, Outsider & Self-Taught Art + Americana, August 12, 2021
    Estimate $1,000-2,000

    Growing up in Chicago, my mother owned an antique quilt and folk art gallery and my father was an obsessive collector and dealer. Later, I would operate my own art gallery, Aron Packer Projects, and show work by various Outsider artists for over 30 years. Yet even with my virtually lifelong experience in the field, it can still be somewhat difficult to describe Outsider Art and articulate how it overlaps with Folk Art and Self-Taught Art.

    Eugene Von Bruenchenhein (American, 1910-1983), Chicken Bone Chair, circa 1970, chicken bones, paint, airplane glue and varnish, 8″h x 4 1/2″w x 7″d, Art & Design, March 8, 2020, Lot 41
    Estimate $7,000-9,000
    Sold for $8,750

    Even the semantics of the label Outsider generate heated debate, and there does not seem to be a final answer where everyone is satisfied with the definition of what Outsider Art is. Ultimately, what is important and worth paying attention to is the art. This is a genre that has generated and continues to generate compelling art based on its own merit and its creators’ inspired visions.

    Generally speaking, Outsider Art does not fit into what would be considered mainstream art. This often encompasses work made by people who do not have any formal training, including art of the mentally ill, art done in prison, or any number of other situations that produce unusually distinctive art.

    Because some people are innately driven to create, art serves as a cathartic outlet. However, in cases where individuals are not trained within academic institutions and/or they lack the means to engage with common artistic mediums, they must be resourceful. This might mean using leftover house paint to adorn a piece of plywood or tin (e.g., Mary Smith), taking socks apart and using the thread to make beautiful miniature embroideries (e.g., Raymond Materson), or heavily wrapping a found bicycle wheel with colorful yarn, twine, and fabric. (e.g., Judith Scott). Repurposing common household materials or found objects tends to be classified as Folk Art.

    Elijah Pierce (American, 1892-1984), Eagle and Eaglets, wood, paint and rhinestone, 10″h x 11″w x 3 1/4″d, Folk, Outsider & Self-Taught Art + Americana, August 12, 2021
    Estimate $800-1,200

    Folk Art in the Popular Imagination: Handcrafted and Handed Down

     

    Judy Onofrio (American, b. 1939), Wall Sculpture, mixed media, 44″h x 19″w x 11″d, Folk, Outsider & Self-Taught Art + Americana, August 12, 2021
    Estimate $800-1,200

    Folk Art is an umbrella term within which Outsider Art is often grouped. Although Folk Art as a concept is flexible, it specifically includes artwork that comes from a tradition that can be taught and handed down. In American Folk Art, this would include quilts, wood carving, basket weaving, samplers, memory painting, tattoo art, banner painting, metalwork, and pottery.

    A lot of these genres or categories might be considered utilitarian, that is, intended for day-to-day usefulness hopefully combined with an aesthetic from years of nuancing a tradition of craft. One subset of Folk Art is Memoryware, wherein small everyday objects such as keys, screws, nails, glass vials, shells, nuts, and jewelry are placed onto the surface of various objects with wood putty or another adhesive to represent the life of a person.

    For over a century, there has been considerable interest in American Folk Art and the artists who make it, with national exposure granted to certain individuals via profiles in LIFE magazine and other publications prior to and during the 1950s. William Edmonson, Grandma Moses, and Mattie Lou O’Kelley are examples of Folk artists who gained a following thanks to such features.

    In East Coast cultural circles, Folk Art has been in demand since the mid-20th century. In particular, collector Herb “Bert” Hemphill Jr. really helped popularize this genre. Moreover, the American Folk Art Museum in New York City, which opened in 1961, has exhibited and promoted Folk artists to the general public for 60 years now, critically examining the past and connecting Folk art practice to the present.

    Self-Taught Art as a Broad Historical Category

     

    Francis Bacon (British, 1909-1992), Seated Figure, 1983, etching and aquatint, 28 1/4″ x 21 1/4″, The Estate of Candice B. Groot Fire & Form Part I, April 16, 2016, Lot 203
    Estimate $6,000-8,000
    Sold for $15,860

    Self-Taught Art is a broad category that sometimes accurately denotes work by those who practice Folk or Outsider Art. However, Folk artists are not necessarily self-taught because many have trained with family members or in their communities to hone their skills.

    Outsider artists are in some cases completely self-taught, but they more often have received at least partial instruction or have some limited access to traditional materials and work in conversation, albeit at a remove, with canonical artwork or styles.

    Historically speaking, Paul Cezanne, Vincent Van Gogh, Francis Bacon, Henri Rousseau, Frida Kahlo, and Jean-Michel Basquiat might be considered primarily self-taught artists. These individuals either were not trained formally or they received only brief instruction before blazing their own artistic trails.

    In today’s world, Self-Taught Art in its purest form is a rare phenomenon because it is difficult to remain unaware of trends and techniques in the art world given the interconnected, global nature of digital mass communication.

    How Art Brut Paved the Way for Outsider Art

     

    While Folk Art is easier to define than Outsider Art, and Self-Taught Art is an inevitably open concept, there is still much that can be stated about the rise of so-called Outsider Art within the past 100 years. In one form or another, Outsider Art has always existed. Untrained artists have been making art from life’s materials for millennia exterior to centers of cultural influence, but only in the early part of the 20th century was Outsider Art officially recognized, some might say fetishized or appropriated, for its unconventional aesthetic value.

    Jean Dubuffet (French, 1901-1985), Personnage mi-corps, 1967, color silkscreen on relief, 21″ x 13″, Property from Chicago’s Butch McGuire’s Saloon and 20th Century Art & Design, March 4, 2017, Lot 540
    Estimate $ 7,000-9,000
    Sold for $9,750

    During the early 1920s at Heidelberg University in Germany, Karl Willmanns, Head of the Psychiatric University Hospital, and his assistant Hans Prinzhorn sent queries to psychiatric institutions requesting artwork produced by asylum residents for the purposes of establishing a museum of psychopathological art. Prinzhorn published the collected works in Artistry of the Mentally Ill in 1922 and the book garnered significant attention. In the aftermath, German Expressionists became enamored with schizophrenic artists such as August Naterrer and Adolf Wölfli and French Surrealists modeled their automatic drawing practice in part on that of mystic mediums like Helene Smith and Augustin Lesage. Over the last century, the Prinzhorn Collection has grown considerably and now comprises roughly 20,000 works of art, which are held at the University Hospital in Heidelberg.

    Yet it was not until 1947 when French curator and artist Jean Dubuffet issued a manifesto on art brut (“raw art”) that non-traditional artwork and artists began to become more visible and appreciated. In contrast to art culturel (“cultural art”) created within and for established academies, salons, and institutions, Dubuffet identified art brut as works produced by street or graffiti artists, those with mental health conditions, prisoners, and individuals with primitive educational backgrounds.

    Dubuffet contended that artists with such life circumstances were better able to access their raw emotions and express pure visions. In subsequent years, Dubuffet himself sought to bring these qualities to bear in his own art practice, freely mixing high and low cultural signifiers with a childlike, rough-around-the-edges style. He also helped to legitimize art brut by establishing the Compagnie de l’Art Brut in 1948 and donating his personal artistic inventory to La Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland.

    Roger Cardinal’s Outsider Art

     

    Outsider Art (1972) by Roger Cardinal, cover art by Adolf Wölfli

    In a contemporary sense, the key development in bringing Outsider Art to a wider audience was the 1972 publication of British academic and art critic Roger Cardinal’s book, Outsider Art. Even though Cardinal much preferred to call the book Art Brut, in an effort to expand upon Dubuffet’s groundbreaking work, Cardinal’s publisher disagreed and settled on Outsider Art.

    Sabato “Simon” Rodia’s Watts Towers (“Nuestro Pueblo”), Los Angeles, California, circa 2005. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia user: Wattsfloca

    This important volume presented an overview of the field as well as biographies and artistic discussion of nearly 30 artists, including Adolf Wölfli, Sabato “Simon” Rodia, Guillaume, Joseph Crépin, Madge Gill, and The Abbé Fouéré.

    In essence, Cardinal asserted that Outsider artists “should be possessed of an expressive impulse and should then externalize that impulse in an unmonitored way which defies conventional art-historical contextualization.”

    While Cardinal had hoped Outsider Art would make an immediate impact in Britain and Europe — since he covered mostly artists based there — the book was actually received with greater enthusiasm in the United States. In the case of Simon Rodia, Cardinal elucidated the notion of Outsider Art environments, or visionary environments, by profiling Watts Towers in Los Angeles.

    After immigrating from Italy, Rodia spent decades fashioning elaborate towers from concrete and rebar with overall surface elements of found objects and colorful pottery shards. (The technique of adhering broken ceramics to a jug or vessel had been popular during the Victorian Era in Britain and throughout Europe.) Despite Rodia’s Outsider status and unconventional approach, the Watts Towers (or “Nuestro Pueblo,” as he called them) have survived multiple earthquakes and become an iconic part of Southern California’s landscape.

    Outsider Art and Folk Art Gain International Visibility

     

    Outsider Art took to the world stage when Roger Cardinal and poet/filmmaker Victor Musgrave curated a highly influential exhibition, Outsiders: An Art Without Precedent or Tradition (February 8 – April 8, 1979), at London’s Hayward Gallery. Not only did Cardinal and Musgrave make a point to feature American artists such as Henry Darger, Joseph Yoakum, and others, but they also broadened the definition of Outsider Art to include vernacular and indigenous works, which Dubuffet did not accept within his conception of art brut.

    In the 1980s, inspired by the example of Outsider Art, American Folk Art curators and devotees likewise sought to gain a larger audience and be taken more seriously. The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC held Black Folk Art in America, 1930-1980 (January 15 – March 28, 1982), which traveled extensively and spawned additional exhibitions, often focusing on African-American artists of the South. As much as this led to increased visibility, Folk Art and Outsider Art began to become synonymous as the 1980s progressed, leading some critics to complain that this association was itself a kind of marginalization.

    Jesse Howard (American, 1885-1983), Judas Which Was Guide to Them …, oil on board, 11 3/4″ x 24 1/4″, Art & Design, September 16, 2018, Lot 73
    Estimate $1,000-2,000
    Sold for $5,200

    Outsider Art Exhibitions and Art Fairs

     

    Parallel Visions: Modern Artists and Outsider Art (1992) by Maurice Tuchman and Carol S. Eliel

    The Los Angeles County Museum of Art staged an important hybrid exhibition in the early 1990s, Parallel Visions: Modern Artists and Outsider Art (October 18, 1992 – January 3, 1993), which juxtaposed the work of so-called Insider artists with that of Outsider artists. This helped put Outsider Art more firmly on the map, and the roster of artists shown was relatively diverse from a cultural standpoint, but only eight of 74 were women. In the almost 30 years since Parallel Visions, many other shows have attempted to highlight the perspectives and contributions of Outsider and Folk artists, including the Museum of Modern Art’s Glossolalia: Languages of Drawing (March 26 – July 7, 2008) and the National Gallery of Art’s Outliers and American Vanguard Art (January 28 – May 13, 2018), which went on to travel widely.

    Howard Finster (American, 1916-2001), George at 23, 1988 (#8130), paint and marker on wood, 9 1/2″h x 6 3/8″w x 3 5/8″d, Folk, Outsider & Self-Taught Art + Americana, August 12, 2021
    Estimate $400-600

    Within the last decade, Outsider artists have become even more prominent given the development of art fairs dedicated to their works in New York, Paris, and elsewhere. In addition, Outsider Art has now been shown in important recurring exhibitions in Europe like the Venice Biennale and documenta in Kassel, Germany. Within the United States, Outsider Art has been prominently displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, and many other institutions.

    Still, disagreement over what to call Outsider Art persists. Raw Vision magazine in Britain leans toward Intuitive Art or Visionary Art, which may apply to both the artists and their art, without negative connotations. Similarly, two facilities in the United States dedicated solely to the field, Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art in Chicago and the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, suggest their genre classification preferences with their names.

    “As far as I’m concerned, there ain’t no outsiders of anything. If you’re an artist, you’re an artist. If you’re a mechanic, you’re a mechanic. If you’re a farmer, you’re a farmer. Ain’t no outsider farmers, ain’t no outsider mechanics. That’s just something that someone’s got up to class things. I ignore it.” — Howard Finster, quoted in “THE OUTSIDERS: With Its Exhibit ‘Parallel Visions,’ the County Museum Validates a Controversial Genre — the Art of the Insane” by Tessa DeCarlo and Susan Subtle Dintenfass, Los Angeles Times, October 11, 1992

     
  5. The Artistic Rendering of Wesley Willis

    Leave a Comment

    by Aron Packer,
    Senior Specialist,
    Contemporary &
    Outsider Art

     

    In our Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art auction on Thursday, February 25, 2021, Toomey & Co. will offer four Wesley Willis drawings. During the 1980s and 1990s, Willis was a fixture on Chicago’s Outsider art and underground music scene. Formerly beloved by just the alternative, bohemian set, Willis has lately become more widely appreciated by art and music fans alike.

    Portrait of the Outsider Artist: Wesley Willis (May 31, 1963 – August 21, 2003)

     

    Wesley Willis was a complex human being. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia in his late 20s, and had other maladies and tics, which all contributed to the great art and music he created over his too short life.

    Artist/musician Wesley Willis. (Photo by and courtesy of Carla Winterbottom)

    A true savant, Willis committed himself fully to art and possessed unusual, obsessive memorization skills with his song lyrics. While Willis would often draw all over Chicago en plein air, he had a kind of photographic memory and did not need to have his subject of choice in front of him.

    Willis’ work is immediately recognizable. His signature drawings have an active and quick architectural rendering style. You really see visual movement in much of his work.

    Wesley Willis works on a drawing at home. (Photo by and courtesy of Carla Winterbottom)

    He employed various perspective devices, distorting his subjects and breaking drawing “rules” whenever and however he wanted. He created consistently compelling packed urban visuals across the artistic spectrum. Willis’ somber and peaceful urban scenes appear less busy upon closer inspection, with large breadths of clouds regularly dominating low horizon lines.

    Life in the Fast Lane with Willis

     

    Almost always working on Crescent board, Willis would take a section of the city of Chicago and render a large swath of his viewing angle. For example, one of his favorite vantage points was overlooking the Dan Ryan Expressway, which gave Willis a clear perspective of the downtown skyline and the ‘L’ train. From there, he drew scenes like: The Comiskey Park Old and New, 1993 and The Dan Ryan Expressway, Root St, 1990. 

    Wesley Willis (American, 1963-2003)
    The Comiskey Park Old and New, 1993, ballpoint pen and marker on Crescent board, 28″ x 40 1/2″
    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Art & Design, March 8, 2020, Lot 35
    Estimate $600-800
    Sold for $1,375

    Wesley Willis (American, 1963-2003)
    The Dan Ryan Expressway, Root St, 1990, ballpoint pen and marker on Crescent board, 28″ x 40 3/4″
    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art, February 25, 2021, Lot 11
    Estimate $600-800
    Sold for $2,875

    Willis Maps Chicago’s Skyline 

     

    Taken together, various titles of works by the quite prolific Willis constitute a veritable map of Chicago both geographically and culturally. In recent years, Toomey & Co. has been fortunate to play a part in expanding awareness of and demand for such Willis compositions as: The Shore Line, 1991Area Skyline of Chicago, circa 1996Monroe Wabash Madison (Chicago), 1993; and River City, 1986, which sold for $3,900 over its $600-800 estimate.

    Wesley Willis (American, 1963-2003)
    River City, 1986, ballpoint pen and marker on Crescent board, 28″ x 40″
    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Art & Design, December 6, 2020, Lot 129
    Estimate $600-800
    Sold for $3,900

    Two of the drawings in Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art on February 25, 2021 very much capture the grand sweep of Chicago’s iconic cityscape: Skyline of Chicago, 1987 and Buckingham Fountain, 1990

    Wesley Willis (American, 1963-2003)
    Skyline of Chicago, 1987, ballpoint pen and marker on Crescent board, 28″ x 37″
    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art, February 25, 2021, Lot 10
    Estimate $600-800
    Sold for $3,125

    Wesley Willis (American, 1963-2003)
    Buckingham Fountain, 1990, ballpoint pen and marker on Crescent board, 28″ x 41″
    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art, February 25, 2021, Lot 13
    Estimate $600-800
    Sold for $2,860

    Memories of Willis and Friends

     

    My first sightings of Wesley were in the 1980s. I was going to Circle, which is now part of the University of Illinois at Chicago campus. I used to take the ‘L’ train’s Red Line to the Blue Line from East Rogers Park, transferring at Jackson and going down the tube to make it to my stop at Halsted.

    Wesley Willis converses with fans after his concert/art show at famed music venue CBGB in New York City, 1996. (Photo by and courtesy of Carla Winterbottom, manager for the American Records/Juxtapoz tour)

    I was always in a rush, but I remember hearing about a guy carrying a folding chair and poster board around and doing drawings of the city with ballpoint pen. I was getting interested in Outsider art, but I never really stopped when I saw Wesley at work. My wife recalls spotting him at many Red Line stops and how he looked youthful like a boy then. Early on, I started noticing that many friends had drawings by Wesley. Unfortunately, I did not get many at that point, just as I missed out on the works that Lee Godie sold directly around town. I suppose I felt that I could not always spare the $10 or $20 they wanted.

    Fast forward to Wicker Park in the early 1990s. I had my Aron Packer Gallery space at North, Damen, and Milwaukee Avenues. It was on the second floor of the Flatiron Arts Building and I could see everything at the bustling six-corner intersection. I often would see Wesley hanging out at the Copy Max below me or in front of Earwax Café. He usually wanted me to get a drawing and mostly I could not, but sometimes I did. Sadly, I no longer have them, since they fell victim to a basement flood.

    Wesley Willis at home with one of his drawings on the wall seated next to friend and roommate Carla Winterbottom, 1986. (Photo by David DiTroia and courtesy of Carla Winterbottom)

    Whenever I crossed paths with Wesley, he would always want us to “head butt,” but in a gentle way, in which we simply connected our foreheads. It was sort of like a Star Trek-style mind meld, where we would psychically join our thoughts and feelings at that moment.

    I finally had a show with Wesley in 1995. I do not remember exactly how it came about, whether I asked Wesley himself or his good friend and roommate Carla Winterbottom. We hung my space with several of Wesley’s drawings and had an opening reception for him. Carla knew him better than anyone. They had met at the Genesis Art Supply Store on Western Avenue where she worked. Here are some of Carla’s recollections:

    “One thing that I just loved about Wesley, as a fellow artist, was seeing his sense of joy, dedication and discipline in making art. No matter the obstacle (and there were plenty), Wesley was undaunted, and kept his sense of humor. In fact, he absolutely loved to laugh at his own antics and wordplay. Double entendres, triple entendres, sound making, etc. Frankly, those were the biggest perks of being his roommate; we were in cahoots while those moments escalated to a pure childlike glee. True joyrides. The man knew happiness and it was infectious. He had a deep wisdom also, a sense of decency and a need to be a good citizen. All in all, he embodied the strangest, most wonderful combination of charm and chaos.” — Carla Winterbottom on Wesley Willis

     

    Willis the Underground Musician and His Cult Following

     

    Wesley Willis performs at his concert/art show at famed music venue CBGB in New York City, 1996. (Photo by and courtesy of Carla Winterbottom, manager for the American Records/Juxtapoz tour)

    The wildest part of the reception was when Wesley played a jaunty, punk-inflected music set. We hosted that in the Around the Coyote office next door. This involved a Casio-style keyboard, which had all sorts of programs for rhythms and prerecorded arrangements. Wesley performed his lively yet edgy tunes one after another. His in-your-face album and song titles included: Torture Demon Hell Ride, “Sooby Dooby,” “I Whipped Batman’s Ass,” and many more graphic ones. Wesley also had songs about Christmas and featuring rock stars, celebrities, and so forth.

    Wesley Willis takes a break from playing his keyboard at home to talk on the phone, 1992. (Photo courtesy of Carla Winterbottom)

    To catch up on Wesley’s music career, visit Spotify or YouTube to see him in action solo, or check out his recordings and performances with his heavy metal band the Fiasco on Spotify or YouTube.

    Far from being tangential to his drawing practice, Wesley’s music making complemented and interacted with his visual art in many cases. Wesley’s most streamed song on Spotify is “Rock N Rock McDonalds,” which has 1,674,312 plays (as of February 5, 2021). While many of his songs explored similar sonic realms, he was a master of memorization who liked to sprinkle his lyrics with advertising taglines such as “American Express, don’t leave home without it” (this would often end many of his songs).

    These taglines and the companies they came from filtered into Wesley’s artwork. You can see ads on the sides of buses or billboards in the Chicago skylines. A drawing coming up for auction in Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art on February 25 has the McDonald’s “Arches” featured prominently. In other sections of many of Wesley’s drawings, advertising phrases are featured with these logos.

    Wesley Willis (American, 1963-2003)
    The Chicago Skyline, Wells, Wentworth 51st (McDonald’s), ballpoint pen and marker on Crescent board, 28″ x 41″
    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art, February 25, 2021, Lot 12
    Estimate $600-800
    Sold for $3,375

    The Growing Legacy of Wesley Willis

     

    Complicated yet accessible, rough-around-the-edges yet good-natured, meticulous yet prolific, the immensely talented Wesley Willis is worthy of an artistic dissertation. You may visit Toomey & Co.’s website to view all of the Willis drawings that we have featured. At the moment, the market for his work is particularly strong. With each passing year, Willis has gradually begun to receive his just due posthumously for the work that he produced. This account only scratches the surface of who Willis was as a person and a creator. Writing this has made me want to “head butt” him again softly to reconnect our minds. RIP Wesley.

  6. The Experimentalists
    of Murano Glass:
    Ercole Barovier, Carlo Scarpa,
    and Fulvio Bianconi

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    by Carl Liggett,
    Specialist, Modern Design
    &
    Don Schmaltz,
    Senior Specialist, Modern Design

     

    Introduction

     

    With multiple record-breaking results achieved at auction in recent years, the strength and depth of the current market for important 20th-century Italian glass is hard to deny. Yet for many interested in glass from Murano, the genre can seem a discouragingly exclusive and elusive field. Who are the important Italian glass designers and producers? For which styles and techniques are they known? How can one recognize the best works and find fine original examples? For us and many others naturally attracted to the beauty of Italian glass, the enjoyment of the field only increases with more knowledge of the techniques, innovations, and history of Murano.

    In our Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art auction on Thursday, February 25, 2021, Toomey & Co. Auctioneers is pleased to offer an impressive collection of important and also accessible Italian glass. For those who are new to this material as well as longtime collectors, we are providing an overview of a few of the preeminent innovators of Murano glass alongside some relevant examples of their works available on February 25.

    Ercole Barovier (1889-1974)

     

    Ercole Barovier. (Photo courtesy of olnickspanu.com)

    As with many art and design movements, the Murano glass industry was about to achieve its own revolution of modernization around the turn of the 20th century.

    Centuries before Venetian glass had reached its historical peak of influence and market dominance, but by the end of the 1800s, many glassmakers were largely still looking to the past by creating works with conventional techniques in an outmoded style.

    Ercole Barovier’s ancestors were initially no exception, but with their Coppe e Spiral (“Spiraling Goblets”) presented at the 1895 exhibition at the Venice Glass Museum, they became among the first glassmakers of Murano to react to the emerging Art Nouveau style.

    Venice Glass Museum, Murano, Italy. (Photo by Stefania Vida and courtesy of where-venice.com)

    In the early 1900s, the Baroviers continued to flirt with further innovation and, in 1919, Ercole Barovier joined the company, then called Vetreria Artistica Barovier (today Barovier & Toso). Ercole would quickly take his family’s growing fascination with emerging styles and long history of glass mastery into the modern era with a heightened creativity and relentless sense of experimentation that would become the hallmark of his near 50-year career in glass.

    Remarking on how Murano glass artisans carefully produced his now heralded designs, Barovier explained the lofty aesthetic mission and painstaking perfectionism that led to his glass advancements over several decades:

    “… the main source of inspiration is the furnace: the artist must stand side by side with the glass-maker, whose task is to carry out a faithful reproduction and interpretation not just of the sketch, but of the designer’s very soul […] The designer must be in spiritual communication with the glass-maker and follow with care his execution of the object, correcting him if necessary […] At times, the object produced is set aside, thrown away, because one feels that it is imperfect. If the desired result is not achieved through one path, then another must be undertaken […] At long last the art glass piece is accomplished […] How many models of new glass objects have I produced in my forty years of activity? The answer astonishes even me: thousands, each of which bears the traces of a part of my life and soul.” — from Art of the Barovier: Glassmakers in Murano 1866-1972 by Marina Barovier (Arsenale Editrice, 2007, pp. 22-23)

     

    Glasswork by Ercole Barovier from Toomey & Co. Auctioneers

     

    Ercole Barovier (1889-1974)
    for Vetreria Artistica Barovier
    Mosaico vase, Italy, 1920s, opaque and transparent murrina, 7 3/4″dia x 8 1/2″h
    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Art & Design, March 8, 2020, Lot 416
    Estimate $1,000-2,000
    Sold for $19,500

    Some of Ercole Barovier’s earliest work at Vetreria Artistica Barovier, such as his famous Mosaico vases from around 1924, largely built upon his family’s formidable technical expertise, in this case, its prior work with murrina, a glassmaking process in which colored designs are rendered by cutting the glass cane, or rods of specific colors, into small cross sections and then assembling them to create a striking mosaic. During the Art & Design auction on March 8, 2020, Toomey & Co. Auctioneers sold a Barovier Mosaico vase (Lot 416) showcasing this brilliant technique for $19,500. The estimate was set at only $1,000-2,000 for this remarkable example due to a minor, stable crack; without this, the vase would have no doubt achieved an even higher price.

     

    Ercole Barovier (1889-1974)
    for Ferro Toso Barovier

    large A Mugnoni vase, Murano, Italy, circa 1938, clear thick glass with applied bulges and bubbles, 12″dia x 14 1/4″h
    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art, February 25, 2021, Lot 122
    Estimate $4,000-6,000
    Sold for $4,225

    In 1929, Barovier’s curious nature was rewarded even further with the incredibly well-received Primavera series of works in an Art Deco style. This line was itself an accident of experimentation, and despite numerous efforts to recreate the process in which it was created, the characteristic pale white craquele lactescent glass was never successfully reproduced after the initial run. The reception of this line only solidified Barovier’s innovative mindset and the value he found in experimentation. Thus, two primary fields of innovation emerged and persisted throughout his career: mosaic experiments with murrina and experiments in ‘coloring without melting.’

    Ercole Barovier (1889–1974)
    for Barovier & Toso

    Aborigeni vase, Murano, Italy, circa 1954, glass with lizard-green internal decoration and bubbles, 6 1/4″dia x 10 3/4″h
    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art,
    February 25, 2021, Lot 140
    Estimate $1,000-2,000
    Sold for $1,500

    The first offering in the Italian glass section of the sale on February 25 is a heavy and thick-walled A Mugnoni vase (Lot 122) by Ercole Barovier from 1938. As this work is composed entirely of clear glass, it may be surprising to learn that it was in large part a result of Barovier’s prior experiments in ‘coloring without melting.’ Some no-melt inclusions necessitated the use of thick and heavy blown glass, such as Barovier’s famous Crepuscolo series with iron wool inclusions.

    The resulting popularity of this thick blown glass became an innovation of its own, and in turn led to increased demand for the A Mugnoni series and similar lines. Through this experimentation, Barovier transformed thick blown glass from something unheard of in Murano into a new characteristic style for which the Venetian island’s makers would become inextricably linked and world-renowned.

    Barovier’s Barbarico vases (Lots 123 & 124) also represent highly successful results of his experiments in ‘coloring without melting.’ In these works, the technique is again transformed to create a highly textured and ‘unmelted’ surface characteristic, resembling but quite different from the corroso surface technique; whereas with the Aborigeni vase (Lot 140), Barovier also utilizes ‘coloring without melting,’ but in this case in an internally decorated manner.

    Ercole Barovier (1889–1974) for Barovier & Toso
    Barbarico vase, Murano, Italy, circa 1951, glass with textured surface,  6 5/8″w x 5 1/2″d x 11 1/4″h (left) and 4 3/8″w x 4 5/8″d x 12 1/2″h (right)
    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art, February 25, 2021,
    Lots 123 & 124 (offered separately)
    Estimate $1,000-2,000 (each)
    Sold for $2,855 (combined)

    Carlo Scarpa (1906-1978)

     

    Carlo Scarpa. (Photo courtesy of casatigallery.com)

    Another well-represented Italian glass designer in the auction on February 25 is Carlo Scarpa, who is equally lauded for his refined modern architecture and furniture design and the understated yet elegant intricacy of his glasswork.

    Scarpa was born in 1906 in Venice, where he would continue to live for most of his life and complete much of his notable work. He studied architecture at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia and graduated in 1926 as a Professor of Architectural Drawing, although he never formally sat for his architecture exam.

    Carlo Scarpa (1906-1978) for Venini
    Battuto vase, model 3571, Murano, Italy, circa 1940, red glass with hand-hammered surface, 5 3/4″dia x 5 3/4″h
    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art,
    February 25, 2021, Lot 137
    Estimate $2,500-3,500
    Sold for $3,000

    Instead, Scarpa began his career in glass at M.V.M. Cappellin, replacing Vittorio Zecchin as artistic director, before moving on to Venini, where he also became artistic director under Paolo Venini in 1934.

    Carlo Scarpa (1906-1978) for Venini
    Mezza Diamante vase, Murano, Italy, circa 1942, pink translucent glass,
    5″dia x 10 1/8″h
    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art,
    February 25, 2021, Lot 125
    Estimate $1,500-2,500
    Sold for $2,470

    Although Scarpa produced a very impressive body of work at M.V.M. Cappellin, it was with Venini that his impact and influence on Murano glass would truly be felt.

    Similar to Ercole Barovier, Scarpa was keenly interested in glass experimentation and he developed many novel techniques, evident in his reticello, bollicine, mezza filigrana, and murrini opache lines of work.

    Glasswork by Carlo Scarpa from Toomey & Co. Auctioneers

     

    Above all, it is the subtlety of Scarpa’s designs, the surface treatment, the minimalism, and the bold yet spare color choices that he utilized, which sets his work apart. This can especially be appreciated in the textured works for which he is well known, including those fashioned from corroso, inciso, and battuto techniques.

    Carlo Scarpa (1906-1978) for Venini
    A Fili e a Fasce bowl, model 4569, Murano, Italy, circa 1942, glass with pale decorative threads and bands, 10 1/8″dia x 3″h
    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art,
    February 25, 2021, Lot 136
    Estimate $7,000-9,000
    Unsold

    In the auction on February 25, we have a striking red Battuto vase (Lot 137), made around 1940, which expresses these subtleties especially well. Whereas, a rare A Fili e a Fasce bowl (Lot 136) from 1942 also shows these nuanced surface and color choices, but in a substantially contrasting palette and form. Although quite different, both works exude the subtle composure that immediately reads as the work of Scarpa.

    The sale will also include a pink translucent Mezza Diamante vase (Lot 125) and a Rigati e Tessuti vase in sommerso glass with attractive caning (Lot 139).

    The Architectural Philosophy and Legacy of Carlo Scarpa

     

    By the time Carlo Scarpa left Venini in 1947, he had spent about 20 years working on glass in Murano before shifting his focus to concentrate almost exclusively on architecture and furniture design.

    Carlo Scarpa (1906-1978) for Venini
    Rigati e Tessuti vase, Murano, Italy, circa 1938, sommerso glass with thin green and dark amethyst canes,
    5 3/4″w x 3 1/4″d x 7 5/8″h
    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art,
    February 25, 2021, Lot 139
    Estimate $2,000-3,000
    Sold for $1,875

    This seemingly separate practice in fact helps shed light on Scarpa’s stylistic motivations in glass. With both architecture and glasswork, he was noted for his reverence for, not rejection of, formal historical precedents while still creating utterly modern work.

    As an architect, Scarpa was a master of not only broad forms, space, and the control of light, but also the smallest details and material characteristics. This approach characterized his glass designs as well. During his time, Scarpa was admired by and garnered comparisons to such greats of modern architecture as Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Kahn.

    In a 2016 profile of Scarpa in The New York Times, critic Nancy Hass stated, “His architecture was an antidote to the era’s brazen showiness: subtle and natural instead of flashy and proudly artificial.” We think a similar sentiment could be expressed about Scarpa’s work in glass.

    Interior of Carlo Scarpa’s Tomba Brion (Brion Cemetery) [1968-1978], San Vito d’Altivole, Treviso, Italy. (Photo by Flickr user leonl and courtesy of archdaily.com)

    Fulvio Bianconi (1915-1996)

     

    Fulvio Bianconi. (Photo courtesy of venini.com)

    As it turned out, Carlo Scarpa’s departure from Venini to pursue his architecture career in 1947 coincided with another multi-talented artist with an experimental spirit making the acquaintance of Paolo Venini. 

    Fulvio Bianconi (1915-1996)
    Rettangolare vase, Murano, Italy, circa 1960, light blue glass with applied decoration,
    4 1/8″sq x 5″h
    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art,
    February 25, 2021, Lot 134
    Estimate $1,000-2,000
    Sold for $1,040

    Like Scarpa, Fulvio Bianconi was a graduate of the Accademia de Belle Arti in Venice, but instead of architecture he had been pursuing a career as a graphic artist, illustrator, and industrial designer.

    Bianconi had already found success in that field, having worked for a number of noteworthy Italian companies, including the publishers Garzanti and Rizzoli, and it was thus on a business trip that he happened to meet Venini.

    An experimentalist in his own right, Paolo Venini must have been intrigued by imagining the stylistic innovations Bianconi could bring to the company and quickly offered him the appealing position of artistic director in the wake of Scarpa’s tenure. It is easy to see the graphic and painterly qualities in Bianconi’s work that had attracted Venini.

    Considering his prior work, Bianconi was very much in touch with current trends and styles, but he was also a quick study of the historical techniques of Murano. Like Scarpa and also Barovier before him, Bianconi was able to use these techniques in his own way to create some of the most innovative and recognizable works of the era.

    Fulvio Bianconi (1915-1996) & Paolo Venini (1895-1959) for Venini
    Fazzoletto handkerchief vases, group of three, Murano, Italy, circa 1950, clear blown glass with mesh cane inclusions, largest: 7 3/4″w x 6 1/2″d x 6″h; smallest: 3 7/8″w x 3 1/2″d x 3 1/8″h
    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art,
    February 25, 2021, Lot 130
    Estimate $800-1,200
    Sold for $715

    Glasswork by Fulvio Bianconi from Toomey & Co. Auctioneers

     

    Fulvio Bianconi (1915-1996) for Venini
    Spicchi vase, model 4316, Murano, Italy, 1950, clear glass with red and blue triangular tesserae, 8″w x 2 3/8″d x 8 1/4″h
    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art,
    February 25, 2021, Lot 133
    Estimate $7,000-9,000
    Sold for $7,800

    A new interpretation of conventional techniques can easily be seen in Bianconi’s figural pieces from the late 1940s and early 1950s, which read as especially cartoonish caricatures compared to more typically subdued Murano figurines. Similarly, Bianconi’s iconic Fazzoletto vases (Lots 130–132) created in tandem with Paolo Venini also show this quality of melding old with new.

    Fulvio Bianconi (1915-1996)
    rare bowl, Murano, Italy, 1955
    clear blown glass with red and blue decoration, 7 3/8″w x 6 1/2″d x 4 3/8″h
    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art,
    February 25, 2021, Lot 135
    Estimate $3,000-5,000
    Sold for $2,500

    It was, however, the ground-breaking graphic qualities in works such as his Pezzatti, Fasce Orizzontali, and especially his Macchi vases that seemed truly ahead of their time, demanded attention, and helped elevate Murano works in glass into the realm of modern art. This quality is well expressed in Bianconi’s Spicchi vase (Lot 133) from 1950, which was exhibited at the 25th Biennale of Venice the same year.

    Bianconi’s Rettangolare vase (Lot 134) likewise bears traces of his graphic art and industrial design background. The rectangular, light blue glass form is adorned with a horizontally applied “connect-the-dots” style zig-zag. One of the more dramatic pieces on offer by Bianconi is a rare abstract, blown bowl (Lot 135), which he personally executed in 1955. This example features clear glass decorated with red and blue confetti-like dots and squiggles. Playful and slightly challenging, this piece expresses the boundary-pushing spirit of Bianconi’s best work. 

    Considered together, the Bianconi glass that we have available at auction presents the wide range of expressive and painterly qualities that have made its designer one of the most sought-after Murano glass artists on the market today.

    Conclusion

     

    The three ‘experimentalists’ covered above played an integral role in pulling an overly traditional Murano glass industry into an exciting new era during the early-to-mid 20th century. While many other artists and glassmakers contributed to the evolution of this ancient craft, the ingenuity and efforts of Ercole Barovier, Carlo Scarpa, and Fulvio Bianconi were undeniably pivotal. Their design experiments essentially reshaped the creative landscape and not only made the field lucrative, but brought Murano glass fully within the sphere of modern art. Contemporary designers and collectors continue to draw inspiration from the sublime works of this trio of glass luminaries. 

  7. Keith Haring’s
    Vibrant Pop Shop

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    by Aron Packer,
    Senior Specialist,
    Contemporary &
    Outsider Art

     

    During our Tradition & Innovation auction on Thursday, December 3, 2020, Toomey & Co. Auctioneers will have two examples by important post-Warholian artists, Keith Haring (Lot 57) and Jeff Koons (Lot 58). They seem to be opposite sides of a similar coin to me, and much could be said about the prolific and provocative Koons, but my focus for the moment is Haring, as we will have two other works (Lots 114 and 115) by him on offer in our Art & Design auction on Sunday, December 6, 2020.

    Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987)
    Andy Warhol Kiku Exhibition Catalog, 1983-1984, color screenprint bound into book, 11 1/4″ x 8 1/2″
    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Art & Design, December 6, 2020, Lot 113
    Estimate $1,500-2,500
    Sold for $2,210

    Jeff Koons
    (American, b. 1955)
    Balloon Dog, 1995
    porcelain
    10 1/2″dia x 5″h
    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers
    Tradition & Innovation
    December 3, 2020, Lot 58
    Estimate $6,000-8,000
    Sold for $7,500

    Memories of New York City and Keith Haring’s Pop Shop

     

    I remember going to New York City in the 1980s to visit one of my good old friends.  When he lived in Chicago, he would get me out of the house and took me to New Wave dance clubs, which were often associated with the contemporary art scene of the time. He moved to New York in the late 1970s and I visited on multiple occasions. My friend lived in a fifth-floor, walk-up apartment in the East Village, and the neighborhood was pretty rough then. During the day, he would take me to all of the galleries that were up and coming, and I saw that you really could do almost anything you wanted as an artist at that point. Those trips to New York in the late 1970s and 1980s were pivotal in inspiring my lifelong passion for the arts. On one of my later trips, I remember going to Keith Haring’s Pop Shop after it opened in 1986. The place was wild, decorated like a day-glo mini club, and its atmosphere was electric. Music was pumping and there was floor-to-ceiling imagery everywhere. I was thoroughly impressed and that experience definitely strengthened my connection to the underground art world.

    Biography of Artist Keith Haring

     

    Keith Haring was born in Reading, Pennsylvania in 1958. His father was an engineer and drew cartoons. Haring was quite a devout Christian in his youth, but he eventually channeled that religious fervor into making art. His earliest influences were Walt Disney and Charles Schulz along with Looney Tunes and Dr. Seuss.

    Keith Haring (left) with Craig Kersten in Chicago, May 17-19, 1989. In 1985, Kersten moved to New York City and worked as a darkroom printer, graphic artist, and freelance photographer for Rolling Stone and Us Weekly. At galleries and nightclubs, Kersten befriended Haring, Robert Mapplethorpe, Kenny Scharff, and others. By 1989, Kersten was serving as an appointed volunteer for Chicago’s cultural affairs department when Haring came to town to paint his largest and sadly last mural in Grant Park. (Photo © Craig Kersten 1989-2020. All Rights Reserved)

    In 1976, Haring enrolled at the Ivy School of Professional Art in Pittsburgh, but he quit two years later to pursue his art independently. In the late 1970s, Haring explored the art of Jackson Pollock, Jean Dubuffet, and others. He had his first solo exhibition in 1978 at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and subsequently moved to New York City to study painting at the School of Visual Arts.

    Craig Kersten in front of Keith Haring’s Pop Shop in New York City after its opening in 1986. (Photo © Craig Kersten 1989-2020. All Rights Reserved)

    Before long, Haring started to create public art in subway stations, often in the form of chalk drawings on empty, black ad panels. In the early 1980s, Haring developed his trademark symbol, “The Radiant Baby,” an image transposed from his religious past to a colorful, Pop art context. Haring’s Pop Shop opened in 1986 in Soho, making his art and reproductions available to the general public at reasonable prices.

    In 1988, Haring tested positive for HIV and soon created a foundation to fund care-giving organizations and help make those dealing with the disease visible. In 1990, Haring died of AIDS-related complications. Today Haring’s work is immediately recognizable and represented in several important collections, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

    Keith Haring works on his last mural in Chicago’s Grant Park, May 17-19, 1989. Craig Kersten recalls approaching Haring in the park as hip hop played. “To see him paint,” Kersten says, “was the most moving experience of my life.” The two became even closer during Haring’s visit to Chicago and Kersten was blown away by Haring’s “generosity and love of all!” (Photo © Craig Kersten 1989-2020. All Rights Reserved)

    Keith Haring’s Pop Shop II in Tradition & Innovation on December 3, 2020

     

    In Tradition & Innovation on Thursday, December 3, we will have Lot 57, a single example from Pop Shop II, which was a second group of four prints Haring made in 1988, after the successful release of Pop Shop I in 1987. These were works available at the Pop Shop, which was a commercial yet artistic extension of Haring’s practice. Placing his imagery at affordable price points was one of the enterprise’s main goals. Clothing and gift items could be had by customers along with screenprints of high aesthetic quality like the one offered here. This particular work presents one of Haring’s signature graffiti figures doing a backbend, not a yoga pose that we might see today but a 1980s breakdancing move. The color palette is luscious with rich texture and the ink is buttery with a thick application. All three colors play off one another nicely, with the electric figure emanating and pulsing.

    Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990)
    Pop Shop II, 1988, color screenprint, 10 1/2″ x 13 1/2″
    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Tradition & Innovation, December 3, 2020, Lot 57
    Estimate $8,000-12,000
    Sold for $20,000

    Two Keith Haring Works in Art & Design on December 6, 2020

     

    In Art & Design on Sunday, December 6, we will auction two other works by Keith Haring. Lot 114 is an untitled example of a screenprint on canvas. This imagery is identical to what is known as the Dr. Winkie Wedding Invitation. Featuring two dancing figures sharing a head, with a heart within the shared cranium, this is a sweet yet lively composition and clearly made a great invitation. Lot 115 is a more classical visual, in the sense that it is reminiscent of the dynamic Cubism of Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, or André Masson. A two-headed, armed figure seems to work in tandem to juggle two balls in the air. The abstract yellow, red, and green shapes in the background support the figurative plane. This piece has a more European feel to it, as opposed to Haring’s iconic street figures, which makes sense because Haring created this to pay tribute to International Volunteer Day for the World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA). The Emiliano Sorini Studio printed this edition of 1,000 and the lithograph bears blindstamps of the studio and WFUNA in the lower-right corner. Fittingly, WFUNA’s stamp is a tiny globe.

    Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990)
    Untitled, 1988, screenprint on canvas, 5 3/8″ x 5 5/8″
    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Art & Design, December 6, 2020, Lot 114 (left)
    Estimate $2,000-3,000
    Sold for $12,500

     
    Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990)
    International Volunteer Day, 1988, color lithograph, 11″ x 8 1/2″
    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Art & Design, December 6, 2020, Lot 115 (right)
    Estimate $2,000-3,000
    Sold for $3,750

    Keith Haring’s Pop Shop I in Tradition & Innovation on December 2, 2018

     

    During the inaugural Tradition & Innovation on December 2, 2018, Toomey & Co. Auctioneers sold two Pop Shop I prints from 1987 by Keith Haring separately and each realized $16,900. Lot 63 and Lot 64 show celebratory, animated figures and incorporate a shared palette of three bold colors. It is fascinating to see how Haring elaborated this concept initially before moving on to Pop Shop II the following year.

    Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990)
    Pop Shop I, 1987, color screenprint, 10 1/2″ x 13 3/8″
    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Tradition & Innovation, December 2, 2018, Lot 63
    Estimate $8,000-12,000
    Sold for $16,900

    Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990)
    Pop Shop I, 1987, color screenprint, 10 1/2″ x 13 3/8″
    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Tradition & Innovation, December 2, 2018, Lot 64
    Estimate $8,000-12,000
    Sold for $16,900

  8. Danish Modern Love:
    Collecting Poul Kjærholm
    with the Briskeys

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    by Don Schmaltz,
    Senior Specialist, Modern Design
    &
    Carl Liggett,
    Specialist, Modern Design

     

    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers will proudly offer several lots by Danish modern designer Poul Kjærholm and other notable Scandinavian and American designers from The Collection of Ernest and Marjorie Briskey of Madison, Wisconsin during Tradition & Innovation on Thursday, December 3 and Art & Design on Sunday, December 6.

    The Briskeys were highly successful and worldly academics who spent a memorable sabbatical year (1958-1959) living 20 miles west of Copenhagen in Roskilde, which lit the spark of their lifelong passion for Danish modern design. It is rare to find such a large grouping of early works by Kjærholm in excellent vintage condition — even more so because these items have been held exclusively by the Briskey family since their purchase and copies of the original receipts are included with each lot.

    Poul Kjærholm’s Minimalist Modern Design

     

    Poul Kjærholm at work early in his design career. (Photo courtesy of Fritz Hansen © 2019)

    For many Nordic design cognoscenti, the works of Poul Kjærholm are a pivotal cornerstone within the generally defined Scandinavian mid-century style.

    Kjærholm’s designs both originated and embody the more austere modernist side of Nordic design and, as many have observed, they appear as freshly focused and refined today as when they were first conceived.

    Looking back through the history of modern Scandinavian design (and modern design writ large) the importance of Kjærholm’s work is obvious to those who appreciate the genre.

    It is therefore impressive to discover a pair of culturally curious and artistically engaged Americans who, despite little background in the field of design, had the foresight to recognize and respect these works upon discovering them in their very first years of production.

    Poul Kjærholm (1929-1980) for E. Kold Christensen
    PK 51 work table, Denmark, 1959, ash, matte chrome-plated spring steel, 80 1/4″w x 40 1/4″d x 27″h”, Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Tradition & Innovation, December 3, 2020, Lot 33
    Estimate $2,000-3,000
    Sold for $4,225

    Poul Kjærholm (1929-1980) for E. Kold Christensen
    PK 11 dining chairs, set of eight, Denmark, 1959, leather, matte chrome-plated spring steel, laminated ash, plastic, 24 3/4″w x 18″d x 25 3/4″h, Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Tradition & Innovation, December 3, 2020, Lot 32
    Estimate $30,000-50,000
    Sold for $31,250

    The Briskeys Discover Poul Kjærholm

     

    Amid their many travels to over 85 countries and time living abroad in Denmark, Thailand, and Kuwait, Ernest and Marjorie Briskey gathered various objects and artworks from throughout the world. Eventually, they would fill their home with such varied objects as historical textiles, abstract art, antique Middle Eastern coffeepots, and even a meticulously curated dollhouse, which will soon join the displays at the Madison Children’s Museum.

    While on sabbatical in 1958-1959, the Briskeys found themselves living near Copenhagen, where Marjorie pursued work as a home economist and Ernest carried out research to complete his postdoctoral studies at the Danish Meat Research Institute in Roskilde.

    Poul Kjærholm (1929-1980) for E. Kold Christensen
    PK 80 daybed, Denmark, 1959, leather, matte chrome-plated spring steel, lacquered plywood, rubber, 76″w x 32″d x 12 1/2″h, Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Tradition & Innovation, December 3, 2020, Lot 35
    Estimate $8,000-12,000
    Sold for $10,000

    According to Marjorie, the couple first encountered modern Danish design, and the work of Poul Kjærholm in particular, by simply exploring Copenhagen and its shops at the time. “We fell in love with the quality of his materials,” Marjorie said of Kjærholm, “his technique of curving the backs of his chairs, and each piece’s overall simplicity.”

    Poul Kjærholm (1929-1980) for E. Kold Christensen
    PK 22 lounge chairs, pair, Denmark, 1959, leather, canvas, matte chrome-plated spring steel
    24 3/4″w x 26″d x 28 1/2″h, Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Tradition & Innovation, December 3, 2020, Lot 36
    Estimate $4,000-6,000
    Sold for $5,937

    Poul Kjærholm (1929-1980) for E. Kold Christensen
    PK 33 stool, Denmark, 1959, leather, matte chrome-plated spring steel, lacquered plywood, plastic, 22″dia x 15″h, Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Tradition & Innovation, December 3, 2020, Lot 38
    Estimate $2,000-3,000
    Sold for $4,225

    The Briskeys were immediately struck by these minimalist Kjærholm pieces produced by Ejvind Kold Christensen, which so sharply contrasted with many of their former conceptions of furniture design. They were smitten and determined to acquire all they could afford to then ship back to their Wisconsin home.

    Choosing a broad representation of Kjærholm works, the Briskeys first built their collection around a PK 51 work table (Lot 33) and a set of eight PK 11 dining chairs (Lot 32). Of course, as they increasingly came to admire Kjærholm’s aesthetic, it did not make sense to stop with only a few examples.

    The Briskeys loved what they found and rounded out their collection with a PK 80 daybed (Lot 35), a pair of PK 22 lounge chairs (Lot 36), a PK 33 stool (Lot 38), and other works, amounting to a nearly complete grouping of the designer’s oeuvre.

     

    Original Danish modern furniture brochures acquired by the Briskeys in Copenhagen (1958-1959).

    Original receipts for Danish modern furniture purchased by the Briskeys in Copenhagen (1958-1959).

    Other Danish Modern Designers in The Briskey Collection

     

    Hans Wegner (1914-2007) for Andreas Tuck
    Cube Bar, #AT34, Denmark, 1959, teak, matte chrome-plated steel, 19 3/4″w x 21 1/2″d x 19 3/4″h, Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Art & Design, December 6, 2020, Lot 307
    Estimate $6,000-8,000
    Sold for $5,937

    Although Kjærholm became the central focus of the Briskeys’ mid-century collection, they paired his furniture with attractive designs by other Scandinavian makers.

    During their time in Denmark, they also selected such complementary works as a Hans Wegner for Andreas Tuck Cube Bar cabinet (Lot 307) and a pair of Arne Jacobsen for Fritz Hansen Egg lounge chairs (not currently on offer) as well as smaller items such as a Tapio Wirkkala for Iittala Kaleidoscope vase (Lot 313) and a Georg Jensen round footed bowl with foliate pedestal base, which sold recently for $1,125.

    Tapio Wirkkala (1915-1995) for Iittala
    Kaleidoscope vase, #3584, Finland, circa 1960, glass, 4 1/2″dia x 8 1/4″h, Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Art & Design, December 6, 2020, Lot 313
    Estimate $500-700
    Sold for $1,040

    The Briskeys developed close channels of communication with the retailer S. Chr. Sørensen, through which they acquired most of their pieces, but also developed relationships with other manufacturers and distributors.

    By corresponding with Niels Vodder, they were incredibly fortunate to have an opportunity to acquire a truly rare pair of Finn Juhl-designed unique cabinets (Lots 40 and 41) that were made in anticipation of the 33rd Copenhagen Cabinetmakers Guild Forum in 1959.

    These simply refined cabinets in oak and brushed steel are one of only two examples of this design ever produced, with the other two having been executed in teak.

    Marjorie always loved to point out that the designer’s pencil marks remain inside the Finn Juhl cabinets and that throughout their time with the Briskey family they sat side by side and functioned as the sideboard gracing the Kjærholm dining set. This will be the first time these rare cabinets will be on offer at auction.

    Finn Juhl (1912-1989) for Niels Vodder
    unique four-drawer cabinet and unique two-door cabinet, Denmark, 1959, oak, lacquered oak, brushed stainless steel, [four-drawer] 27 1/2″w x 20 3/4″d (including handles) x 31 1/8″h | [two-drawer] 47 5/16″w x 20 3/4″d (including handles) x 31 1/8″h, Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Tradition & Innovation, December 3, 2020, Lots 40 and 41
    Estimate $3,000-5,000 (each)
    Sold for $11,050 (combined)

    Pairing American and Danish Modern Design

     

    Back in the United States, the Briskeys remained in touch with their contacts in Denmark as their desire to expand their modern design collection only grew. In 1967, they had their eyes on more works by Finn Juhl, but were unable to come to an agreement with Niels Vodder in an attempt to acquire a pair of NV 45 chairs and an NV 54 sideboard. Fortunately, there were also some impressive American modern options that fit nicely within the Briskeys’ collection, such as a fine Florence Knoll for Knoll International credenza (Lot 424) in teak and marble that they purchased instead.

    Florence Knoll (1917-2019) for Knoll International
    credenza, New York, New York, circa 1960, teak, marble, chrome-plated steel, 74 1/2″w x 18 1/2″d x 25 1/2″h, Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Art & Design, December 6, 2020, Lot 424
    Estimate $1,500-2,500
    Sold for $4,062

    Poul Kjærholm’s ‘Lost’ Chair Completes The Briskey Collection

     

    Poul Kjærholm (1929-1980) for Fritz Hansen
    PK 0 lounge chair, Denmark, designed 1952 / produced 1997, painted and laminated ash, 24 3/4″w x 26″d x 28 1/2″h, Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Tradition & Innovation, December 3, 2020, Lot 39
    Estimate $4,000-6,000
    Sold for $6,250

    A few decades after their initial foray into collecting Kjærholm, the Briskeys found one last opportunity to acquire an early chair of his that had essentially been lost to history. The Briskeys were already aware of this design and, similar to many other Kjærholm aficionados, regretted that the sculptural form had never made it into production.

    What was to be called the PK 0 chair (Lot 39) was one of Kjærholm’s earliest designs that he had vetted for production. Regrettably, in 1952, when he presented the chair design to the director of Fritz Hansen, Kjærholm was told it could not be produced because the company’s facilities were already being utilized to make a first order of Arne Jacobsen’s Ant chair.

    Unlike the Ant chair, Kjærholm’s design employed just two pieces of one material, bent and molded plywood. He was certain it was the more innovative design, and Fritz Hansen’s refusal to produce the chair ultimately created a rift between Kjærholm and the company, compelling him to leave the firm shortly thereafter.

    With a renewed interest in Kjærholm’s work in the 1990s, Fritz Hansen finally decided to retail just 600 examples of this early design. For the Briskeys, the ‘lost’ PK O chair was an important missing piece of their collection, and they secured the purchase of one of these limited-edition examples, numbered 364, in September 1997.

    Traveling and Working Abroad Enhances The Briskey Collection

     

    Throughout their lives, the Briskeys’ opportunities to travel widely continued. After Ernest began his career as a notable meat scientist who made highly influential contributions to the field of ‘muscle biology’ and taught at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, he went on to work in the corporate world at Campbell Soup Company, became the Dean of Agricultural Science at Oregon State University, and worked for USAID in Bangkok, Thailand before serving as the Senior Scientific Advisor at the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research. Marjorie matched Ernest’s passions step for step. She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Home Economics (Nutrition) at the University of Wisconsin – Madison as well and taught home economics and science in the United States, Thailand, and Kuwait.

    The Briskeys’ homes always reflected the growing list of countries they visited and embraced, but at the center of it all remained their Danish “treasures.” They truly lucked into being at the right place at the right time to become such avid early collectors of what has become such highly sought-after and forward-thinking design by Poul Kjærholm and others.

    Nonetheless, Ernest and Marjorie’s careers in research and teaching do not fully account for the couple’s vast curiosity and refined taste. The Kjærholm designs and related modern pieces are probably the Briskeys’ most impressive achievement as collectors, but they represent only one side of the eclectic vision that led to the acquisition of various historic objects and artworks. Formerly spread throughout an interior framed by Danish and other modern furniture in the Briskeys’ home, their diverse collection somehow always made perfect sense, and the central importance of the Kjærholm designs was abundantly clear.

    Various furniture lots on offer by Poul Kjærholm and Finn Juhl in Tradition & Innovation on Thursday, December 3, 2020 and Tapio Wirkkala and Poul Henningsen in Art & Design on Sunday, December 6, 2020. All items pictured are from The Collection of Ernest and Marjorie Briskey, Madison, Wisconsin — except the Poul Henningsen for Louis Poulsen Contrast pendant light (Art & Design, Lot 314).

    Biography of Ernest and Marjorie Briskey

     

    Wisconsin natives Ernest Briskey and Marjorie Swanson Briskey married in Madison in December 1955. They had both previously earned their undergraduate degrees from the University of Wisconsin – Madison: Ernest a B.S. in Meat and Animal Science in 1952 and Marjorie a B.S. in Home Economics in 1953. Following service as an officer in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, Ernest got his M.S. in Animal Science from Ohio State University in 1955 before returning to the University of Wisconsin – Madison to pursue a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Meat and Animal Science under the mentorship of Dr. Robert W. Bray. Ernest ultimately earned his Ph.D. in 1958 and, along with Dr. Bray, helped make the University of Wisconsin a global leader in the field for years to come. In particular, Ernest carried out research on animal muscle protein and the postmortem changes in swine muscle under stress.

    During a postdoctoral sabbatical year (1958-1959), Ernest and Marjorie lived outside of Copenhagen in Roskilde , Denmark, where Ernest continued his investigations at the Danish Meat Research Institute and Marjorie worked in business and research herself. With Danish modern design at its apex, Ernest and Marjorie became enamored of the cutting-edge furniture and decorative arts then being produced, especially that of Poul Kjærholm, but also works by Hans Wegner, Arne Jacobsen, and others. Before returning to the United States, the Briskeys applied their academically trained keen eyes and evolving interior taste toward the purchase of several original pieces from local shops and makers, establishing lines of contact that would last well into the future, and they arranged to transport their new collection of Danish mid-century design back home.

    After returning to the University of Wisconsin – Madison, Ernest became a Meat and Animal Science faculty member, full professor, and eventually the director of the Institute of Muscle Biology. Marjorie earned her M.S. in Home Economics in 1962 and was an instructor and student supervisor for the University’s School of Human Ecology. In 1970, Ernest and Marjorie relocated to Camden, New Jersey, where Ernest acted as the Vice President of Technical and Administration for the Campbell Soup Company until becoming Dean of Agricultural Science at Oregon State University in Corvallis in 1979.

    As the 1980s progressed, Ernest and Marjorie felt their wanderlust return, heading east this time, first to Thailand (1984-1986) and then to Kuwait (1986-1998). In both countries, Ernest acted as a science advisor for the U.S. State Department. He held his deanship at Oregon State remotely until 1987 and stayed a professor thereafter. Marjorie taught home economics and advised the International Human Assistance Project in Thailand and she taught various subjects during the Briskeys’ extended stay in Kuwait, which included four suspenseful months in hiding during the Gulf War.

    In 1998, the Briskeys returned to the United States and Ernest retired from Oregon State. He and Marjorie proceeded to split their retirement between Arizona and Wisconsin. Ernest was inducted into the Wisconsin Meat Industry Hall of Fame in 2000 and given membership into the Diamond Pioneer of Agriculture Career Registry by Oregon State while undergoing treatment for leukemia at the University Hospital shortly before his passing on June 24, 2006. Ernest was survived by his wife of 50 years, Marjorie, who moved back to the Madison area permanently, their three children (Kemble, Carla, and Paul), and their five grandchildren (Chelsea, Kevin, Jackson, Marisa, and Ernest).

  9. Virtually Tour Crab Tree Farm with the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms

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    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers invites you to explore the Harvey Ellis Bungalow at Crab Tree Farm in Lake Bluff, Illinois through a virtual tour on Saturday, August 22 at 4 PM EDT. We are proud to sponsor this member-exclusive program in support of our friends at the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms in Parsippany, New Jersey.

    Virtual Farms Afield, Harvey Ellis Bungalow, Crab Tree Farm, Lake Bluff, Illinois

    Interior of the Harvey Ellis Bungalow. Photo courtesy of Crab Tree Farm, Lake Bluff, Illinois / Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms, Parsippany, New Jersey

    Crab Tree Farm Virtual Tour
    Saturday, August 22 | 4PM EDT

     

    The extraordinary Harvey Ellis Bungalow is located on the grounds of the privately owned Crab Tree Farm in Lake Bluff, Illinois. On the virtual tour, you will have an opportunity to explore this remarkable structure, which was constructed using Ellis’ original designs — published in a December 1903 article in Gustav Stickley’s The Craftsman — as well as the bungalow’s exemplary period interiors. An early 20th century dairy farm in Lake Bluff, Illinois, Crab Tree Farm’s original buildings, which were designed by noted Chicago architect Solon Spencer Beman, have undergone extensive renovation and display collections of furniture and decorative arts from the American and English Arts & Crafts Movements as well as contemporary furniture.

    This program is FREE with RSVP to Members of the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms.

    Member RSVP

    Architectural Rendering of the Harvey Ellis Bungalow, Crab Tree Farm, Lake Bluff, Illinois

    Architectural rendering of the Harvey Ellis Bungalow. Photo courtesy of Crab Tree Farm, Lake Bluff, Illinois / Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms, Parsippany, New Jersey

    Join the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms

     

    If you are not a member of the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms, you may join today and make a free reservation to attend the virtual tour of the Harvey Ellis Bungalow at Crab Tree Farm on Saturday, August 22 at 4 PM EDT. When you become a new member and RSVP, the Museum’s Trustees will match your membership dollar for dollar. As a new member you will be able to attend all members-only programs and feel good knowing your contribution will have twice the impact in benefitting the Stickley Museum. 

    Become a Member

     

    About Craftsman Farms

     

    Craftsman Farms in Parsippany, New Jersey was established by Gustav Stickley in the early 20th century. Best known for his Craftsman aesthetic, Stickley style prized fine craftsmanship, especially labor done by hand, an appreciation for natural materials, and, most of all, the presentation of the family home as a sanctuary. A National Historic Landmark, the property is known today as the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms, which is dedicated to preserving and sharing Stickley’s legacy.

    Log House at the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms, Parsippany, New Jersey

    Log House at the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms, Parsippany, New Jersey. Photo courtesy of the Stickley Museum

  10. Lloyd Wright:
    Design from His
    Home and Studio

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    by Carl Liggett
    Specialist, Modern Design

     

    In our upcoming Art & Design auction on June 28, 2020, Toomey & Co. Auctioneers is pleased to begin the Modern Design section with some excellent examples of furniture by architect Lloyd Wright — eldest son of Frank Lloyd Wright (also with several items in the sale). Lot 365 includes a dining table and pair of chairs by Lloyd Wright. Lot 366 and Lot 367 respectively feature a pair of end tables and an impressive bed frame attributed to Lloyd Wright as well.

    Lloyd Wright (1890-1978)
    dining table and chairs, pair
    California, 1929
    figured red gum, upholstery
    unmarked
    table: 63″w x 33″d x 28″h; chairs: 15″w x 17″d x 44 1/2″h
    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers
    Art & Design
    June 28, 2020
    Sale 123
    Lot 365
    Estimate $4,000-6,000

    The Estate of Michael Rabkin

     

    These and several other items in this section of the sale come from The Estate of Michael Rabkin and the West Los Angeles, Lloyd Wright-designed home, completed in 1937, where Michael and Ginger Rabkin lived for many years. To learn more about the Rabkin’s collection, you may reference an earlier post, “Art Deco Material from The Estate of Michael Rabkin” (featuring furniture from early modern designers such as Gilbert Rohde, Paul Frankl, Donald Deskey, Warren McArthur, and others).

    Attributed to Lloyd Wright (1890-1978)
    end tables, pair
    USA
    fir, rosewood
    unmarked
    18 1/2″w x 17″d x 22″h
    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers
    Art & Design
    June 28, 2020
    Sale 123
    Lot 366
    Estimate $2,000-3,000

    Attributed to Lloyd Wright (1890-1978)
    queen bed
    USA
    fir, plywood, upholstery
    unmarked
    68 3/4″w x 93″d x 48 1/2″h; frame interior: 60″w x 84″d
    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers
    Art & Design
    June 28, 2020
    Sale 123
    Lot 367
    Estimate $1,500-2,500

    Perhaps appropriately these Lloyd Wright items will immediately follow a set of three Kalita Humphreys Theater seats in Lot 364 designed by Frank Lloyd Wright himself — also with Rabkin provenance.

    Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) for the Kalita Humphreys Theater
    theater seats, set of three
    Dallas, Texas, circa 1955
    steel, upholstery, plastic laminate, maple
    unmarked, seat numbers to arms
    from an edition of 338 chairs
    21 1/4″w x 22″d x 34″h
    Toomey & Co. Auctioneers
    Art & Design
    June 28, 2020
    Sale 123
    Lot 364
    Estimate $2,500-3,500

    Biography of Lloyd Wright

     

    Lloyd Wright in his youth. Photo courtesy of the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust

    On March 31, 1890, Frank Lloyd Wright Jr. became the first son to one of the world’s most famous architects. Later known simply as Lloyd Wright, he spent much of his young life at his father’s studio in their hometown of Oak Park, Illinois, just west of Chicago, as well as at what would become the site of Frank Lloyd Wright’s sprawling estate, Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Growing up under this influence, it should come as no surprise that Lloyd Wright, too, would become an accomplished architect and designer.

    After briefly attending the University of WisconsinMadison, Lloyd Wright found a position with the esteemed Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm in Boston, Massachusetts. The firm sent Wright to San Diego, California to assist with the landscape design of the 1915 PanamaCalifornia Exposition. This would be Wright’s introduction to the Southern California region, where he would continue to live and complete the majority of his best-known works.

    The John and Ruth Sowden House

     

    In the 1920s, while assisting his father on various projects, such as the Aline Barnsdall Hollyhock House in East Hollywood, Lloyd Wright also began his own independent career with a number of works in the Los Angeles area. Perhaps most recognizable and well-regarded was the Mayan-influenced John and Ruth Sowden House, located at 5121 Franklin Avenue in Los Angeles’ Los Feliz neighborhood, which appeared in such films as L.A. Confidential and as Ava Gardner’s residence in The Aviator. Although not well received at the time, the home’s use of decorative concrete blocks would eventually become popular and is now seen as a signature characteristic of Lloyd Wright’s California homes, as well as those of his father.

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    Exterior and interior views of The John and Ruth Sowden House, 5121 Franklin Avenue, Los Angeles, California. Photos courtesy of The Sowden House

    The Frank Lloyd Wright Jr. Home and Studio

     

    Lot 365, the Lloyd Wright dining table and chairs in our upcoming auction, were made specifically for another of Lloyd Wright’s best residential projects from the period: the architect’s own home and studio at 858 North Doheny Drive in West Hollywood. Completed in 1927, this beautifully compact, 2,413-square-foot space was arranged into two separate units — one for living and one for work. Again, decorative concrete blocks were used here, this time in an interlocking, stylized Joshua Tree motif. By the 1990s, the home had fallen into a state of disrepair, some interior elements were let go, and a full restoration was undertaken by Lloyd Wright’s son, architect Eric Lloyd Wright.

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    Exterior and interior views of The Frank Lloyd Wright Jr. Home and Studio, 858 North Doheny Drive, West Hollywood, California. Photos courtesy of CARETS / John Aaroe Group via Architect Magazine

    Other Architecture in Los Angeles by Lloyd Wright

     

    If not for carrying the Frank Lloyd Wright name, and working in the shadow of his father, it is likely that the beautiful architecture and design of Lloyd Wright would be even more greatly appreciated today. We invite you to research this somewhat lesser-known yet highly accomplished architect. In addition to The Frank Lloyd Wright Jr. Home and Studio and The John and Ruth Sowden House, other notable Lloyd Wright-designed homes from the 1920s in Southern California include: The Martha Taggart House, 2158 Live Oak Drive, Los Angeles, California; The Henry O. Bollman House, 1530 North Ogden Drive, Los Angeles, California; The James Derby House, 2535 East Chevy Chase Drive, Glendale, California; and The Louis Samuel-Ramon Novarro Residence, 5609 Valley Oak Drive, Los Angeles, California.

    [top left] The Martha Taggart House, 2158 Live Oak Drive, Los Angeles, California. Photo courtesy of USModernist / Modernist Archive, Inc.
    [top right] The Henry O. Bollman House, 1530 North Ogden Drive, Los Angeles, California. Photo courtesy of USModernist / Modernist Archive, Inc.
    [bottom left] The James Derby House, 2535 East Chevy Chase Drive, Glendale, California. Photo courtesy of Curbed Los Angeles
    [bottom right] The Louis Samuel-Ramon Novarro Residence, 5609 Valley Oak Drive, Los Angeles, California. Photo courtesy of The Los Angeles Conservancy