Wright is an auction house based in Chicago focusing on mid-century design and art. Never in my life have I seen the breadth and depth of mid-century and contemporary furniture until I visited the preview of the Boyd Collection sale last week.
The Boyd collection is from a prominent art and furniture collector from Southern California. It was like walking into a history book of who’s who in furniture design to see in person work I’d admired only in museum collections or in stores by authorized manufacturers like Vitra or Design Within Reach. Here are some of the highlights of wooden furniture from the preview.
Numerous Alvar Aalto pieces were available, including a stacking arm chair and medium sized side table. While relatively typical of furniture construction in 2018, seen through the lens of history, these pieces show Aalto’s vast research into material efficiency in the face of WWII scarcity. While Eames gets most (not all) of the credit for bent lamination research in the United States, Aalto was concurrently researching bent lamination to specifically take advantage of Finland’s vast forest resources. Oh, and the lamps are by famed furniture designer and sculptor Isamu Noguchi.
Rudolph Schindler was an Austrian architect who worked for Frank Lloyd Wright for several years in Chicago before settling in California to design modernist masterpieces in and around Los Angeles. Like Wright, Schindler designed both the structure and the furniture for the interiors, and this piece, made in 1948 was for the Ellen Jansen House. Made from decidedly modest pine and canvas, it is crudely constructed with visible nails and staples yet has a strong rectilinear and architectural presence. It appears to have been stained or whitewashed, and remarkably the planer marks remain.
These armchairs were designed by Gerrit Rietveld, who is more famous for his rectilinear Red and Blue Chair associated with the De Stijl art movement and paintings of Piet Mondrian. Rietveld was an architect and a cabinet maker. He was among the earliest champions of DIY furniture, and for this design utilized off the shelf lumber and simple rectilinear forms making the construction simple for novice and expert alike. These were designed in the 1930’s and made in the Netherlands in 1960.
Pierre Jeanneret and Jean Prouve
In the foreground is a desk/chair designed by Pierre Jeanneret, a Swiss architect. Jeanneret was the lesser known cousin and collaborator of LeCorbusier. Relatively unknown outside of scholarship, Jeanneret’s contributions to LeCorbusiers designs are finally receiving their just recognition. These chairs are from LeCorbusier’s commission to design the entire city of Chandigarh, India in 1947. Constructed simply out of solid Mahogany the scale of pine 2 x 4’s, one can imagine the challenges Jeanneret must have faced with this design. The furniture needed to be durable, to withstand the climate of Northern India but be simple and inexpensive to produce.
And not to relegate the four chairs in the background to a footnote, additional masterful designs by Jean Prouve, a French engineer with no design education but an exacting sense of the capability of materials in Post WWII Europe.
Nakashima, Joachim Tenerio and More
After exploring everything from the Boyd Collection, I took a walk upstairs to the auction room which overlooked the viewing room below. Stacked on the racks are additional ‘lots,’ or sets of furniture that were already sold and awaiting shipping. Closest are four Nakashima dining chairs (there was a Nakashima coffee table below!) Next are more chairs and stools from Chandigarh by Pierre Janneart. Skipping over to the end are a set of upholstered dining arm chairs by Brazilian furniture designer Joachim Tenerio. Each set of objects on this rack deserve a chapter in a history book, but I got to see all of them in person last week!
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