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At Wright design auction, the bright spot is lighting

October 7, 2011 |  5:28 pm

W Greta Magnusson Grossman 2

For design fans who look to the auction market as their leading economic indicator, the sale Thursday at the Chicago auction house Wright provided one bright spot for the industry: lighting.

W Greta Magnusson Grossman 1Italian lamps designed by Angelo Lelli in the late 1960s performed well, as did the midcentury work of Greta Magnusson Grossman, one of the primary recipients of posthumous adoration now that California design is experiencing a resurgence of appreciation. Her 4-foot-2 Grasshopper floor lamp, pictured at right, had been estimated at $3,000 to $4,000 leading up to the Wright auction. It sold for $11,250. (The design is on view in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's show "California Design 1930-1965: Living in a Modern Way.") If you think that the Grasshopper price is stunning, check out the smaller Grossman table lamp above, which went for $15,000 on Thursday.

"California design is really on the make now," said Michael Jefferson, Wright's senior specialist for 20th century design. He said the Pacific Standard Time exhibitions could be nudging the market, but he also noted that most of the bidding for the Grossman designs came from the East Coast. "We're seeing European interest as well," he said.

Though some of the most expensive pieces in the auction went unsold, less costly pieces by top designers still brought near-record prices, Jefferson said. Given the perception of a slightly depressed market, consignors were urged to run with low estimates in hopes of drawing broad interest and sending bids higher. The strategy worked.

"When push comes to shove, buyers are willing to pay for extraordinary pieces," Jefferson said. Lighting in particular performed well, partly because many buyers were seeking functional design -- pieces that would not be not only appreciated but also used.

W Frank Gehry coffee table

W Arthur Umanoff flip clockIn other bidding, the 1971 Frank Gehry coffee table made of cardboard, Masonite and glass, pictured above, had been estimated at $3,000 to $5,000. It sold for $3,500.

The rosewood Flip table clock, pictured at right, sold for $1,450. It was designed by Arthur Umanoff circa 1960 for the Howard Miller Clock Co., and it's just 6 inches wide.

For more results from the auction Thursday, keep reading ...

W Angelo Lelli

A set of three Angelo Lelli floor lamps, circa 1968, had been estimated at $3,000 to $4,000. The set sold for $10,625.


Le Corbusier Pierre Jeanneret
A pair of lounge chairs designed by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret and made of teak, sheepskin and leather were estimated at $30,000 to $40,000. They sold for $74,500.

Frederick Weinberg clock
A 1950 Frederick Weinberg clock made of enameled aluminum, enameled steel and walnut is about 2 feet in diameter. It had been estimated at $500 to $700. It sold for $750.


Max Sauze Orion chandelier
The 1967 Orion chandelier by French designer Max Sauze is 18 inches in diameter and made of aluminum and steel. It had been estimated at $3,000 to $5,000. It sold for $8,125.


Joe Colombo Birillo stools
The vinyl Birillo stool, sold in a set of three, is a 1970 Joe Colombo design for manufacturer Zanotta. The set had been estimated at $3,000 to $5,000, and it sold for $6,250.


Richard Rogers Renzo Piano shelf
A 1977 shelving system that Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano designed for the administrative offices for the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris had been estimated at $10,000 to $15,000. It sold for $10,938.


  Paul McCobb vanity

This 1953 Paul McCobb vanity and chair with enameled steel frames, upholstered seat and birch accents had been estimated at $2,000 to $3,000. It sold for $6,875.


Franco Albini Franca Helg 
A pair of Tre Pezzi lounge chairs, a 1957 steel and ultrasuede design by Franco Albini and Franca Helg, sold for $25,000. That's $10,000 more than the high end of the pre-auction estimate.


Paul Laszlo chairs
From all the industrial steel, we move to the organic: Walnut and cane chairs designed by Paul Laszlo in 1950 and sold by Glenn of California. The two chairs, sold in a lot with a matching ottoman, had been estimated at $4,000 to $5,000. The three pieces ultimately sold for $8,125.


Edward Wormley Magazine table
Oh, the charms of furniture designed with print publications in mind. Edward Wormley's mahogany and steel Magazine table, circa 1949, has two slots to store your reading. Pre-auction estimate: $1,000 to $1,500. Final price paid: $6,875.


Edward Wormley globe
Edward Wormley's Cosmopolitan globe, a 1953 design with bleached mahogany stand, had been estimated at $1,000 to $1,500. It sold for $2,500.


W Nakashima long chair
A 1951 George Nakashima Long chair made of black walnut and canvas had been estimated at $20,000 to $30,000. It sold for $35,000.



Wright's spring auction

Los Angeles Modern Auctions' March results

Wright 2010 auction results in review

Landmark Houses: The Times series

-- Craig Nakano   

Photos: Courtesy of Wright