Barry Friedman, one of New York’s premier modern design dealers is retiring and selling part of his extensive contemporary design collection of furniture and art at Christie’s New York over the course of three days starting tomorrow 25 March 2014.
It used to be that these single owner sales were only for the estates of Princes and Socialites, but more and more we are seeing a wave of auctions from well-established dealers who are retiring or moving on to new things. In this case, it’s a great opportunity to do some shopping for modern design furniture and art as most of the estimates are far below retail.
Viewing the sale at Christie’s I was reminded that Barry Friedman and I share a love of glass – especially contemporary and modern glass. His collection is vast and encompasses some spectacular pieces that I can’t believe he can bear to let go. I have written about Tiffany Studio’s wonderful paperweight vases before, and the one above (2 image) has an ethereal iridescence and looks as though the maker had a blast decorating it with fluid lines that remind me of the late Argentine artist Leon Ferrari (1920-2013). And in complete contrast is a piece (3 image above) by Japanese artist Yoichi Ohira (b.1946) who spent over thirty years living and working in Venice marrying the traditions of Venetian glass with the aesthetic of his home country. These pieces of glass are perfect accent pieces for a study or library where they can continue to inspire.
French artist and modern furniture designer Ingrid Donat provides the Christie’s auction with two of my favorite contemporary design furniture pieces for sale. Donat’s love of sculpture plays out beautifully in the cabinet (above) and her chest (leading image). Both are impeccably crafted: I love how the drawers are fashioned to integrate the shaped sculptural supports. This piece in particular will remind readers of the furniture of Diego Giacometti who encouraged Donat to translate her sculpture into furnishings. I first saw Donat’s cabinet Hommage a Klimt Fille about five years ago in the home of a friend and it still enchants. The bust that acts as the door handle appears to burst through this field of bronze rings. The variations in tones of gilt and patinated bronze give life to this piece. A great room needs just one chic and fabulous piece of furniture, and this is definitely that piece!
From Andre Arbus (1903-1969) comes another sculpture (above) with the same vibe as a Giacometti that I would love to own. The figure is Acteon, the man the Greek goddess Artemis turned into a deer for catching her bathing in a river. And by the looks, it’s poor Acteon after his dogs tore him apart! Nonetheless, it remains a majestic sculpture with a rawness that could add at little edge to even the most sedate of drawing rooms.
Humberto (b.1953) and Fernando (b.1961) Campana are geniuses at transforming everyday objects into fashionable and unique pieces of contemporary furniture. Everyone knows them for their stuffed animal chairs, but I’m drawn to their Sushi Mirrors. Made from strips of carpet and rubber interspersed with bronze, they look to me like puffy clouds straining to float off your wall. They have a carefree air to them that would help to lighten any room. I for one would place it in the entry foyer so that it was the last thing I saw walking out the door and the first thing that greeted me when I came in at night. It’s a piece that makes me smile.
Finally, my two favorite pieces of flat art in the sale. First is an oversized photograph – Mirror Grid, Milan – by Michael Eastman (b.1947) whose work captures a haunting sense of mortality through his depiction of the fading glories of man’s creations. This image shows an 18th century sofa against a cascade of mirrored panels. Huge photos like this can help “double” the space in a small room because they superficially add depth to the room. And just because I seem to be in a Cubist mood suddenly, I end with Robert Marc’s (1943-1993) Portrait D’Homme, which also has an edge of decay and descent into chaos. Art isn’t all about bucolic landscapes and pretty still lifes after all!
Modern design furniture needs to thank Barry Friedman for promoting it and making the artists the household names that they are today. I hazard to guess this contemporary design sale will not be the last we hear of Barry. Why at just over 70 he still has decades to build and curate another collection – and I for one will look forward to his next venture to see what treasures he can find. My best wishes Barry!
richard rabel: interiors + art
interior design and art advising
new york city