Snake Auction Observer 064: Chairs, harsh and minimal lighting, many Texas-based items, chairs in girly colorways #free
Plus cheap sofas in LA and New York, the best Thonet chair in a minute and a Cassina retro hit
This week on an free-for-all Auction Observer: lighting, cheap seating, a bien pensée on planters, furniture in chick colors and more. But first,
I am in Ottawa, Ontario. There are so many powerlifting gyms here. I went to this box gym today that is better than anywhere I’ve been to in LA or New York, even the strong man gym by Mitchell’s Fried Chicken. There’s a glute-ham machine, several sleds and cones. But the slam balls are bouncy and they keep the TRX bands locked away in a closet, and require written report with rep ranges, overall exercise plan and body parts targeted in order for them to lend it to me. Classic bureaucracy that’s expected in a country in which unpasteurized dairy is ILLEGAL.
Any designers you guys want to see covered in the next Lore? Or a school of design? Reply to this email if there’s someone who you want to see highlighted. Or vote below:
Barbaglia and Marco Columbo PAF Studio lamp, Pa., ends Tues.: Another one from the fine subgenus of solid, minimal, simple metal lamps, the kind that go with anything—home or office, grandma or otherwise—this one by Mario Barbaglia and Marco Colombo. Lots of veterinary lamps look like this, so does the Martinelli Luce at the bottom of this post. This one’s run between $150 and $550 before, occasionally with a red base—very good—but does not sell often. Barbaglia and Colombo worked together on lighting, but most, to my eye, is minor; this is their best work but is nonetheless pretty quiet. The auction house is in Pennsylvania and is good. This time they are unloading lots of mid-level teak—a great way to upgrade your house on the cheap; this table has a Graves quality to it—as well as the nice clear plastic Castelli chairs and one of those guitars that you need a bowl cut to play. The house also tends to run Italian-heavy auctions every few months or so. $125
Fendi leather planter, Fl., ends Tues: Good planters are hard to find… more specifically, they are hard to find in a range of aesthetics. The most lasting and best are early modern—Tackett; white ceramic, very minimal, double coned or round—and have a huge design shadow. And are hard to find, hard to source, hard to research. And so the newer, smoothed out ones that are being made now… are distinctly in that shadow, albeit with less detail and personality. Which is to be expected—but the problem is there just aren’t that many other styles of planters out there otherwise. No balls, no heart…
Luckily no one’s forcing us at gunpoint to buy them And so this one by Fendi… sticks out. I can’t tell you when/where it was made, or under what circumstances it was released—there are other, rounder and more boring Fendi planters out there—or how real it is, but I can’t see someone going to the trouble of bootlegging a planter to sell it for very little money. What’s nice about this one is it’s a holdover from the era when luxury firms threw ideas at the wall and made subtle, odd decisions. Gardening equipment? Thermoses? Backgammon sets? Why not. The planter itself is quite plain, which is especially ideal for a planter… minimal planters look great, but, more than that, every person needs many plants in their house, and therefore many planters, and therefore has room for a minimal planter. (Walter Van Beirendonck should make planters.) Planters—the design lane, after kitchenware, that’s most barren. Part of an auction of trinkets, including some nice Dupont and Cartier lighters, as well as oil paintings of purebred dogs, and other luxury items of questionable provenance, the most relevant of which is a pair of knockoff Louis Vuitton boxing gloves that I need to train in and subsequently
be buried in with which I need to be buried. $75
Borsani for Tecno recliner, LA, ends Wed.: One of the better and more explanatory chairs from the 1950s, sitting between a couple different styles and pointing equally forwards and backwards between eras. Which ones? Well, straight 1950s industrial/mid-modern for one, as it is plain and almost officious, and not curvy. It has a big deco influence—if only from the what looks like brass hardware, and the mix of angles—and the disrespect here, the several different aesthetics calls to mind work produced much later, in the 1970s. An hard piece to find in the wild—a couple a year, tops; most get sold overseas—but versatile… runs a couple grand. Osvaldo Borsani, its designer, was an architect who also made the original homeless-proof bench; a very prophetic piece of design. Auction isn’t bad, and a little luxe: Case Study furniture, Cassina chairs, lots of gold and this Calda armchair which is just no-bones excellent. $2,000
Bertoia pink side chair, NJ, flat shipping/ van der Rohe MR20 chair, LA, ending Wed. and Thurs.: At the risk of heteronormativity, there aren’t many examples of girly-colored furniture out there. (Furniture with color palettes that tradionally appeal to girls.) For whatever reason… well… the reason, I’m sure, is that decades ago—the Bertoia’s from 1952, the van der Rohe ‘27—designers and producers were nearly maybe entirely fellas, and they were all going for serious design, and “seriousness” was defined in a very male way. Just how it was… what’s as interesting is how designers after this flipped this schematic on its ear. Not to isolate by gender… but if you look at the great female designers of a generation later—Cini Boeri and Gae Aulenti spring to mind most immediately—their work is willfully more serious and “masculine” (think pulverizing) than most of what their contemporaries were making. (Kind of how Claire Denis has the biggest balls and backbone of any director working today.) And I specifically mean serious and masculine per the standards that existed in the industry in which they came up…. just look at Aulenti’s Jumbo table. It is a monolith. Are these pieces male? Female? I don’t know. Probably not. They are strong, though.
Nowadays I don’t think we’re in an era where women are a captive audience or design consumer group… which is good. But there still isn’t much crap in Barbie colors. These two are genuinely surprising to see. Do they work? Maybe. The Bertoia’s an ideal accent chair—which is the best-case scenario for a single chair, anyways—and so the color pop helps here. It’s also only $100, which is cheap. The van der Rohe’s interesting because the color freaks the minimalist ideal he had his whole career. But does it? Is there anything maximalist about one specific color? Doubt it. At $500, it’s near its price edge, so don’t pay more than that, and is part of an auction full of Togos, but otherwise some nice Louis luggage trunks, jewelry and regal flatware.
Rietveld for Cassina Zig Zag chair, NOLA, ends Wed.: Quickly highlighting, with a photo, one of the 7 best chairs ever made; this is a perfectly conceived work of art (idea, theory, practice) that, as a Cassina retro from the ‘90s, is perfectly executed (angles, wood grain, wood quality). Just new and shiny enough to be lively. Gerrit Rietveld made this in 1934—100 years ago. Auction is in New Orleans—they speak French there, just like in Carroll Gardens—house there’s unloading Florence Knoll sofas, a garbage can with a chevalier on it, a cursed/cute Nelson mini cabinet, Vodder, some cool Hay chairs (legit) and a breathtaking rocker that I deign to link to. $2,100, the low range of what a Cassina Zig goes for these days; there’s a place in Chelsea that has one for $12,000.
Thonet bent plywood chair, $20, NOLA: More from New Orleans, which is a tricky city to ship from since it’s just east enough to be in New York shipping distance, but expensive as it’s not on the coast. Still, one does not only look at auctions to buy. It is often for reps—see furniture, clock furniture, understand furniture, move on. This chair’s clocked on a couple of sites, but the sellers don’t have its information either, aside from the Thonet imprint, and that it’s bentwood. Probably 1930s or 40s; this is a beautiful chair—simple, held back, rich color, hemmed in shape—and comes in a couple decades, let’s say, after the bistro chair, Thonet’s S 533…. massive. Am I tripping if I call them the central European Knoll of the 1920s? No. Same house as above and the Snake Lock of the Week at $20
Martinelli table lamp for Martinelli Luce, Glendale, ends Sat.: A table lamp whose spout’s a bit too tall… doesn’t look like a desk lamp. But the rule breaking doesn’t render it demonic in the way a Graves, I don’t know, credenza might. It’s just that table lamps should not be so long and bendable. Nonetheless, a subtle design decision; the final level; very small, almost evil. Elio Martinelli produced this one for himself; one of the dozens or hundreds own company. I can’t find info on it; it’s not far off from this Piero de Martini lamp for Architetti Only good item from an all-lighting auction. What model is this? Maybe the 700… but it isn’t that. No price history, and only $100
Knoll Exec. Partners desk, Pa., $750 (harsh, wide, square, elegant, equally equitable for business or dinner)
Frattini for Cassina nesting tables, $125, Pa. (very much classic; fair price)
Porsche Artemide spot lamp, $50, Pa. (more of a curiosity than something awesome)
Boby trolley (black), $150, Pa. (this is the new floor price for Bobys. Times have changed)
Cassina cab chair, pair, $300, LA (versatile, elegant and rich; fair price)
Frattini for Artemide Megaron floor lamp, LA, $300 (beautiful, minimal column lamp)
Colombo Birillo table for Zanotta, $600 (one of his best)… ends Friday
Knockoff Kartell trolley, orange, Austin, $80 (deal if it stays low) …ends Saturday
Reto Frigg for De Sede DS-140 adjustable sofa, LA, $1,400 (Rare designer-centered De Sede; and one of their lighter designs. A steal if it stays under 2)
Breuer red Laccio tables, pair, San Antonio, IHS, $200 (no-brainer, minimal perfection.)
Jorge Pensi for Knoll polished stacking chairs, pair, Houston, $250 (perhaps the greatest outdoor chair of all time; pictured)