“What I’m hearing from collectors is that they have one of every important modernist piece and now they’re looking for items to enhance their collections—like ephemera and original photographs,” says Peter Loughrey, founder of L.A. Modern Auctions, which is offering a large collection of Charles Eames and Herman Miller black and whites on May 6.
The sale also includes a number of rare 20th-century design icons. A Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen prototype chair, which won first prize in the Museum of Modern Art’s “Organic Design” competition in 1940-41, will go on the auction block with an estimate of $125,000 to $150,000. There were only two chairs made; the other is in Germany’s Vitra Design Museum. Also consigned to auction is Alessandro Mendini’s Proust armchair (estimate: $10,000 to $12,000), which the Italian designer painted in 1987. “This chair is sculptural, and it’s much more a statement, than a piece of furniture,” says Loughrey. “It questions what’s tasteful and what’s not.”
Among the other offerings are a Mexique bookshelf designed by Charlotte Perriand for Jean Prouvé (estimate $30,000 to $35,000); Isamu Noguchi’s Rudder Table, 1952 ($12,000 to $15,000); and a pair of Warren McArthur tubular aluminum chairs from the 1930s (estimate $2,500 to $3,000 each).
From the Midwest comes a signature Sam Maloof rocking chair that the highly sought after furniture maker, whose furniture is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and numerous other prestigious museums in the United States, custom-made for a client in 1994. (The design for the chair was originally conceived in the late 1960s, and Maloof has made them to order ever since. The rockers are so long that the chair will roll back and forth for four and a half minutes after a single push.) “Even though Maloof made these rockers to fit a client by measuring their height and taking other measurements, this chair is comfortable for many people,” Loughrey notes. The estimate is $15,000 to $18,000, a few thousand more than a new one—but there’s a several-year wait for a custom handmade rocker from Maloof, born in 1916 in the Los Angeles area.