Sunday, June 2, 2013

Eileen Gray at Auction: Follow the Lady Where Does She Go...

Eileen Gray from the Centre Pompidou Exhibition   Photo: Aestheticus Rex
Dear readers, I know I owe you a re-cap of the Eileen Gray exhibition at the Centre Pompidou which closed last month.  I was able to attend and shot a slew of images, rest assured.  Today I was settling into a peaceful Sunday afternoon thumbing through the upcoming Christie's 13 June 2013 Design Sale and was pleased to find lot 142.
Eileen Gray set of ten lacquered plates     Image via Christie's
They are a lustrous set of Eileen Gray aubergine lacquered wood plates with provenance back to the legendary Sotheby's sale of The Collection of Eileen Gray held in Monaco in 1980.  The plates are being offered at an estimate of $5000-8000.
Cover of the seminal Eileen Gray Collection Sale, Sotheby's Monaco, 1980    Image Via 1stDibs
Christie's present offering lists the plates provenance as being from a larger set offered as successive lots in the 1980 sale, lots 245a, b, or c.  But there is a bit more to the story as the tagline of this blog isn't "the incestuous world of design" for nothing.  As I have stated before, things tend to pop-up here, disappear for a while and re-emerge over there...but the internet has made the world a much smaller place.  The set of plates at Christie's quietly sold at Stair Galleries in Hudson, NY in December 2011 for $2000 on an estimate of $800-1200.  I only heard about the sale after the fact much to my chagrin...the winning bidder was a lucky person indeed.
Eileen Gray Lacquered Plates, Stair Galleries, Hudson, NY, 3 December 2011, lot 368      Image via Artfact
The Stair Galleries cataloging acknowledges that the plates indeed were part of lot 245 in the the 1980 Gray sale but goes further noting that the plates were also later sold at Sotheby's New York, 5 June 2001, lot 469.  How they emerged at a small Stair Galleries sale a decade later is anyone's guess.  With the buzz of the Yves Saint Laurent Sale and the recent retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in Paris I expect them to do much better.  We will have to wait until the hammer falls later this month.  As an FYI, another set of twelve plates was offered in the same December 2011 Stair Galleries sale but they have yet to resurface...
Set of Twelve Eilenn Gray Lacquered plates, Stair Galleries, Hudson NY, lot 367, sold $1200      Image via Artfact

UPDATE:  Well the auction took place a few hours ago and the plates sold for a whopping $43,750!  That is an amazing return on a $2000 investment.  I am sure we will see the other set in due course.  Happy hunting...--AR

I have been adding catalogues to my collection and unrelated research led me to additional provenance for these well traveled plates.  They were of course a set of 23 that were broken-up across four lots in the 1980 Sotheby's "Collection Eileen Gray" sale.  Lots 245, 245a, 245b, and 245c to be exact.
Collection Eileen Gray, Sotheby's Monaco25 May 1980, Lots 245 & 245a-c   Image via Sotheby's
Lot text for the above image.        Image via Sotheby's
They next surface in the collection of antiquities dealer Robin Symes in the guise of the "Philip Johnson Townhouse" sale at Sotheby's New York, 6 May 1989, lots 97-99 where they were now reduced to 22 plates split over three lots.
Philip Johnson Townhouse, Sotheby's New York, 6 May 1989, lots 97-99     Image via Sotheby's
Lot text for the above image.    Image via Sotheby's
Take note that the provenance is slightly incorrect as they include lot 244 from the Eileen Gray Collection which was actually a lacquer box.  Anyway, I have always thought it was a disservice to refer to the Symes sale in reference to the townhouse that was its final lot.  The sale was largely comprised of a cache of masterworks by Eileen Gray and Pierre Legrain including a slew of rare archival materials.  If you don not have a copy....find it!  It is a treasure trove of information.  As I stated previously, the plates next resurfaced at Sotheby's New York, 5 June 2001, lot 469.  I am assuming that all 22 plates were in that lot (I am tracking down a copy of this sale as is spotty with sales results beyond a decade).  From here they disappeared into the ether before they emerged in two successive lots at Stair Galleries in Hudson, New York, 3 December 2011.  The 22 being split over two lots (367 & 368).  As we now know they have been split-up, ten being sold at Christie's New York, 13 June 2013, lot 142.  I am waiting to see how long it will take for the other 12 surface.

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