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Tramonto a New York (Sunset over New York) three-seater sofa designed by Gaetano Pesce for Cassina, which sold for £6,000 ($7,530, or $9,865 with buyer’s premium) at Lyon & Turnbull.

Gaetano Pesce handily beat estimates at Lyon & Turnbull’s Modern Made sale

LONDON, UK – A cache of works by the Italian architect, artist, and designer Gaetano Pesce (1939-2024) was among the highlights of the Lyon & Turnbull Modern Made sale. The collection, among the largest in the UK, was formed by the photographer and graphic designer Steve Allison (b.1948-).

L&T’s head of sale Philip Smith described Allison’s collection as “an exemplar of how to acquire fantastic things on a relatively modest budget, by following your eye and your passions”. Allison — an integral part of the theatre, dance, and music scene of Cardiff, Wales since the 1970s — has collected Gaetano Pesce’s work for many years.

Examples of most of Pesce’s best-known interior furnishings from the Eighties, Nineties, and Aughts were included. All share the design pioneer’s famously bold aesthetic employing vibrant colors, experimental materials, and inventive organic forms. It is an indication of current collecting trends that of the 70 pieces offered in 58 lots on April 26, just three failed to sell.

The Tramonto A New York (Sunset Over New York) three-seater sofa was designed as a large orange sun sinking below the Manhattan skyline. Intended to capture the energy of ‘the capital of 20th century,’ it was made by Cassina in small numbers in 1984. Allison acquired his from MAD Design in the Netherlands in 2003. It was estimated at £3,000-£5,000 ($3,800-$6,300) and sold at £6,000 ($7,530, or $9,865 with buyer’s premium).

Pesce was a champion of new materials such as injection-molded resin and polyurethanes but — breaking with the modernist philosophy of standardization — created unique art-design pieces that invited flaws as part of the design process. “I like beauty full of mistakes because we are human. Perfection is for machines, it is obsolete, gone,” he said.

The collection included examples of the Moss and Spaghetti range of vases produced for Fish Design, which celebrate the uncertainty of their manufacture. These were among a group of small-scale pieces sold for prices between £320 ($400, or $525 with buyer’s premium) and £750 ($940, or $1,230 with buyer’s premium).

Every version of Pesce’s Greene Street Chair fashioned in cast resin, steel, and rubber is subtly different. Designed in 1984 for the Italian company Vitra, the form was named after the street where Pesce started his company in the Soho neighborhood of New York. The example in the Lyon & Turnbull auction was made in black resin and took £5,500 ($6,905, or $9,040 with buyer’s premium).

Estimated at £2,000-£3,000 and sold at £7,500 ($9,415, or $12,330 with buyer’s premium) was one of the interior doors from the headquarters of the Chiat-Day advertising agency, a seminal 1994 commission that helped shape the playful communal office spaces of today’s culture industries. Pesce’s light-hearted resin and steel doors were modeled in a range of forms, from telephones to baseball cleats with ‘melting’ handles. Allison had bought his ‘tennis racquet’ door from Los Angeles Modern Auctions in 2003 at a time when auction prices for these fanciful forms were around $2,000-$4,000 each.

Also from the Chait-Day project was a 1996 poured resin and enameled steel Waffle Table that sold at £8,000 ($10,040, or $13,150 with buyer’s premium). It had been acquired at Wright Chicago in April 2009 for $2,700.

A piece from Pesce’s series of abstract figurative lamps, collectively known as the Some of Us lamps, sold at £4,600 ($5,775, or $7,560 with buyer’s premium). It had earned $4,200 at Wright in 2008. Each of these, made in editions of 20, have a distinct countenance and form that glows when lit. This example, standing 3ft 1in (92cm) high, dated to circa 2000.