Modernist designs post strong results at Rago sale Jan. 19-21

Frederick H. Rhead (1880-1942) Arequipa vase decorated with stylized flowers, Fairfax, Calif., 1912; Price realized:$93,750. Rago Arts and Auction Center image

LAMBERTVILLE, N.J. –  Rago Arts and Auction Center’s Design Auctions brought in $6,133,750 on Jan. 19-21. A vast array of property, including the single-owner collection of Sire Records’ founder Seymour Stein, a record-breaking Arequipa pot, and the inaugural presentation of property from the archives of artist Albert Paley, propelled a consistently strong sale across three days, six auction segments and almost 1,300 lots. Absentee and Internet bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.

Estimates were surpassed and records were broken during a sale that earned an 83 percent sell-through rate and suggested that the market for Art Deco is heating up, while the desire for modern design overall remains strong.

Of the over 400 lots of early 20th-century design on offer, works by American makers were among the highest priced. Lot 600, an important squeeze-bag decorated vase (above) by Frederick H. Rhead for Arequipa sold for $93,750, breaking the record for highest price achieved at auction for a piece of Arequipa pottery.

Lot 602, another vase by Frederick H. Rhead for Steiger Terra Cotta & Pottery Works, defied its auction estimate in dramatic fashion, selling for $21,250 against a high estimate of $1,500.

Works from Tiffany Studios proved to be in high demand, representing six of the top nine lots in the Early 20th Century Design segment. Tiffany highlights include Lot 806, an enameled copper dragonfly tray that achieved $37,500, more than twice the high estimate of $15,000; Lot 832, a blue wave patterned table lamp which shattered its estimate of $4,500-$6,500 and sold for $28,750; and Lot 802, a rare mosaic pen wiper which sold for $26,250 against a high estimate of $10,000.

Tiffany highlights included this enameled copper dragonfly tray that sold for $37,500, more than double the high estimate of $15,000. Rago Arts and Auctions Center image

Works of French Art Deco also sold particularly well. From the Collection of Seymour Stein, Lot 434, a large Lalique Palestre vase sold for $40,625, exceeding its high estimate of $30,000; Lot 423, a massive exhibition vase with base by Charles Catteau for Boch Freres sold for $31,250; and a rare Le Jour et La Nuit clock by Lalique sold for $28,750.

Charles Catteau (1880-1966) Boch Freres massive Art Deco vase with elephants on pedestal, France, des. 1935, glazed stoneware, 62 ½ in. x 22 in. Collection of Seymour Stein. Price realized: $31,250. Rago Arts and Auction Center image

Modern design also had bidders excited. Lot 1026, a Sculpture Front cabinet from American furniture maker and New Hope, Pa., native Paul Evans, achieved the honor of top lot of the weekend, selling for $137,500 against an estimate of $95,000-125,000.

Paul Evans (1931-1987) sculpture front cabinet, New Hope, Pa., 1968. Price realized: $137,500. Rago Arts and Auction Center image

Other highlights from the Modern Design segment include Lot 1258, a large Mesa coffee table (below) by T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings which sold for $93,750; Lot 1280, a rare Chan desk from father & son design duo Philip & Kelvin LaVerne, which blew past a high estimate of $24,000 to sell for $53,125; Lot 1226, a rare Bahut cabinet complete with the original sketch by master furniture maker and designer George Nakashima which sold for $40,625 against a high estimate of $30,000; and Lot 1161, a unique Ivory Spirit piano by Wendell Castle for Steinway & Sons sold which for $43,750. Wendell Castle, who passed away on Jan. 20, was remembered on the podium by David Rago as an inspiration and a friend of the auction house.

T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings’ large Mesa coffee table sold for $93,750. Rago Arts and Auctions Center image

Rago presented nearly five decades of work from Albert Paley, internationally celebrated metalsmith and sculptor, in a never-to-market session direct from the artist’s archives. Sculptures and early pieces of jewelry performed well, particularly Lot 960, a unique sculpture titled Harlequin, which sold for $68,750, exceeding the estimate of $35,000-45,000; Lot 910, an exceptional and large jointed cameo pendant which sold for $56,250; and Paley’s 6-foot Evanesce steel sculpture, which soared past the high estimate of $22,500 to realize $40,625.

Albert Paley’s sculpture titled ‘Harlequin,’ achieved $68,750. Rago Arts and Auctions Center image

The Modern Glass & Ceramics portion was dominated by contemporary glass works. Three of the top eight lots of the sale came from glass master Dale Chihuly including Lot 1579, a massive Pacific Haven chandelier which sold $75,000 – the highest price in this session. Other highlights include Lot 1596, a massive sculpture titled Embrace by Christopher Ries which sold for $35,000 against an estimate of $20,000-$30,000; Lot 1593, a filet-de-verre vessel by Toots Zynsky which nearly doubled the high estimate of $8,000 to sell for $15,000; and Lot 1602, a glimmering sculpture by Jon Kuhn which sold for $15,000 against an estimate of $4,000-$6,000.