PROVIDENCE, R.I. – On October 15 at 2 pm Eastern Time, Vallot Auctioneers will feature Finn Juhl furniture designs purchased in the late 1940s by the founding family of Wise Potato Chips for their Pennsylvania modernist residence. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
Among the Juhl offerings is a 402 chair (shown above) created circa 1948, which retains its original fabric and label. It is estimated at $2,000-$3,000. “This chair represents the best of Finn Juhl and is an extremely rare find, especially because it retains the original fabric and hog hair and horse hair filling,” said Michael Dym, Vallot’s auctioneer.
Other scarce designs from the Wise residence include two Finn Juhl daybeds, a Finn Juhl vanity and a dresser. “These were created when Edgar Kaufmann, Jr., the American architect and head of the Department of Design at MoMA, persuaded Finn Juhl to produce his designs in America, and he did so with the understanding that Baker Furniture would do so according to the designer’s exacting standards.” Finn Juhl became one of the most celebrated Danish modern designers, and came up with the often-quoted observation, “One cannot create happiness with beautiful objects, but one can spoil quite a lot of happiness with bad ones.”
Dym, a longtime collector of mid-century design himself, said, “I have always appreciated the organic curves of Juhl’s designs, and I can see how a potato chip tycoon might be attracted to Juhl’s hyperbolic paraboloids too.”
The October 15 auction will also include the second half of the partial art collection of the now-defunct New England Center for Contemporary Art (NECCA). It had a diverse international collection that included a batik painting by the celebrated contemporary Singapore artist Seah Kim Joo, which is estimated at $2,000-$3,000.
Vallot will also be offering six masterworks by Max Schnitzler (American, 1903-1999). Of note is lot 6, a circa-1940 untitled abstract painting that dates to the beginning of abstract expressionism. The painting, which carries an estimate of $2,000-$3,000, is similar to another important painting of Schnitzler’s in the collection at the Whitney Museum. It was painted at a time when Schnitzler shared studio space with Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner and Willem and Elaine De Kooning.
“The painting is just unprecedented for its time and anticipates much later approaches to abstraction. There’s just nothing to point to as Schnitzler’s inspiration,” Dym remarked. “It’s not until decades later abstract artists started down the same path as Schnitzler.”
Numerous Rhode Island artworks appear in this auction, including the figurative work of Mary Kosowski (American, 1927-2020). Dym explained, “I was approached by the estate representative of the artist and was invited to view an intact and unseen body of work spanning decades, all hyper-focused on the figurative. It’s not as if Kowoski was an outsider — she was a decades-long member of the Providence Art Club and a longtime confidant of several noted artists — but it’s the first time her art will be brought to auction.”
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