Isamu Noguchi table could top $1M at Wright auction June 7

Isamu Noguchi

Unique Isamu Noguchi dining table made for Mr. & Mrs. Milton H. Greene, USA, 1948-1949, pink Georgia marble, carved oak, aluminum, 77 in. w × 57 in. deep × 26 in. high (196 × 145 × 66 cm). Estimate: $1 million-$1.5 million. Wright image

CHICAGO – Wright will sell an exceptional and unique marble-top dining table designed by Isamu Noguchi at an auction on Thursday, June 7. Absentee and Internet live bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.

The table, a Cloud sofa and an ottoman were created circa 1948 for photographer Milton H. Greene and his first wife, Evelyn (née Franklin) for their residence in Weston, Connecticut. Though the pieces were widely photographed by Greene during the early 1950s, little was known about the table until Greene’s son published an image of the work in Casa Vogue in 2009. But even then, this exceptional table’s story and whereabouts remained unknown.

The dining table was well documented in its early years. Milton Greene was a fashion photographer, and his Noguchi furnishings can be seen in his work for Look, Life, Charm and several other publications through the early 1950s.

Marilyn Monroe, who lived on the Greene estate for a short time, dined at this very table. Marlene Dietrich and Lisa Fonssagrives are among the numerous celebrities to be photographed on these remarkable pieces.

Isamu Noguchi

A model lounging on the Noguchi table in Milton Greene’s home, September 1950. Photographed by Milton H. Greene © 2018 Joshua Greene, courtesy Wright

Milton and Evelyn divorced in 1952. When Milton and his second wife, Amy, moved to New York City in the early 1960s, they sold the Noguchi pieces, which were too large for their city residence and reminders of Greene’s previous marriage. The location of the Cloud sofa and ottoman are still unknown at this time, but the extraordinary table has remained in the home of a single family since the late 1950s.

Estimated at $1 million-$1.5 million, this large table features Noguchi’s mastery of material and form. The work has a biomorphic tabletop hand-carved in Georgia marble, an expressive pink stone that is rare in Noguchi’s oeuvre, though found in important sculptures such as Kouros (1945), which is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The tabletop has a central cutout for a steel bowl that is inserted from the underside using a slot-and-turn mechanism. The top rests upon an asymmetrical wooden base and dramatically cantilevers out over three hand-carved wooden legs, none of which are the same: one leg curves in, one curves out and yet a third has a sphere at the foot. Noguchi made a related coffee table for his sister, Ailes Gilmour Spinden, that features a similar leg arrangement. The overall composition of this functional piece is a direct extension of Noguchi’s sculptural aesthetic and it effortlessly blends the distinction between art and design.

The discovery of the Greene table is momentous for both collectors and scholars. Noguchi designed only a handful of tables during his lifetime and they are among his most desirable forms. In 2014, the Goodyear Table for A. Conger Goodyear brought $4.5 million at auction and in 2012 a marble coffee table for Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Dretzin sold for $2.9 million. Even Noguchi’s more widely marketed tables for Herman Miller are few in quantity and command prices in the hundreds of thousands today.

Wright’s Important Design Auction is dedicated to works of significant rarity, beauty and historical importance and features pieces by the most influential designers of the 20th century. The 231-lot auction will begin Thursday, June 7, at 1 p.m. Eastern Time.