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Gaetano Pesce, 'Tramonto A New York / Sunset Over New York' Three-Seater Sofa, estimated at £3,000-£5,000 ($3,740-$6,235) at Lyon & Turnbull.

Steve Allison collection of Gaetano Pesce works comes to Lyon & Turnbull April 25-26

LONDON – A cache of works by the Italian architect, artist, and designer Gaetano Pesce (1939-2024) will be offered at Lyon & Turnbull this month. The collection, among the largest in the UK, was formed by the photographer and graphic designer Steve Allison (b. 1948-). The sale runs Thursday, April 25 and Friday, April 26. The catalogs are now available for review and bidding at LiveAuctioneers.

L&T’s head of sale Philip Smith describes 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 Cardiff’s theater, dance, and music scene 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 Naughties are included. All share the design pioneer’s famously bold aesthetic employing vibrant colors, experimental materials, and inventive organic forms.

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 starting in 1984. Allison acquired his from MAD Design, Netherlands in 2003. It is estimated at £3,000-£5,000 ($3,740-$6,235).

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 Perfection is for machines, it is obsolete, gone,” he said.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 includes examples of the Moss and Spaghetti range vases which celebrate the uncertainty of their manufacture (estimated at £300-£500, or $375-$625 each) plus a version of the famous Greene Street Chair (estimate £3,000-£5,000 or $3,740-$6,235).

Every version of Pesce’s Greene Street Chair fashioned in cast resin, steel, and rubber is subtly different. Designed for Vitra, Italy in 1984, the form was named after the street where Pesce started his company in the Soho neighborhood of New York City.

Estimated at £2,000-£3,000 ($2,485-$3,740) is one of the doors from the headquarters of the Chiat-Day advertising agency, a seminal 1994 project that helped shape the playful communal office spaces of today’s culture industries. Pesce’s light-hearted door is modeled as a tennis racket head with a ‘melting’ handle. Allison bought it from Los Angeles Modern Auctions in 2003.

The selection of around 70 pieces offered in 58 lots represents approximately half of Steve Allison’s Pesce collection, with a further selection to be sold in October.

This year’s Modern Made sale adopts a two-part format: a 51-lot Evening Session on April 25, followed by a Day Session on April 26 numbering an additional 429 lots.

Both offered in the first 51 lots are an Aubusson tapestry designed by the Australian abstract artist John Coburn (1925-2006) and the largest early domestic commission by renowned British stained-glass artist, Sir Brian Clarke (b. 1953-).

The Coburn tapestry appears with an estimate of £8,000-£12,000 ($9,975-$14,960) and an exceptional provenance. Number one from an edition of just three, this was part of The Seven Days of Creation series created circa 1969-1970, when Coburn was working on textile designs for the interior of Jørn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House. This weaving — day two of the seven — comes by family descent from the civil engineer, Sir Jack Zunz, who ran the team that designed the Opera House’s iconic roof with Utzon in the early days and ensured the vision was completed following Utzon’s resignation from the project in 1966.

The Plumb Window I, made by Clarke in 1974, is estimated at £30,000-£50,000 ($37,400-$62,330). A polyptych, with 15 parts creating an abstracted landscape, it was commissioned for the home of a North of England family and has since become one of the artist’s most exhibited and published works. “The 1974 work is I think the most significant of my early works and one that I remain fascinated by today. I was 21 when I created it — and fabricated it myself — during the brief period I lived in Preston. I saw it then, and see it now, as a sort of doorway or window onto another world.”