DALLAS – On Tuesday, June 6, Heritage Auctions presents an outstanding collection of design and technology history in its Design Signature® Auction. The event is packed with contemporary glass, Japanese ceramics, furniture and a standout selection of Art Deco radios from an important New York collection. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
When two unrelated phenomena converge to create an indelible history, collectors pay attention. In the early 20th century, people received their news and entertainment through the radio, and at home this meant that the family gathered around a large mass of dark-wood Victorian-style furniture that broadcast the culture of the moment.
But as industrial design took flight alongside the advent of lightweight, moldable plastics and resins, the humble radio became a locus of incredible invention and flair. Almost overnight, this ubiquitous and ungainly household appliance was supplanted by new, smaller, lighter radio designs, which in turn became prized personal items, pieces of consumer and design genius, and objects entirely liberated from decades of slow growth. Art Deco was the first true global design movement, and enthusiastic leading industrial designers adored the Machine Age design potential of a tabletop radio. It was where they would hone their aesthetic while delighting the world with gorgeous and colorful objects no bigger than a breadbox, mass-produced, and one that most people could actually afford. The Art Deco radio was not only a joy to behold, it also ushered in a revolution of personal spending and ownership. A different radio in every room meant that radio programming itself could and would explode to meet the interests of every member of a household.
“Heritage presents a first installment of a truly exceptional private collection of Art Deco radios, a testament to the fact the Golden Age of radio was also the pinnacle of radio design,” said Heritage’s Consignment Director of Decorative Arts & Design, Samantha Robinson. “The radios represent the best of the Machine Age in full and vibrant color.”
While the plastic tabletop radio was a global phenomenon in the 1930s and ’40s, this collection focuses primarily on iconic models from North America. It is near encyclopedic in its scope, with exquisite examples from the birth of industrial design. This includes an unparalleled presentation of four Air King Skyscrapers designed by Harold Van Doren in 1933. These are exceptional examples of this important design; two have plastic Egyptian panel inserts, and one has speaker cut-outs revealing a Deco-patterned speaker dust cover. The green-colored version with an Egyptian panel insert has an estimate of $15,000-$25,000. These early examples of the category set the groove for tabletop radios,’ and Art Deco’s, ubiquitous ancient cultural motifs – often Aztec and Egyptian – as well as the parallel lines so popular in Deco car design and architecture. It’s no surprise that Van Doren, the president of the Society of Industrial Designers, would kick off the movement with a personal radio that evoked the grandeur of the recently completed Empire State Building and Radio City Music Hall.
The collection on offer includes gems by another giant of the form: Walter Dorwin Teague’s Sparton Bluebird from 1934, estimated at $1,200-$1,800, and his iconic Sled from 1936, estimated at $1,000-$1,500. (The Bluebird is sometimes referred to as the most beautiful of Art Deco radio designs). His playful yellow 1939 Cloisonne radio appears in the lineup as well. All three sport the fluid chrome accents associated with great Deco.
There are two crisp and wonderfully graphic Patriot examples by Norman Bel Geddes, produced during World War II, in what would have surely been considered surprising colors. The red example is estimated at $800-$1,200. Another highlight is the stately post-war Duchess produced by Air King in maroon and yellow catalin, and estimated at $1,500-$2,500. Its face could not be more simplified or satisfying to the eye. This is Deco’s hallmark streamlining.
The June 6 auction also boasts a strikingly marbled tomato red Emerson Tombstone from 1937, estimated at $10,000-$15,000, and a marbleized green and yellow catalin Fada Model 52 from 1938, which carries an estimate of $12,000-$18,000. The latter’s confluence of fun-meets-beauty must have felt refreshing in that fraught moment of world history. When radio ruled communication and war was on the horizon, Americans from coast to coast embraced the marvelous design options opening up to them. The Deco radio was a compact and emphatic symbol of the new Machine Age, bringing not only novel styling and color into the home, but changing the listener from the family to the individual.
The auction also features outstanding modern and contemporary glass from America and Europe. Seven works by Dale Chihuly are on offer, including a Five-Piece Red Persian with Black Lip Wrap from 1999, estimated at $7,000-$10,000. There is a Monumental Cactus by New Mexico-based artist Flo Perkins, from her botanical series, featuring six orange blooms nestled among green and yellow glass threads in an intricate and masterfully created example of the artist’s work. Its estimate is $20,000-$30,000. Christopher Ries’ elegant and spare Desert Flower, created in 2001, is included, as are works by John Lewis, Latchezar Boyadjiev and Jaroslav Svoboda.
The event also includes a fine selection of contemporary Japanese ceramics, including a striking untitled glazed ceramic work by Jun Kaneko.
A total of 10 works by Yuji Ueda feature in the lineup, led by his Monumental Vessel in enigmatic and earthy stripes, which carries an estimate of $4,000-$6,000. And there are two figural works by Japanese American artist Akio Takamori: the ceramic Dark Blue Tang Woman and the stoneware Seated Figure with Crowd. Both are exquisite examples of the artist’s work.
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