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Totem without Taboo - Design-Auction at the Vienna Dorotheum on 29th May 2008
Totems of Ettore Sottsass
Vase by Fulvio Bianconi
Commode Aton, Christian Astuguevieille
Commode Nr. 4, Christian Astuguevieille
Places where one can buy guardian spirits decked out in the finest Italian design are a little hard to find. No such problem at the Design Auction of the Dorotheum to be held on 29th May 2008. The auction house's probably most modern and internationally highly regarded category presents the Totems of Ettore Sottsass. These modern and colourful ceramic fetishes were originally conceived by the recently deceased Milanese artist back in 1964 but as recently as 1995/96, Bitossi produced four of them, ranging in height between 160 and 197 cm. This totem family-pack belongs to an edition of 10 and has been valued at € 55.000 - 75.000 by the Dorotheum's valued design expert, Gerti Draxler.
For the first time, the May design auction will held as part of a major auction week focussing on modern and contemporary art. One of its highlights will be a fine range of extremely rare lamps and vases from the nineteen-thirties to the present day featuring two mouth-blown, tri-coloured vases by Tom Dixon (€ 2.800 - 3.200), a „Spicchi“ vase by Fulvio Bianconi, Venini 1953, also produced in Murano (€ 3.500 - 4.000), as well as a number of rare Italian hanging lamps of the nineteen-fifties, and a group of Gino Sarfatti lamps.
Two chairs available at this auction each have their own peculiar history. Expressionism is not normally associated with "Haag Coffee", in keeping with cliché, Expressionists are expected to drink strong, black mocha. The owner of Haag, Ludwig Roselin, however, turns out to have been an admirer of the painter Paula Moderson-Becker. When he financed an entire block of streets in the city of Bremen, it included, in the holistic tradition of the 'Gesamtkunstwerk', a residence for the painter designed by the sculptor Bernhard Hoetger. One of the chairs from this residence is now expected to fetch € 10.000 to 15.000. A pair of theatre seats designed in 1931/32 by the Dutch architect Herman Frederik Mertens carry an association of bicycle parts. These early examples of modular tubular steel furniture were known as „Hompi“, the name of the Utrecht bicycle part factory that manufactured them as part of their product range (€ 2.500 - 3.500). Already a modern classic, Jean Prouvé's „Visiteur" armchair designed in 1942/44, is valued at € 18.000 to 22.000.
And how did Silvester Stallone become involved in a JAM session? 'JAM' is the acronym of British designers Jamie Anley, Astrid Zala and Matthieu Paillard who believe in the use of industrial waste in their works. The 1997 screen „Three and a Half Minutes" uses discarded film strips from the cutting room of the movie „Demolition Man" with Silvester Stallone. Double irony meets skilful recycling (€ 6.000 - 10.000).
Varied indeed are the examples of modern design brought together at this auction: Two commodes by the French star designer and Comme de Garcon perfumer Christian Astuguevieille alternatively present themselves with a neat weave or wildly unkempt. The unequal twins „Commode Aton“ with lacquered cotton strings (€ 16.000 - 20.000) and „Commode No. 4“ (€ 20.000 - 25.000) with its shaggy Rasta-locks of hemp can be purchased individually; though they are probably not meant for purists of straight chic. They are more likely to appreciate the futurist „Breeding Tables“ by the designer Clemens Weisshaar/Reed Kram (each € 9.000 - 13.000). Works like Danny Lane's unique „Fakir Diwan“ settee made of maplewood spheres and metal (€ 15.000 - 18.000), Franz West's1992 bench (€ 30.000 - 35.000) or the red-and-black „Castillo“ writing desk by Elizabeth Barouste & Mattia Bonetti (€ 10.000 - 15.000) each are in a class of their own.
Continuing to strike a very contemporary note, an ensemble by the legendary Milan group „Superstudio“ in factdates to 1968; the Bazaar couch table literally rounds off the selection (€ 7.000 - 9.000).