Photographer: Courtesy of Wright/Courtesy of Wright
Food & Drinks

Four Seasons Restaurant to Sell Philip Johnson Bar Carts, Saarinen Chairs

An exclusive first look at the lots and prices.

For a bright side to the Four Seasons's planned dissolution and subsequent relocation, fans of the restaurant's famed power lunches  can bid in an auction on July 26 in which every piece of the famed silverware, seating, and cookware will go up for sale.

Atmospheric shots of The Pool Room

The Pool Room, with its original interior.

Photographer: Jennifer Calais Smith

"I think patrons of the restaurant see this as an opportunity to support it as it begins a new chapter," said Brent Lewis, director of Wright Auctions, which will hold the sale. "Every day we get calls and notes from people around the world asking for information."

Lewis said that the auction will be broken into approximately 500 lots, though lots can contain many—even dozens—of objects. The custom dark blue and chrome "Brno" chairs designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, for instance, will be sold in lots that range from pairs of chairs (low estimate: $1,000) to a dozen of them. Over 200 of the chairs, Lewis says, will go up for auction. Other chairs, including Hans Wegner's wooden chairs in the private dining rooms and the Grill Room will also be sold; the low estimate for a pair is $1,000.

Custom Brno chairs by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe: Philip Johnson specified custom versions of Mies van der Rohe’s cantilevered Brno chair to be the dining chair for The Four Seasons restaurant. Examples will be sold in various groupings from pairs up to sets of twelve and feature modified frames and cushioned arms. Estimates start at $1000. Custom banquettes: A variety of custom banquettes were installed in both the Grill Room and Pool Room of the iconic interior. Philip Johnson dined at the restaurant regularly and his coveted seat, one of the corner banqueJes in the Grill Room, is among the sale’s select offerings. Examples will be sold individually with estimates starting at $2000. Tableware and cookware by L. Garth and Ada Louise Huxtable: L. Garth and Ada Louise Huxtable designed The Four Season’s tableware and cookware. From serving bowls and chargers to sets of flatware and even the cookware, these unique designs help define the restaurant’s iconic look. Examples of many of these designs are held in the permanent collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Pairs of serving bowls start at $500, wine coolers on stands will be estimated at $1000-1500 and chargers start at $1000 a set.

Custom Brno chairs by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe: Philip Johnson specified that custom versions of Mies’s cantilevered Brno chair be the dining chair for the Four Seasons restaurant.

Source: Wright

The restaurant banquettes installed in both the Grill and Pool rooms (Philip Johnson's preferred seat was a corner banquette in the Grill Room) are being sold individually; low estimates for each banquette start at $2,000. The famous "Barcelona" chairs and ottomans by Mies in the entrance lobby are estimated at $10,000 to $15,000, while leather "Perching" sofas designed by Johnson are estimated at $3,000 to $5,000 each. Even the tulip chairs in the ladies lounge, which were designed by Eero Saarinen, are for sale in pairs; each set is estimated at $1,000 to $1,500.

Tulip chairs by Eero Saarinen. The Four Seasons' ladies lounge is outfitted with illuminated vanities and Tulip chairs designed by Eero Saarinen. The Tulip chairs will be sold in pairs; estimated at $1,000-1,500.
Tulip chairs by Eero Saarinen.
Source: Wright

Inventorying every lot has proved difficult. "The restaurant is so busy that if I go early in the morning, they're there preparing, and I can't get them to stop for a moment," Lewis said. "Soon we'll go in during a quiet day, and we should be able to see a bit more."

Custom bronze Tulip tables by Eero SaarinenCustom examples of Eero Saarinen’s classic Tulip table design with special-ordered polished bronze tops for the lavish Grill Room of The Four Seasons. Examples will be sold individually and in pairs with es9mates star9ng at $3000.

Custom bronze Tulip tables by Eero Saarinen

Source: Wright

On the rare occasion that he's made it into the kitchen, "the biggest surprise has been to find some of the original serving dishes and cookware is still used every day by the chefs," said Lewis. "All of these things that L. Garth and Ada Louise Huxtable designed in 1959—some of them people see, like bread baskets, but others are tucked away in the kitchen for purely utilitarian use."

Sets of three pots (small, medium, and large) by the duo, copies of which are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, carry estimates of $500 to $700. Pairs of Huxtable serving bowls start at $500; wine coolers on stands are estimated at $1,000 to $1,500, and chargers carry a low estimate of $1,000 for a set. Plates embossed with the Four Seasons logo will be grouped into lots of 24—12 small plates and 12 large ones, with each set carrying an estimate of $500 to $700.

The Chair by Hans Wegner:Johnson’s appreciation for Scandinavian modern was apparent with the installation of Hans Wegner’s The Chairs in The Four Season’s Private Dining Rooms and the Grill Room. Examples will be sold in various groupings from pairs to larger sets. Estimates start at $1000.

The Chair by Hans Wegner: Johnson’s appreciation of Scandinavian modern furniture was apparent with the installation of Hans Wegner’s Chairs in the Four Season’s private dining rooms and Grill Room.

Source: Wright

The restaurant's serving carts, designed by Johnson, are also up for sale; the estimate for each cart is $1,000 to $1,500. 

The official catalogue of the sale will publish in mid-June. Instead of a traditional auction catalogue that lists every lot, "this will be a little unusual," Lewis said. "It will be about the restaurant's historical significance; [architecture critic] Paul Goldberger, [Vanity Fair editor] Graydon Carter, and [food writer] Alan Richman are writing essays."

Patrons enjoying the last few months of the Four Seasons' original decor.
Patrons enjoying the last few months of the Four Seasons' original decor.
Source: Wright

And for those hoping to find out exactly what is selling and for how much, Lewis said that he hopes everything will be online by the end of June—"if we're lucky."

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