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