Auctions

The Four Seasons Restaurant Auction Totaled $4.1 Million

The marathon, 15-hour auction yielded blockbuster results.

Four Seasons' Dining History Served up at Auction

Anyone looking for a deal at the Four Seasons Restaurant auction on Tuesday would have left disappointed. The sale carried a high estimate of $1.33 million, but when the hammer fell on the final lot at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday (lot number 963, a set of four guest check holders that carried an estimate of $150 and sold for $1,400), the total, with premium, was a staggering $4,102,500—215 percent higher than Wright, the auctioneer, had anticipated.

Patrons enjoy lunch service at the Four Seasons restaurant in New York, U.S., on Wednesday,  July 13, 2016. Photographer: Chris Goodney/Bloomberg

The Pool Room during one of the final lunch services.

Photographer: Chris Goodney/Bloomberg

The auction was held in the iconic Pool Room at the Four Seasons, whose soaring ceilings and paneled walls were designed by Philip Johnson. While the interior itself is landmarked, its plates, pots, tables, and banquettes are not. Following a failed attempt to hold onto the restaurant's lease, proprietors Alex von Bidder, Julian Niccolini, and the Bronfman family held what amounted to a very expensive, very comprehensive fire sale before they move the restaurant to a new location a few blocks away.

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.

Chairs by Hans Wegner sold for more than $3,000 each.

Source: Wright Auctions

The auction began at 10 a.m. amid a sense of giddy euphoria that never quite subsided. The first lot—the Four Seasons sign designed by Emil Antonucci, replete with its four modernist trees—carried a high estimate of $7,000. It eventually hammered for $96,000. While that price—almost 1,300 percent above expectations—was spectacular, some smaller lots almost matched it in relative terms. Four ashtrays with the Four Seasons logo sold for $10,000 above a high estimate of $700—almost 1,400 percent above estimate. A curved banquette and table 35 from the Grill Room carried a high estimate of $5,000 and sold for $50,000—900 percent. Banquette 74 from the Pool Room had an estimate of $1,500 and sold for $12,000—700 percent. (Prices in this article are for the hammer price; successful bidders will also pay a buyer's premium of 25 percent.)

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: One sold for more than $36,000.

Source: Wright Auction

While many of the lots have inherent design value—these are objects designed by titans of modernism, including Eero Saarinen, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Philip Johnson, and Garth and Ada Louise Huxtable—it became increasingly clear as the auction progressed that many lots were being bid up by the restaurant’s deep-pocked (and apparently, deeply nostalgic) former patrons.

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. A set of two sold for $3,500.

Source: Wright Auction

How else to explain the $6,000 spent on an ancient cotton candy machine? Or the fact that table No. 2 from the Grill Room sold for $1,000, while an identical table, No. 12, sold for $1,800? Or that a three-sided banquette and table No. 32 sold for $28,000, while the same setup from table No. 37 sold for $42,000? (Both carried high estimates of $5,000.)

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. A set of two sold for $5,500.

Source: Wright Auction

The auction was led by an increasingly weary Richard Wright, owner of the Chicago-based auction house; Wright switched every several-hundred lots with another specialist, but by the time late afternoon rolled around, he had become increasingly laconic. When a wine cooler failed to find much enthusiasm at its opening bid of $1,000, Wright sighed. “Another sold for quite higher earlier,” he said. “It seems like a good deal to me.” A few bidders in the audience apparently agreed: After a slow start, it hammered for $8,000.

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