Museum-Worthy Design Up for Grabs at Phillips and Christie's

Nineteenth century oil paintings and vintage wristwatches aren't the only things hitting the auction block this time of year. Both Phillips and Christie's are hosting design masterpiece sales in New York City (Dec. 15 and 17, respectively), and the auctions feature works that truly straddle the line between art and design. An original Marc Newson lounge chair, a granite desk designed and used by Marcel Breuer, and even a 6-meter-square house by Jean Prouvé are all in the mix. Here are 10 outstanding lots to add to your collection.
Extruded Table 3, Marc Newson (Phillips Lot 309)
Extruded Table 3, Marc Newson (Phillips Lot 309)

In addition to shaping pens for Montblanc and helping develop the special curves of the Apple Watch, Marc Newson makes extremely limited high-end pieces of furniture for art galleries. The Extruded Table 3 looks fluid despite being carved out of a single block of Striato Olimpico marble. Only 10 were made for the Gagosian Gallery in 2008, and this is No. 2. Whatever you do, please use a coaster. Estimate: $100,000 to $150,000 

Source: Phillips

Steltman Chairs, Gerrit Thomas Rietveld (Christie’s Lot 12)
Steltman Chairs, Gerrit Thomas Rietveld (Christie’s Lot 12)

These chairs were first produced in 1963 for the Steltman jewelry store in Den Haag, Netherlands, and the owner asked the maker to cover the rigid form in soft white leather to make them seem more inviting to customers. Five years later, this pair was commissioned and adhered to the original plan to have the bare oak stained a light translucent white color, mimicking the faded tone of driftwood washed up on a northern European beach. In some ways, this pair is even more original than the earliest originals. Estimate: $80,000 to $120,000

Source: Christie's

6x6 Demountable House, Jean Prouvé (Phillips Lot 311)
6x6 Demountable House, Jean Prouvé (Phillips Lot 311)

Not all design is synonymous with luxury. French master Jean Prouvé created various modular houses for the French government to use during World War II to house soldiers and displaced citizens. About 400 of these were made, though very few survive in their entry. This one is in outstanding condition, from the steel frame to the wooden floorboards. Now to find some place to store it …. Estimate: $1,000,000 to $1,500,000

Source: Phillips

SAS Royal Drop Chair, Arne Jacobsen (Christie’s Lot 19)
SAS Royal Drop Chair, Arne Jacobsen (Christie’s Lot 19)

The Drop chair is one of the most enduring chair designs of the 20th century, in which basically anyone who could draw designed a few dozen of them. It was originally created in the mid-1950s for the opening of Copenhagen’s SAS Royal Hotel and meant to sit in the guest rooms and the snack bar. The former were made of cloth, while this is one of 40 leather chairs made with brass legs to match the bar’s other fittings. It’s Danish history you can sit on. Estimate: $20,000 to $30,000

Source: Christie's

Chiffonier, Greene & Greene (Phillips Lot 319)
Chiffonier, Greene & Greene (Phillips Lot 319)

A piece of furniture doesn't have to be midcentury modern to be collectible. This combination armoire and dressing table from 1908 was made in Pasadena, Calif., by brothers Charles and Henry Greene as a custom commission for two wealthy collectors' home. It's Honduran mahogany and ebony, with ash, glass, brass, copper, pewter, and mother-of-pearl accents. It's what the phrase "they don't make 'em like they used to" was invented for. Estimate: $300,000 to $500,000

Source: Phillips

Office Desk, Marcel Breuer (Christie’s Lot 13)
Office Desk, Marcel Breuer (Christie’s Lot 13)

Architect Marcel Breuer designed this stark granite desk and promptly commandeered the first one for himself. This desk sat in his Madison Avenue office from its creation circa 1954 until Breuer retired in 1976. During that time, only three similar tables were made, all custom creations for an office building that Breuer designed. Importantly, though, all three have similar legs but also hexagonal tops instead of the original rectangle. That makes this a unique piece created just for the designer himself. Estimate: $120,000 to $180,000

Source: Christie's

Moloch Floor Lamp, Gaetano Pesce (Phillips Lot 334)
Moloch Floor Lamp, Gaetano Pesce (Phillips Lot 334)

No, that isn't a couch from a doll house. This aluminum floor lamp looks just like a classic adjustable desk lamp but stands almost 12 feet tall when fully extended. It's a quintessential embodiment of the whimsey that dominated the Italian design scene in the early '70s. This example might be the earliest prototype, predating the six officially numbered prototypes and 20 production models. Estimate: $120,000 to $180,000

Source: Phillips

Ocasional Table, Carlo Mollino (Christie’s Lot 7)
Ocasional Table, Carlo Mollino (Christie’s Lot 7)

This strange table from 1950 is the only piece designed by Mollino that's carried by famous retailer Singer & Sons in New York City. The store ended up altering the Italian’s curved maple and glass design, adding the brass “stiletto heels” and support balls to the legs to give the table what they thought was a more American sensibility. Estimate: $100,000 to $150,000

Source: Christie's

Lockheed Lounge, Marc Newson (Christie’s Lot 21)
Lockheed Lounge, Marc Newson (Christie’s Lot 21)

This is arguably the work that launched Newson’s career. Named for the industrial aircraft aesthetic, the Lockheed Lounge chaise was first dreamed up around 1985, and a handful were made over the next decade or so. This is number four of 10 production pieces, with the original prototype residing in the Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide. Number 10/10 sold in May for more than $3.5 million at Phillips in London. Estimate: $1,500,000 to $2,000,000

Source: Christie's

Advocate and Press Chairs, Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret (Phillips Lot 326)
Advocate and Press Chairs, Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret (Phillips Lot 326)

Originally made for the high court in Chandigarh, India, in the mid-1950s, these upholstered armchairs have spent the past few years in a Parisian gallery. The teak frames have taken on a darker color and have sharp angles that give the chairs an almost monumental look, while the soft cushions and armrests are natural hide with the dark hair intact. Estimate: $45,000 to $65,000

Source: Phillips