The Design Market: Buyers follow the flock

François-Xavier Lalanne’s marble bird egg table

A Sotheby’s sale in Paris last week of 20th-century decorative arts and contemporary design demonstrated that the market for works by François-Xavier Lalanne is robust. Fifteen pieces by the late French designer all sold, with Lalanne’s flock of 12 patinated aluminium sheep (1966-69), consigned by a Belgian private collector, fetching the sale’s top price of €1.7m (with buyer’s premium; est €1.5m-€2m).

“The sale price was slightly disappointing, as a single sheep piece by Lalanne (“Mouton de Laine”, 1968) went for €360,750,” said Rozen Le Nagard, a Paris-based adviser in art and design. “It’ll be intriguing to see what happens this week when another important flock comes up at auction in Paris [at Christie’s, December 3].”

Lalanne’s marble bird egg table (1974), fresh to market, jumped above its high estimate of €20,000 to reach €29,550. Other highlights included Demetre Chiparus’s bronze and ivory sculpture “Les Girls” (1928), acquired by a European collector for €552,750 (est €500,000-€700,000). “A work this exceptional, in a five-figure version, rarely comes to market,” said Le Nagard.

Prices for the art deco bellwether Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann were steady rather than exceptional (a burr-veneered 1920s bookcase, selling at €39,150, just nudged the low estimate). A key contemporary work, an oak and metal armchair (1990) by US sculptor Richard Artschwager, sold within estimate for €19,950.

Seventy-nine lots sold out of 107, achieving a sales total of €6m, a respectable sum in relation to the pre-sale estimate of €4.5m-€6.5m.

Devotees of 18th-century design are in raptures over a selection of high-end Louis XV furniture items, formerly in the collection of the Iranian businessman Djahanguir Riahi, which are due to go under the hammer next week at Christie’s London (December 6). “The estimates seem a little optimistic, but plausible, for both the Japanese lacquer secretaire by Bernard II van Risenburgh [1755; est. £3m-£5m] and the library commode by Jean-François Oeben round 1760; est. £1.5m-£2.5m],” said Leon Dalva of Dalva Brothers gallery in New York, which specialises in French 18th-century furniture. “They appeal both to connoisseurs and trophy-hunters, since they have the tremendously high position in the aesthetic hierarchy that connoisseurs understand and also the excitement and history the trophy-hunters seem to crave.”

Philippe Perrin of Paris’s Galerie Perrin said that the estimates for these lots seemed in line with market expectations. And what sort of collectors might bid? “Smart ones who understand that in comparison to some of the seriously expensive merchandise on the block, these things are still bargains. Maybe a museum or two if the provenances tickle their fancy,” said Dalva. There are some prime examples of 18th-century French furniture in the newly opened Dr Susan Weber furniture gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, including a lavish commode made around 1760 by Bernard II van Risenburgh.

Moscow-based company Andrey Kabalev has bought a leading English furniture maker, Titchmarsh & Goodwin, located in Suffolk, which has been making bespoke traditional items since 1920. Three generations of the family business have built up a library of more than 45,000 designs spanning the 20th century, which will be digitised under the new proprietors. “The archive is historic,” says company consultant Peter Goodwin. “Our new owners are scanning thousands of drawings and building up a proper digitised library system at considerable cost.” The archive is open to the public, an important resource for scholars and the trade alike.

Pivotal design works pop up in the unlikeliest of places but a private airport near London counts as one of the more unconventional venues to see striking contemporary pieces. TAG Farnborough Airport is hosting a selling exhibition of works by high-profile practitioners such as Damien Hirst, along with Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, the designers of the Olympic torch, whose “chandelier” (Planform Array V, 2011) graces the airport atrium (until January 4). “The piece looks as if it has been designed site-specifically for TAG Farnborough,” said the show’s organiser Tatiana Ojjeh, who runs the company Artliner: Art and Aviation and now plans to show more design works in other airports. The chandelier, priced at £55,000, is on reserve; Barber Osgerby are represented by Haunch of Venison gallery, London.

Just in time for Christmas ... the Brooklyn-based digital artist Cory Arcangel is launching a clothing and homeware line this month. “As for the look of the line, think wink emoticons, laptop icons, yin yangs, and Comic Sans,” quips a project spokeswoman. The merchandise, available on Arcangel’s website, includes sweatshirts, computer bags, iPhone cases, and bed linen: “everything one needs to chill in bed all day and surf the internet in comfort,” said Arcangel, who is represented by Lisson Gallery in London.

How to create an “ice halo” in the tropical climate of Miami Beach? Take one British architect, add a research team from Manchester University, mix with stardust from longstanding DesignMiami/ sponsor Swarovski Crystals – and hey presto! The strange optical phenomenon – glowing luminous rings that appear in the sky above snowfields when the sun is low – will be recreated in Asif Khan’s “immersive installation”, Parhelia. More than 1.3m crystals in a 20-foot structure will be used to create Swarovski’s seventh installation in their “Crystal Palace” series.

Another leading sponsor, Perrier-Jouet, has commissioned design-duo Glithero (Tim Simpson and Sarah van Gameren) to create another experiential installation. Called “Lost Time”, and inspired by art nouveau curvilinear forms, its aim is “to evoke the sense of being so deeply lost in reflection that you question which version of orientation is the truth”.

Elsewhere in this leading marketplace for collectable design, galleries from around the world set out their glamorous stalls of objects, lighting and furniture – most from the early modernist era to the present day. All the usual frills surround the fair: talks, performances, curated spaces and more. Brooklyn-based Acconci Studio scooped the award for Designer of the Year 2012, which is given in conjunction with Miami’s design district.

DesignMiami/ runs December 5-9

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