2 Rediscovered Pairs of Rare Frank Lloyd Wright Chairs at Auction For the First Time

  • NEW YORK, New York
  • /
  • December 09, 2019

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Frank Lloyd Wright's Ward W. Willits House
FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT (1867-1959) Two Important Chairs from the Ward W. Willits House, Highland Park, Illinois, circa 1902 executed by John W. Ayers, Co. stained white oak, fabric upholstery.

Christie’s December Design Sale in New York on December 13 celebrates the creative visions of some of the world’s most important designers and architects of the past century. Nearly 200  selected lots will be offered, featuring a group of early 20th century Austrian and French Art Deco works, pieces from The Collection of Alexander Kaplen and from an edited New York collection of mid-century French and American design.

The season is highlighted by the spectacular rediscovery of two pairs of Important Chairs from the Ward W. Willits House, Highland Park, Illinois, circa 1902 by Frank Lloyd Wright (estimate: $200,000 – 300,000 each pair). The four chairs offered as pairs are museum-quality examples, have changed hands only once before, and have never been offered at auction. The linear geometry of these important and exceedingly rare Willits chairs created a seminal moment in design and acted as a catalyst for change in 20th century geometric abstraction and modernism influencing the Bauhaus and De Stijl movements, among others. The present examples retain their original finish and have not been restored. Others from the set are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the V&A, the St. Louis Art Museum, High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and LACMA.

Michael Jefferson, International Specialist, 20th Century Design, explained: “Aside from their pedigree as important design in the canon, these examples are the most distilled and purely geometric of the chairs that Wright was developing. These were the chairs that formed the bedrock for all subsequent styles and phases of modernism over the next century. Discoveries of this kind rarely ever come to the auction market.”

(L to R) JEAN ROYÈRE (1902-1981), ‘Ours Polaire’ Armchair, circa 1958, sapele, velvet upholstery, $180,000 – 220,000; FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT (1867-1959), Two Important Chairs from the Ward W. Willits House, Highland Park, Illinois, circa 1902, executed by John W. Ayers, Co., stained white oak, fabric upholstery, $200,000 – 300,000 each pair; ADOLF LOOS (1870-1933), Rare Longcase Clock, circa 1900, executed by Johannes Heeg, Vienna, copper, painted copper, brass, glass, $150,000 – 200,000.

Other highlights include iconic works by important designers such as the “Ours Polaire” armchair, circa 1950 by Jean Royère (estimate: $180,000 – 220,000), A Tall Case Clock, circa 1905 by Adolf Loos (estimate: $150,000 – 200,000), a Monumental Chandelier, circa 1950 by Paavo Tynell (estimate: $150,000 – 200,000), and two whimsical ‘Jaguar’ Benches, 1992 by Judy Kensley McKie  (estimate: $150,000 – 200,000). Highlights from The Alexander Kaplen Collection include modernist masterpieces by Jean Prouvé, ‘Direction’ Swivel Chair, model no. 353, circa 1951 (estimate: $50,000 – 70,000) and ‘Banquette’, model no. 356, circa 1954 (estimate: $50,000 – 70,000).

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