Ira Simon Collection Outstrips Expectations in Toomey & Co.'s 'White Glove Sale' to Benefit Art Institute of Chicago

  • April 28, 2022 17:47

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LOT 1: Tiffany Studios, shade design attributed to Clara Pierce Wolcott Driscoll rare Jeweled Drop Head Dragonfly table lamp: shade, #1507-15 on a telescoping reticulated Queen Anne’s Lace base, #397 Estimate $150,000-250,000 Sold for $545,000

The sale benefitting the Art Institute of Chicago more than doubled highest estimate. Total with premium was nearly $1.9 million, exceeding the cumulative high estimate of $772,450.

Known as a “white glove sale,” rare in the auction world, every lot sold.

On Wednesday, April 27, 2022, Toomey & Co. Auctioneers in Oak Park, Illinois, presented a single-owner sale, The Ira Simon Collection: Sold for the Benefit of the Art Institute of Chicago. Curated by Vice President & Senior Specialist John P. Walcher, the unprecedented offering featured over 300 lots with many rare and important examples of art and design from the Art Nouveau, Aesthetic Movement, Arts & Crafts, and Art Deco periods. Proceeds from the auction will go to the Art Institute of Chicago.

LOT 2: Tiffany Studios Apple Blossom boudoir lamp: shade, #1414-15 on Fern base, #4482 Estimate $15,000-25,000 Sold for $112,500

Ira Simon was a Chicago-based collector who, in the 1970s and 1980s, began putting together one of the most impressive collections of late 19th and early 20th century material, strongly featuring works by Tiffany Studios and Émile Gallé. 

Auction highlights included:

One of Ira’s early mentors was Lillian Nassau of New York. In the 1970s, she actively promoted Tiffany lamps and wares and Art Nouveau objects. Ira saw the beauty, significance, and fine craftsmanship in these objects that had fallen out of favor during the middle of the 20th century and began to acquire pieces through Lillian’s shop and other sources. He became an expert on the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany, and over time he transitioned from his “day job” as a graphic designer to the full-time buying and selling of antiques, as well as conducting appraisals for auction houses and private clients.

Ira attended antique shows and auctions, frequented local antique shops, and visited dealers when in New York, slowly building his impressive collection, which included designs by Tiffany Studios, Émile Gallé, Kalo sterling silver and jewelry, Georg Jensen sterling silver, Robert Jarvie copper wares, Kayserzinn pewter wares, and Carence Crafters objects. He decorated the walls of his home with paintings and prints in a variety of styles, along with bronzes, Japanese baskets, and many outstanding examples of Art Nouveau furniture, creating a museum-like residence.

LOT 1: Tiffany Studios, shade design attributed to Clara Pierce Wolcott Driscoll rare Jeweled Drop Head Dragonfly table lamp: shade, #1507-15 on a telescoping reticulated Queen Anne’s Lace base, #397 Estimate $150,000-250,000 Sold for $545,000

John P. Walcher of Toomey & Co. said, “Over the years, Ira’s became one of the most esteemed collections in the world, with few others comparable to the scope and quality of works he single-handedly assembled into a vast collection. His keen eye, knowledge, passion, and appreciation of design and quality workmanship made him unique in the world of fine antiques collecting. Toomey & Co. is proud and honored to have presented his extraordinary collection.”  

Upcoming Auctions and Consignments

Toomey & Co. Auctioneers will conduct three more sales this spring: Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art on Wednesday, May 18; Fine Art + Furniture & Decorative Arts on Wednesday, June 8; and Keramics & Rookwood: American & European Art Pottery on Thursday, June 9. Consignments are invited for upcoming auctions and photographs of items may be sent to info@toomeyco.com for estimates. To learn about past or future sales, please visit toomeyco.com.

About Toomey & Co. Auctioneers

Located just west of Chicago in Oak Park, Illinois, Toomey & Co. Auctioneers holds several carefully curated auctions annually with material sourced from six departments: Fine Art, Early 20th Century Design, Modern Design, Fine Furniture & Decorative Arts, Silver & Objects of Vertu, and Fine Jewelry & Timepieces. Recent schedules have presented single-owner and special sales drawn from important estates and private collections.


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