The Value of Design

Great examples of industrial and furnishing design can be very expensive.  But they don’t make the sort of money that fine art pieces do, for a number of reasons.  Phillips de Pury in New York seeks to change that with an auction tomorrow night.

The auction catalogue indicates the kind of prices they are expecting for lamps, furniture, shelves, tables, teapots, etc.  Lot #1, for example, is a “rare” side table by George Nakashima from 1976.  From the catalog image it looks like the sort of thing a cottage vacationer might knock off one weekend from driftwood on the lake.  Expected price range:  $25,000 to $30,000.  A similar table by the same maker is looking for $90,000.

I love this piece:  a brass and ebony “important and rare” three piece set by Marianne Brandt from the 1920s.  Anticipated price, $250,000 to $300,000.  And then there is Lot 96:

Made of aluminium and oak by Charlotte Perriand in about 1950, this is a fine example of the kind of Geometricism that governed much of 1950s design.  But is it a fine enough example to be worth the projected price of $600,000?  (Contrast and compare with Lot 144, a single shelf anticipating $100,000).  The same designer (Perriand) has a blocky Ikea-style table looking for $42,000 (Lot 98).

The central banks of both the US and Canada have this week declared themselves concerned with price inflation.  Looking at this catalogue, I fully understand what they mean.

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