Collecting Design with James Zemaitis

With a brilliant presentation/discussion with James Zemaitis, I have concluded a fascinating fall season of the program Collecting Design (at the Center for Architecture/AIA) this morning. James and I had first met in 2001, just a month after 9/11. It was when he introduced the new design department of Phillips in New York, which he headed at that time, launching with a special sale devoted to American design. I bought a chest of drawers by modernist Paul Frankl in that auction, and today, nearly two decades later, it is still the center piece of our bedroom. James knows collectible design more than almost anyone else in the field, and buying pieces from him has proved a great, timeless choice. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, and we have since collaborated on talks, films, and events.

Zemaitis should be credited for initiating the ‘curated’ sales, which have come to change the face of design auctions and of the way we buy design. He loves sharing his immense knowledge, experience and expertise, and as he is both an educator and a charismatic speaker, listening to him is always a joy and didactic experience. If you don’t follow him on Instagram yet, please do, as it was recently named the top design feed by Vanity Fair London. In his current position as the Director of Museum Relationship at R & Company, James travels the country, examining museum collections, and helping curators to enhance the permanent design collections of American museums. 

The subject of the talk this morning was the recent and fascinating design auction week. Zemaitis highlighted some important lots, surprising results, examining the state of the market, with the stories behind the scenes. I can a selection of the objects we discussed, but the stories remain behind the scenes. Above: Christopher Dresser, Teapot, ca. 1879 manufactured by James Dixon &  Sons, from the Design Sale of Christie’s; Estimate $80,000 – $120,000; Realized $399,000, at Christie’s. 

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From the Collection of Marc Jacobs: FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE, “PETIT RHINOCÉROS MÉCANIQUE” CONDIMENT HOLDER; Estimate: $120,000 – $180,000; SOLD: $680,000, at Sotheby’s.

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KOLOMAN MOSER, MANTEL CLOCK, MODEL NO. S 771, 1907-1908; Estimate $150,000 – $250,000; SOLD $411,000 at Christie’s.

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JORIS LAARMAN. “BONE” CHAIR; Estimate: $500,000 – $700,000 Sold $620,000, at Sotheby’s.

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GEORGE NAKASHIMA, “CONOID” DINING TABLE; Estimate: 250,000 – 350,000; Unsold. Sotheby’s

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JEAN ROYÈRE, “FLAQUE” COFFEE TABLE; Estimate $200,000 – $300,000; SOLD: $475,000, at Sotheby’s.

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From the Collection of Robert Rubin, JEAN PROUVÉ, “KANGOUROU” ARMCHAIR, MODEL NO. FV 22; Estimate: $120,000 – $180,000; SOLD: $400,000, at Sotheby’s.

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ÉMILE-JACQUES RUHLMANN, CHAISE LONGUE “AUX SKIS,” Estimate: $1,500,000 – $2,000,000; LOT SOLD: $2,420,000, at Sotheby’s

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