The Master, Judd Tully, reports on day two of the YSL/Bergé sale focusing on the late afternoon/evening sale of decorative arts:
took over five hours, and yielded results even the most experienced dealers couldn’t comprehend. The session of 20th Century Decorative Arts was filled to the hilt with rare Art Deco objets, and all but seven of the 150 lots on offer sold, for a total of €59,155,050 ($76,540,719), trouncing the pre-sale estimate of €19–28.3 million.
Tully focuses on the success of works by Eileen Gray who had not previously seen a work sell for more than $1 million:
The undisputed star of tonight’s session was Eileen Gray, whose unique and extraordinarily lavish The Dragons armchair from circa 1917–19 fetched a jaw-dropping €21,905,000 (est. €2–3 million).
The chair, boasting a Symbolist-inspired sculpted wood frame depicting the intertwined bodies of two dragons, went to storied Paris furniture dealers Cheska and Robert Vallois, who are now two-time owners of the piece. According to the auction catalogue, the couple sold it in 1971 to a private collector; they had acquired it from Parisian tastemaker Susanne Talbot, who had it directly from Gray.
To put this extraordinary price in perspective, the former high for any 20th-century piece of furniture was set at Christie’s New York in June 2005, when a unique oak-and-glass table by Carlo Mollino sold for $3.8 million, and the only piece of furniture from any period that has ever sold for more at auction than tonight’s Gray chair was the 18th-century Badminton Cabinet that sold at Christie’s London in July 1990 for £19,045,250 (€27,463,250).
Even the auctioneer, Frederic Chambre, vice-president of Pierre Bergé & Associes, who deftly navigated the bidding on the chair, expressed astonishment at the price. “I expected between €5 and 7 million, not €19.5 million,” he said, referring to the hammer price before the buyer’s premium was added.
But Simon Andrews, director of 20th-century decorative art and design at Christie’s London, defended the bidding fever, which turned into a one-on-one duel after the €3 million mark. He described the Gray record as the result of “two people with the passion and the means, not madness.”