Alice Rawsthorn gauges the impact of the Halsey Minor sale–where Newson sold Lockheed Lounge for a record price at auction (though less than Minor paid privately) and two other Newson works failed to attract bids and a fourth sold to Newson’s dealer, Gagosian–on the entire design and design art market:
“I came out of the first Halsey Minor sale feeling completely gloomy,” said James Zemaitis, head of the 20th-century design department at Sotheby’s, New York. “The estimates were conservative, but the results were disappointing. Though that’s only one area of the market — contemporary design at auction. If you look elsewhere, it’s a different story.”
The liveliest spot, according to Mr. Zemaitis, is for mid-20th-century Modernist furniture by designers and architects, like Jean Prouvé, Serge Mouille, Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand. Even though most of the finest examples of their work were snapped up years ago, and many of the pieces now on sale were mass-manufactured for factories, schools and libraries, prices are rising rapidly and are almost back to pre-recessionary levels.
Yes, but the odd-duck category of design art hasn’t had the same staying power:
But at its worst, “design-art” tempted less-gifted designers — and artists, too — to churn out seemingly pointless, over-priced furniture. Design purists loathed it, not least because it reinforced public perceptions of design as a superficial styling tool. (Personally, I still can’t bring myself to write “design-art” without quotation marks.) When recession struck, its flakiness proved fatal. “The reasons why the market collapsed are obvious,” said Alasdhair Willis, chief executive of Established & Sons, which owns a design gallery in London. “Prices were too high and too much work was being produced for the wrong reasons — commercial rather than creative reasons.”
Mixed Signals, but Some Signs Point to a Comeback Season (New York Times)