Iconic Design to Collect this Week: Head of Sale Madalena Horta e Costa on Rare Lots at Phillips

For Phillips' upcoming Modern Masters and Design sales, we spoke with Head of Sale Madalena Horta e Costa on the diversity of their offerings, works of unique provenance, and personal highlights.

Artsy: Modern Masters features works by some of the most iconic designers of the 20th and 21st century - what story of design history is being told by this grouping of lots?

Madalena Horta e Costa: What one does recognize within the realm of the 20-21st century Design narrative is the diversity of production and individuals, which includes artists, architects, and engineers. Regarding the examples within the sale, production processes range from: cabinet-made furniture designed by the Danish architect Kaare Klint; the industrially produced furniture of the French engineer Jean Prouvé; the handmade work of the Korean artist Young Sook Park; and the use of algorithms by the Dutch contemporary designer Joris Laarman.  

MHC (cont.): Modern Masters showcases some of the key moments in 20-21st century Design, and brings to the fore notable contemporary designers of today. The auction highlights are linked through exceptional provenance and rarity. We are particularly excited by the Armand-Albert Rateau dining suite from the Art Deco section of the sale, as well as the unique plaster chandelier by Alberto Giacometti. Highlights celebrating French mid-century design include Jean Prouvé's '6 x 9' demountable house (1944-1945), which now occupies the main gallery space at Berkeley Square, and the 'Cité' armchair, from Prouvé’s own private collection. We’re also proud to offer exceptional 21st century design by Ron Arad, Marc Newson, Young Sook Park, and Joris Laarman, whose exquisite ‘Bridge’ Table exemplifies how the designer combines technology and craft.

A: Is there one work in particular you are most excited to bring to auction?

MHC: It is a difficult decision to make considering the quality of the works in the auction. On a personal level the works that resonate with me the most are from the Dulciora commission designed by the Italian architect Gio Ponti. There are six individual lots and each work represents Ponti’s coherent search for innovation within the office environment.

A: In the Design sale, you have some of the biggest names in 20th century design alongside popular names in contemporary design including Marc Newson, Martin Szekely, Maarten Baas, and the Campana Brothers -- is there a thread that brings these icons together?

MHC: We continue to champion some of the most important names within 21st century Design and this sale presents a curated offering of works by some of the most sought-after designers in today’s market. I am particularly excited about this section of the sale as it showcases a wide range of designers who are exploring and working across different areas and themes within design. We end this section with a phenomenal group of Yoichi Ohira, Japanese glass designer who worked in Murano.

A: Are there any designers who are new or rare to auction with this sale?

MHC: Young Sook Park’s Moon Jar from 2007 makes a rare appearance in the western auction market. Made out of porcelain with white glaze, this extraordinary work is a pure representation of a singular and deeply symbolic form. Moon Jars were originally made during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) and have a complex place in Korea’s long ceramic history. They are curvaceous, plain white porcelain jars resembling a full moon and were made customarily to contain flowers or wine, but they are also ritual, votive vessels.

A: Are there any works that have a particularly interesting provenance or history?

MHC: Coming to the market for the first time is the already mentioned unique and important dining suite by Armand-Albert Rateau. This beautiful suite was conceived for the hôtel particulier Thalheimer in Paris circa 1931, and has remained with the family ever since. In 1931, the Thalheimers commissioned a new residence from the architects Léon Fagnen and Réné Bétourn, set in the heart of the 16th arrondissement in Paris. The interior furnishings and decoration, conceived in their entirety by Rateau, were what truly set this home apart. A curving stone staircase led to the first floor, where the present dining table and ten chairs occupied the understated yet sumptuous dining room. The table top was constructed from a single, solid and beautifully-figured plank of Japanese ash — a massive size for this tree species — and rested on two austere pillars of Giallo d’Istria marble. The armchairs, though an earlier design for Rateau, effortlessly adapted to their new modernist habitat, and echoed the arched recesses in the walls.

A: It's wonderful to see glass works and ceramics included in the Design sale - could you highlight a few favorite pieces?

MHC: The Design sale on April 27th offers works from the collection of Venezuelan patron Fina Gomez, comprising ten internationally recognised ceramicists including: Bernard Leach, Alev Ebüzziya Siesbye, Hans Coper, Lucie Rie, Edouard Chapallaz, Francine Del Pierre, Fance Franck, Gutte Eriksen, Elisabeth Joulia and Pierre Bayle. All the pieces from the collection are unique and superlative examples of each of the ceramicist’s work. Most of the works were either acquired directly from the ceramicists, with whom Gomez had friendships, established Parisian galleries or important exhibitions. A majority of these works have been part of the Gomez collection since their inception.

Explore Phillips: Modern Masters and Phillips: Design on Artsy, and place max bids on over 200 artworks. Live bidding for Modern Masters opens in London on Wednesday, April 26th, at 6:00pm GMT (1:00pm ET). Live bidding for Design opens in London on Thursday, April 27th, at 2:00pm GMT (9:00am ET).

Share article