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20th Century & Contemporary Design Auction in Hong Kong

It’s a collector’s dream: Phillips is hosting an auction this November that will see iconic pieces from some of the 20th century’s guiding lights in design come up for sale. Tamsin Bradshaw talks to design expert Marcus McDonald about collecting design in Asia and more.

20th Century & Contemporary Design Auction in Hong Kong

Pictured above is Finn Juhl’s Chieftain armchair, model no. FJ49, circa 1950

Phillips is set to hold its first auctions in Hong Kong from 27 to 29 November 2016, and it’s a particularly exciting opportunity for design lovers. Part of the auction will be dedicated to 20th-century and contemporary design, with industry-leading pieces from Jean Prouvé, Marc Newson, Alessandro Mendini, Finn Juhl, Le Corbusier and the Campana brothers forming part of the offering.

Phillips is a global platform on which collectors can buy and sell art, design, watches, jewellery, photography and the like, and the brand also offers advice on every aspect of collecting. The Hong Kong auctions will see the platform – which has headquarters in the world’s collector hubs, New York and London – present lots across the categories of 20th- and 21st-century design and art, photography, watches and jewellery.

On the design front, Finn Juhl’s Chieftain chair is expected to go for between HK$1.5 and 2 million. Here, we speak to Marcus McDonald, Phillips’ International Specialist of Design, about the auction, investing in design and more.

Phillips design auction
An early version of Alessandro Mendini’s Poltrona di Proust, 1979-80

Is there a growing market for design in Asia?

Phillips’ ambition is to establish new relationships with Asia’s design-conscious, and to build upon the significant increase that has occurred with Asian buyers’ participating in our design auctions for both London and New York. The group of important design works selected for our November auctions is a great opportunity to represent the current and refined tastes of Asian design clients.

How well is the market doing for iconic pieces of design?

The burgeoning demand for exceptional works has established a competitive market where new auction records are constantly being set.

What makes the pieces in this auction special?

Included in the auction is a superlative example of the Chieftain armchair designed by the famous Danish architect Finn Juhl in 1949, and handcrafted by the master cabinetmaker Niels Vodder. It’s a rare example executed in Brazilian rosewood, which was personally selected and exquisitely handcrafted by the cabinetmaker. This fine example has been part of the Vodder family collection since its inception in the early 1950s.

Another focal point of the curated design selection is an early Poltrona di Proust armchair by Alessandro Mendini, originally designed for the 1978 Sala del Secolo [Room of the Century] exhibition at Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara, Italy. Mendini based his design on an 18th-century Rococo-style armchair, which he purchased in Veneto, and like the piece in question, it was also hand-painted by Pierantonio Volpini. Early examples of the Poltrona di Proust were produced by projecting a Paul Signac painting, and then hand painting over the patterns that appeared on the chair.

Phillips design auction
Lucie Rie’s Monumental knitted bowl, circa 1978, will form part of the auction offering

How can collectors – or aspiring collectors – identify ‘good’ design and differentiate items of value from those that aren’t worth the investment?

I believe collectors focus on design that communicates with them personally and psychologically. They have an appreciation for how these pieces were produced, and they look for quality, intrigue and beauty. Provenance and condition are two important factors when considering works, both of which can determine the value of an object.

Phillips’ 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale will happen on 27 November from 7pm Hong Kong time, at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, 5 Connaught Road, Central.


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