After obsessing about tear-out for weeks, I needed some entertainment. This past weekend I found myself at Sotheby's auction house looking at their Design Week show. Most of the crowds were gathered to see really expensive jewelry, or "important" watches and collectible sneakers (some of which have already garnered bids above $20,000) of the concurrent Luxury Week show. Stuff that used to belong to Paul Newman and Freddie Mercury (including the original song sheet lyrics for Bohemian Rhapsody) also attracted a crowd. Fortunately the two upper floors were devoted to decorative arts and had some amazing 20th century and later furniture.
The giant "TAJA" settee by the Brazilian furniture maker Hugo Franca at the top of this blog is really something. I wasn't familiar with Franca's work and looked him up. He is now known for crafting all his furniture by hand and working exclusively with reclaimed Brazilian hardwoods. This settee dates from around 2007. It's huge (92” wide) and the picture doesn't do it justice. The settee is carved out of a giant log of Pegui, an indigenous Brazilian hardwood, and the wood isn't particularly stable - full of cracks and checks. It is a spectacular piece. Despite my liking displays of joinery and technique, it was one of my favorites of the exhibit.
Since the show was of high end designer furniture from a fancy collection, the usual suspects including Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann were there in force. While the several awesome Macassar Ebony pieces were in evidence this red lacquered "Chinoise" Dressing Table from 1927 by Ruhlmann and Jean Dunand was totally new to me. While when new it would have been considered more exotic, now it is most definitely modern.
If I had to characterize this show of 20th century furniture overall, I would say it was filled with examples of designers trying to get away from the complicated, fussy forms of the nineteenth century. The dining chair (Blacker House 1907) by Greene and Greene prominently displays its Arts & Crafts roots - along with a healthy dose of Japanese influence that characterizes work by Greene and Greene.
It's in the same vain as these less fancy, but still very, very elegant, Harvey Ellis pieces (1903).
These pieces, which certainly are not of the 19th century, still use the construction vocabulary of that century. Frank Lloyd Wright, working a little later, broke the convention. His chairs use new materials (plywood, metal etc) to pull his work distinctly into the modern age. If these chairs didn't show wear and tear, they could easily be mistaken for a new design, not pieces nearly a century old.
In another news: We held a Festool Fest in March 2020, just days before Covid shut everything down. And we've held zero events since then. So we are more than due for the return of Festool Fest and we have scheduled this two day festival of all things Festool for Friday June 23rd and Saturday June 24th, from 12 - 3 PM both days. Festool staff will be on hand to demo the new Festool tools like the cordless Kapex and TS 60 track saw and patiently and repeatedly answer questions about Festool tools that haven't been announced yet for the US market.
And for you hand tool enthusiasts, Festool Fest will be accompanied by the Hand Tool Yard Sale - discontinued tools we don't quite know what to do with; returned tools (both defective and just buyer's remorse; damaged tools; factory seconds; sent-by-mistake-but-too-expensive-to-ship-back; etc. Basically a couple of years' worth of bins available on first-come, first-served, final-sale basis. We know that all that bin diving and knowledge acquisition will build some hunger, so we'll be sure to have refreshments on hand.
We hope to see you there.