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Wright: Design Masterworks Auction preview
May 18, 2015

The name of Wright's May 19 "Design Masterworks" auction couldn't be more apt. This limited collection consists of some of the most coveted works of the 20th century's preeminent artists, designers and architects, with masterpieces as diverse as Frank Gehry's Winton Guest House, George Nelson & Associates' Marshmallow Sofa, and George Nakashima's minguren coffee table, each one linked by their shared artistic immensity. The auction's items are on display in New York until May 19 and will be auctioned off on May 19 in Chicago, at noon local time.

The Gehry Winton Guest House
Gehry's Winton Guest House, finished in 1987, is composed of six geometric structures in varied finishes and building materials, such as a 35-foot-tall pyramid living room in black painted metal and a curved bedroom of dolomitic limestone. The award-winning house was first built for a 12-acre Lake Minnetonka property before being moved in 2008 to Owatonna, Minnesota, where it now sits. Gehry, who tried to get “to the purest place” in design by creating “each room a different thing,” sought inspiration for the work from still life paintings by Giorgio Morandi, cityscapes and one-room buildings.

Maarten Baas' Gerrit Rietveld Elling cabinet
Maarten Baas' Gerrit Rietveld Elling cabinet from the Smoke series was commissioned by its present owner and comes from the artist’s "most important and unique contribution to contemporary design," according to Wright. The Smoke series uses fire to destroy and recreate existing furniture pieces as burnt, then preserved, new versions of themselves.

The Marshmallow Sofa, designed by Irving Harper and George Nelson
The Marshmallow Sofa, designed by Irving Harper and George Nelson from 1954 to 1956, features seat and back planes made from upholstered circles that rise on small pins from the sofa's structure, and a curved, tubular frame that gives the impression that the seat is floating. Though the design wasn't successful commercially, with only 186 produced, it serves as a forerunner of Pop.

Josef Hoffmann's table lamp
Josef Hoffmann's table lamp of brass and silk was made circa 1913 and hails from a private Chicago collection. Creator Hoffman made over 5,000 drawings and finished 500 commissions during his career.

Crow Island classroom, courtesy Chicago History Museum
Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen's rare and early chair for the Crow Island School of Winnetka, a public school, is made of laminated ply and solid wood, and was designed in 1939 as part of a larger system of furniture for the school. It's also a precursor to the Organic Design chairs that the pair created for the Museum of Modern Art in 1941.

Crow Island chair

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