Eric Knowles Eric Knowles, Antiquarian

20th Century Collectables

The 20th Century provides probably the most exciting time span for any collector encompassing as it does so many art styles and movements. Auction houses have not been slow to recognise the distinct multifaceted attraction of all that was the previous century. Post War design is presently enjoying unprecedented attention in the fine and applied arts that includes both graphics and functional design.

One such sale being held at Bonhams Knightsbridge illustrates well the sheer variety of all things that evolved out of the Nuclear Age. The names of artists and designers featured in the catalogue reads almost as a who's who of those optimistic decades. Such names include Dame Lucie Rie, Alvar Aalto, Emilio Pucci, Eerio Saarinen, Verner Panton, Allen Jones, Roy Lichtenstein, Ron Arad and Vivienne Westwood and that's naming but a few.

Echoes from the first part of the century are evident in the laminated plywood furniture of Aalto, a No 1 lounge chair from 1931 estimated at £1000 - £1500. The same holds true for a latter day "Cassina" reproduction of Gerrit Rietveld's 1918 classic "Red / Blue Chair "at a tempting £250 - £400. Yet another is a recent "Grand Comfort" black leather upholstered three seater sofa designed by Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand. At £400 - £600 I'd love a pair.

Giants of 40's and 50's furniture design include Charles and Ray Eames and a pair of aluminium and black leather swivel chairs made by Herman Miller and equally tempting at £500 - £700 the pair. In 1952 American designer Harry Bertoia unveiled his "Diamond Chair" for Knoll Associates composed of black coated steel,the auction includes a pair, their presale estimate is £600 to £800. Should your preference be for something a little more nearer to now rather than yesteryear estimated at £1000 to £1500 Ron Arad's anodised aluminium "Tom Vac Chair" designed in 1997 might be worth consideration.

Should the idea of sitting on the 20th century fail to excite why not consider wearing it as the names of eminent costume designers included in the catalogue offer inspiration. Between £200 and £400 could buy you a selection of late 70's clothing by the late Jean Muir or Balenciaga. At £200 to £300 you might even end up with a "Pirate shirt" by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm Mc Laren circa 1980 or £600 for a 1920's silk velvet jacket by Fortuny.

If you would prefer to wear jewellery by Cartier, Kutchinsky, Chanel or Georg Jensen once again they all feature. As does the the work of Israeli jeweller Avi Soffer, an abstract brooch with matching earings both set with haematite cabachons carries an estimate of £200 to £250. The work of the Finnish jeweller Pentti Sarpaneva features an abstract bronze pendant suspended from a cable link chain and with an estimate of £100 to £200 is yet more temptation.

The pottery world is well represented by the likes of Dame Lucie Rie, Bernard Leach and Joanna Constantinidis but it is the simplicity of Christine Jones forms that appeal to me. One of her vases covered in a textured soft pink glaze and measuring 11 ins in height is pottery perfection and expected to find a buyer around £500. Glass designers are represented by Geoffrey Baxter and his smokey grey "Banjo" vase for Whitefriars est £800-1200 alongside Edvin Ohrstrom and Duncan Grant.

The world of graphic design includes the talents of Sir Peter Blake his "Babe Rainbow" featuring the young female wrestler is reckoned to make up to £600. Robert Ballagh's "Campbell Soup" screenprint numbered 2 from an edition of 35 provides a striking image of a long brown haired woman gazing at the soup poster est £2000 - 3000. Given the choice and the funds I would go for a fabulous four fold screen by Pierro Fornasetti decorated with circus acrobats in various antics £2000 and I'm in with a chance.

Bonhams Vision 21 auction will take place at their Knightsbridge galleries at 1pm on Tuesday 15th March 2005 and is on view two days prior and up until 11am on the day of sale.


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