Auction houses can be intimidating places. We read front-page reports of record-breaking prices; ordinary mortals can, if they are brave, only gaze at the Picasso’s and Hockney’s sold within.
However, all this is slowly starting to change and Christie’s First Open sale is a brand-new way of thinking within the auction house world.
The sale’s subtitle “Contemporary Living: Art, Craft & Design” lends a clue that this is not your typical auction house sale, with dusty furniture handed down through the centuries.
Christie’s is collaborating with Mayfair gallery space, The New Craftsmen, which works with 75 of Britain’s leading independent contemporary craftspeople, who create their own vision of sustainable luxury for today’s world.
Think furniture, ceramics, glassware and textiles, made lovingly by hand and representing the very best of design today.
The sale also has a dash of African glamour: Christie’s is also collaborating with Southern Guild, Africa’s leading collectible design gallery which, like The New Craftsmen, promotes original work at the intersection between art and design.
As the South African born, London-based design collector Julian Treger says “African art plays an increasingly important role in international collections, but design from the world’s largest continent is often overlooked and under-priced.
I believe that Africa will play an increasingly meaningful role in shaping and expressing the spirit, and indeed design, of the 21st Century.”
Works to look out for include William Waterhouse’s “Gold Spinners” Kinetic Sculpture (pictured) as well as the “Num Num branch side tables” and the occasional table by Charles Haupt. We also particularly loved Chuma Maweni’s “Smoked Teardrop” set of three vases in his signature teardrop shape which, fired by traditional African method, gives a strong smoky smell to the works.
Our insider tip is to watch the prices on David Krynauw’s works; he won the 100% Design South Africa Designer of the Year Award two years ago. Seen here is his Jeppestown Waiting Bench, which incorporates traditional weaving techniques in the strips of worked leather for the seats.
Also keep an eye out for the richly tactile rugs from The Bristol Weaving Mill, made from scraps from the luxury textile houses.
There are two intriguingly different interpretations of the traditional Korean moon jar, said to have inspired the father of British Studio Pottery Bernard Leach, and shaped according to the moon.
Irish artist Nic Webb’s flamed moon jar made out of scorched sycamore can be seen alongside Edmond Byrne’s reinterpretation of this cult object. The Irish glassmaker has constructed a mould – which can only be used once – out of fabrics, clay and sand to give textured form to the exterior.
Also lovely is the “Two Oceans” cabinet, made by Norman Meyer and Abrie Von Wielligh, which is inspired by the meeting of the warm Atlantic Ocean with the cold currents at the southern point of Africa.
Where these two immense bodies of water come into contact, they do not mix, and the undulating waves of this piece are mesmerizing.
The “Be Seated, A Bench” by Heino Schmitt would look splendid in any entrance hall. Schmitt found the large olive wood seat whilst walking in a dry river bed, and added man-made supports.
Buying domestic pieces in an auction house can be challenging. If you’re curious to actually see how these objects would look before bidding, then the New Craftsmen have created a life-size model, called the “Patron’s House”, where you can re-arrange the furniture and art works on view to your heart’s content.
With prices starting at £700, it’s a wonderful way to furnish your home with truly beautiful and unique works of art as well as a way of investing in the works of designers and craftsmen alive today.
- First Open | South Kensington | Post-War and Contemporary Art including Contemporary Living: Art, Craft & Design
- 5 April 2017
- Christie’s South Kensington