Some brief notes on the spring and summer round of auction sales in Scandinavia.
The spring and summer sales typically constitute a slower auction cycle than the autumn sales with fewer premium lots and lower knockdowns. In addition, the last few sales’ rounds have been increasingly sluggish particularly for Nordic and Scandinavian design, with many lots ending up at the lower end of the estimate or below, in some cases significantly so. It seems, at least for now, that knockdowns have somewhat plateaued for 20th- and mid-century design of high quality like Hans J. Wegner, Finn Juhl, Børge Mogensen, Alvar Aalto and Bruno Mathsson. At the same time some of the most overpriced items seems to be coming down, like the furniture attributed to Phillip Arctander. This time around a pair Clam chairs upholstered in white sheep skin, failed to sell against a low estimate of 11.000 EUR compared to a very similar pair that reached 66.000 EUR just a couple of years ago. Prices for the often overlooked Swedish designer Axel Einar Hjort are still fairly high but also cooling down, or perhaps normalizing after skyrocketing a while back. One reason might that while Hjort was mainly known to a small number of aficionados this price boost drove a slew of consignments to the auction houses indicating that there are more pieces out there than initially thought. Now, exceptional and important pieces will continue to appreciate and there will always be the odd inexplicable knockdown even though some segments are sluggish or even in a state of contraction.
Overall the catalogues are unusually thin this spring with far and few between highlights, perhaps sellers are holding out until the autumn sales or maybe volatility in financial markets are spilling over. In a sign of this inert state Bukowskis (BUK) moved the design section from the Contemporary sale to the Modern catalogue creating instead the Modern & Nordic Design sale covering roughly 20th through mid-century to a limited selection of contemporary design. Stockholms Auktionsverk’s (SAK) Nutida (i.e. Contemporary) sale remains intact and i as usual a more eclectic mix than archival Bukowskis. In the past SAK has made a point of including new and emerging designers in the Nutida auction, mainly lots from studio editions and prototypes but falls short this time with only a handful. Over in Copenhagen at Bruun-Rassmussen (BRU) two questions linger, how will prices for Hans J Wegner hold up after lasts year’s exhaustive anniversary sales and will the prices for Peder Moos continue to climb?
The big 3.
Bukowskis combined Modern & Nordic Design sale revolve around the Swedish Classics; Svenskt Tenn, Josef Frank, Estrid Ericson, Carl Malmsten, Axel Einar Hjort et cetera. The mid-century segment is slightly thinner including for instance Arne Norell, Hans J Wegner and Arne Jacobsen, standard stuff for a premium auction house with most lots reaching expected price points. No surprises here. The contemporary section is also a fairly predicable affair with 12 out of only 20 lots by Mats Theselius, mainly variations of his most recognizable designs like the cylindrical El Dorardo or the Bruno chair. Next up are two lots by John Kandell, an artist-designer perhaps not very well known today outside Sweden but a key figure in the development of Nordic postmodern design. His Singel chairs up for sale here are typical of his quirky design ethos and of the momentum of 80’s design in Sweden. Other highlights include 2 armchairs by Donald Judd produced by Janssen, a Ron Arad armchair that failed to sell and a large Piet Hein Eek table also not meeting its reserve price.
Stockholms Auktionsverk’s Nutida (i.e. Contemporary) mix both mid-century lots with contemporary, ranging from Poul Kjaerholm to Marc Newson and Zaha Hadid. Highlights also include Lotta Lampa, one of the most relevant emerging creatives right now, her Melting Ghost mirror, is a free standing piece with a steel frame, a unique studio produced piece, typical of her idiosyncratic style.Finn Ahlgren’s works are infused by a strong sense of design ethics using found or recycled materials. For Frank Ahlgren has slightly pivoted this method by using recycled Josef Frank furnitures for the tabletop and the base is made out an old bookcase. Valv by Lukas Dahlén is next up, a display cabinet made out of MDF with arches cut out in the front and sides. The piece is inspired by the medieval architecture of Gotland, the island where Dahlen’s Ringvide studio is located. Otherwise Dahlén is perhaps most know of his Weave cabinets, that have previously been up for sale at SAK.
At Bruun Rasmussen it’s also pretty much bizniz as usual, nice lots, high quality but few surprises. Unlike its Swedish counterparts Bruun do not really dabble with contemporary design but stick to what they do best – the golden age of Danish design. Among the more unusual items there is one bentwood chair prototype by Poul Kjaerholm and a very rare cabinet with geometric inlay by architect Kaj Gottlob. Gottlob is hardly a household name in but visitors to Copenhagen have probably come across his work in the form of the copper clad control towers on Kinppelsbro and Langebro in city’s centre. But perhaps most exciting are the two Peder Moos lots, one of which is a wall mounted lamp with a pleated shade with an estimate of 5.400-8.000 EUR! Moos is right now by far the most sought after Scandinavian designer after a large 50’s oak table sold at ca.765.000 EUR at Phillips and a small rosewood stool reach 115.000 EUR at Bruun-Rasmussen.