Sotheby’s London is renewing its commitment to the promotion of post-war and contemporary design, through a dedicated sale with a particular focus on lights.
The collection features a wealth of big names, including Harry Bertoia, Shiro Kuramata and Marc Newson. Older masterworks, including an Eames screen, a Finn Juhl table and a variety of Hans Wegner chairs, are appropriately contrasted with contemporary standouts – such a grouping of ten chairs by Franz West, adorned with arresting patterns that show the Austrian artist’s propensity for mischief, and a bold, graceful bench by Thomas Heatherwick, produced by forcing a single piece of aluminium through the world’s largest extrusion machine.
The heart of the show is beyond doubt the ‘Switch On’ collection, a curated showing of lighting design from the 1920s to the present day. It starts with hanging lights by Jean Prouvé and Poul Henningsen – whose sculptural forms represent a radical departure from previous years, when light bulbs were considered too precious to obscure. Moving into the midcentury era, the dramatic designs of Italians Gio Ponti and Gino Sarfatti (whose sprawling ‘Spider’ ceiling light cannot be missed) are contrasted with more restrained forms by Alvar Aalto and Charlotte Perriand. Meanwhile, pieces by Ettore Sottsass and Gaetano Pesce nod to late-20th century iconoclasm.
Dominating the contemporary end of the spectrum is the work of lighting designer Ingo Maurer. His ‘Liegendes Ei’ floor light, an exceedingly rare egg-shaped piece which glows with anticipation through its artful cracks, offering a poetic meditation on damage and renewal. Similarly, ‘Moon over Cuba’ and ‘JB Dragonfly’ demonstrate a masterful use of narrative. Adding to the assortment of styles are a tantalisingly intricate ‘Ivy Shadow Chandelier’ by Tord Boontje, a kaleidoscopic found object assemblage by Stuart Haygarth, and the sinuous, sculpted ‘VorteXX’ hanging light by Zaha Hadid and Patrick Schumacher.
In putting together this show, Cécile Verdier, Sotheby’s European head of 20th-century design sought to emphasise both form and function. 'These pieces are not only for collectors and connoisseurs,' she says, 'but also for those who want to live with exceptional objects in their homes.'