High lights: Sotheby’s holds post-war and contemporary sale

 ’Uncle’ chairs, by Franz West, 2005
(Image credit: press)

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.' 

The collection features a wealth of big names, including Harry Bertoia, Shiro Kuramata and Marc Newson

The collection features a wealth of big names, including Harry Bertoia, Shiro Kuramata and Marc Newson

(Image credit: press)

Classic pieces in the show include Hans Wegner's 'Easy Chair'

Classic pieces in the show include Hans Wegner's 'Easy Chair' (1953), a variation on English Windsor seating (pictured left), and Shiro Kuramata's 'Miss Blanche' chair, with its iconic floating red roses (pictured right)

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Cécile Verdier, Sotheby’s European head of 20th-century design, sought to emphasise both form and function

Cécile Verdier, Sotheby’s European head of 20th-century design, sought to emphasise both form and function

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Produced by Gagosian Gallery, Marc Newson's 'Extruded Chair' (2006)

Produced by Gagosian Gallery, Marc Newson's 'Extruded Chair' (2006) was chiseled from a single, seamless piece of Carrara marble

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Showstopper pieces by Zaha Hadid and Thomas Heatherwick

Showstopper pieces by Zaha Hadid and Thomas Heatherwick illustrate the possibilities of contemporary manufacturing technology. Pictured left: 'Hanging Light', by Zaha Hadid. 2007. Right: 'Extrusion' bench, by Thomas Heatherwick, 2011

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The heart of the show is the ‘Switch On’ collection,

The heart of the show is the ‘Switch On’ collection, a curated showing of lighting design from the 1920s to the present day

(Image credit: press)

One of the oldest pieces in the show, Charles J Weinstein's 'Hanging Light'

One of the oldest pieces in the show, Charles J Weinstein's 'Hanging Light' (c. 1931) is a timeless design in crystal and wrought iron

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Gino Sarfatti's sprawling 'Spider' ceiling light (1946–1950)

Gino Sarfatti's sprawling 'Spider' ceiling light (1946–1950) is among the midcentury offerings in the 'Switch On' collection

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'Tide' chandelier (2005)

For this 'Tide' chandelier (2005), artist Stuart Haygarth used debris collected from Dungeness beach in southeast England to create interesting plays of light

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Tord Boontje's 'Ivy Shadow Chandelier' (2014)

With laser-cut lengths of ivy twisted around a blooming central frame, Tord Boontje's 'Ivy Shadow Chandelier' (2014) aims to recreate the shapes and shadows of sunlight shining through a leafy canopy

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Johanna Grawunder's 'Disky' hanging light bears a fascinating resemblance to Newton's cradle

On the contemporary end of the spectrum, Johanna Grawunder's 'Disky' hanging light bears a fascinating resemblance to Newton's cradle

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The Campana brothers' 'Ouro Preto' floor lamp and 'Anhanguera' sofa (both 2011)

The Campana brothers' 'Ouro Preto' floor lamp and 'Anhanguera' sofa (both 2011) are adorned with whimsical bronze motifs informed by the baroque aesthetic of the 17th and 18th centuries

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Lot 9 Ingo Maurer Liegendes Ei Floor Lamp

Ingo Maurer's 'Liegendes Ei’ ('lying egg') floor light (2007) glows with anticipation through its artful cracks, offering a poetic meditation on damage and renewal

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Pictured left: 'JB Dragonfly', 2011. Right: 'Moon over Cuba', 2007. Both by Maurer

Pictured left: 'JB Dragonfly', 2011. Right: 'Moon over Cuba', 2007. Both by Maurer

(Image credit: press)

Left: 'Cassiopé', by Max Sauze, 1970.

Left: 'Cassiopé', by Max Sauze, 1970. Right: Hervé van der Straeten's assemblage of gilt bronze branches and rock crystal (1996)

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INFORMATION

The international post-war and contemporary design sale takes place on 4 November at Sotheby’s (opens in new tab)

TF has been editor of Wallpaper* since December 2020. He is responsible for our monthly print magazine, planning, commissioning, editing and writing long-lead content across all our content pillars. He also plays a leading role in multi-channel editorial franchises, such as our annual Design Awards, Guest Editor takeovers and Next Generation series. He aims to create world-class, visually-driven content while championing diversity, international representation and social impact. TF joined Wallpaper* as an intern in January 2013, and served as its commissioning editor from 2017-20, winning a 30 under 30 New Talent Award from the Professional Publishers’ Association. Born and raised in Hong Kong, he holds an undergraduate degree in history from Princeton University.