Important Cabinet ($150,000– $200,000 estimated value) by Gio Ponti from Tehran in the 1960s.
Just when Midcentury Modern enthusiasts thought they’d seen it all, Wright brings to Chicago’s auction scene incredible Italian design, pieces that remind even the cognoscenti that the animating spirit of the era took myriad forms. While the material and its makers—including Carlo Mollino, Gio Ponti, and Franco Albini—are hardly unknown, the market for the work really only began to heat up about five years ago, and this month’s sale (which features pieces from the holdings of noted Milanese scholar and collector Loris Manna) could well set a record or two.
Whether cast in an organic, sculptural mode or an assertively geometric style, these furnishings manifest a willingness to experiment with material, color, and form that often exceeded the daring of other European or American designers. What’s more, notes Wright senior specialist Michael Jefferson, “expressionism permeates Italian design, but it never strays too far from the functional.”
The dialogue of form and function à la Italiana is exemplified in an almost kinetic cabinet Ponti created for the Villa Nemazee, a Tehran residence he designed in 1960. A playful tension between the mass of the lacquer case and the starlike steel feet it sits atop, along with the activated face of the piece, generate a distinct dynamism. “The signature blue and white coloration, the bold faceting of the form, and the shifting geometry that occurs depending on whether the piece is open or closed, are hallmarks of Ponti’s best work,” says Jefferson. “It’s an A-plus masterpiece.” So, what do I hear for this seminal work of Italian design? The Italian Masterworks auction takes place December 13 at 2 PM; 1440 W. Hubbard St., 312-563-0020