In the past I have acquired many things of beauty from this auction house. However this is only the second time since the establishment of the Venduehuis der Notarissen that an auction devoted to Design has been organized. In the past year we have received in consignment many extraordinary pieces of design for this sale. During this process I have endeavoured to bring together pieces of international origin for this very special auction.
The origin of the modern design lies in the 19th century England with the industrial revolution when factories produced utensils and other objects of use. During this process the concept of designer as we now know wasn’t involved and the utensils were often made in historical styles. The great reformer of modern design was William Morris, a painter and social critic, who broke through the barriers between free and applied arts as the first artist to become a craftsman and designer according to his own ideologies on new concepts of design. Many would follow him.
Morris established the Arts and Crafts movement where designers and artisans worked closely together. An example of a piece of furniture in the Arts and Crafts style is this bathroom cabinet (lot. 2) made by the company Robert Garnett & Sons, Warrington.
Due to the influence of this movement a new style developed in the western part of the world: the Art Nouveau, Jugendstil, Stile Liberty (Liberty Style) or Nieuwe Kunst (New Art). From the Nieuwe Kunst, amongst other things, a display case from Berlage (lot. 26), a tea-table from Nieuwenhuis (lot. 18), a dining table with chairs by van Dijsselhof (lot. 13) as well as a Stile Liberty chair from Carlo Bugatti (lot. 8) are to be offered for sale at this auction. In addition to these pieces of furniture a rare and fine collection of gold jewellery from Bert Nienhuis (lot. 28, 29, 30) is also for sale.
Resulting from the Art Nouveau and Nieuwe Kunst movement, the 1920’s saw the rise of the Art Deco, the Amsterdam School and Hague School style. Generally these movements crafted furniture, utensils and other objects of use, using traditional methods. Two fine armchairs in the typical and classical Swedish Art Deco style by the Swede, Erik Chambret (lot. 126) are in this auction. These pieces contrast to the Art Deco furniture of the Haagse School by Frits Spanjaard (lot. 111), H. Wouda (lot. 113) and Cor Alons (lot. 114), who were influenced by modernism.
The artists around the De Stijl movement: now that is a tale in itself. The furniture of Gerrit Rietveld was highly appreciated internationally because of his innovative and original design. The Moolenbeek chair (lot. 80), the Military stool (lot. 81), the child’s wheelbarrow (lot.79) and the Steltman chair (lot. 82) are clear examples of this.
Industrial design began with the formation of the Bauhaus in 1919 by Walter Gropius.
Students at this design college were taught to design utensils suitable to be manufactured industrially. According to their methodology objects should be without adornment, clean lined, abstract shaped using new materials such as steel and bakelite. The ideas of De Stijl and notably that of Rietveld influenced the designers of Bauhaus. An innovation was the cantilever chair with no rear legs, invented by the Dutch architect Mart Stam (lot. 92 & 93). The idea was further developed by Marcel Breuer (lot. 94 & 95). This was the beginning of chrome covered steel tubular seating furniture with seats and back rests of leather or cane by, amongst others, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (lot. 96). In the Netherlands tubular steel furniture from W.H. Gispen was popular, but also by Bas van Pelt (lot. 106) and Theo de Wit (lot. 105) from the Auping Company.
The style developed by Bauhaus, also known as functionalism, was also applied in architecture. In the Netherlands this architecture was called het “Nieuwe Bouwen”. At the industrial art colleges, students were taught according to the Bauhaus methodology. The trademarks were austerity, functionality, using materials such as concrete, steel and glass.
Modern design cannot be separated from the social, economical, political and cultural environments in which this originated. The aim was to build affordable housing for people in the lower-paid bracket. Through prefabrication and standardization, whole residential areas came into being.
Modernism, as it was called, really only came into being after the Second World War in the Netherlands. This can be seen in the designs of Aldo van de Nieuwelaar (lot. 181, 182, 183), Ton Alberts (lot. 178) and Benno Premsela (lot. 184 & 185). In the “tuinsteden” or garden cities, apartment buildings were erected according to the Bauhaus creed: light, airy and spatial. In the 1950’s I also lived in a similar type of accommodation in the Morgenstond quarter in The Hague, designed by none other than W.M. Dudok. The Foundation Good Housing (De Stichting Goed Wonen) provided information on how to furnish the new property in a tasteful and modern way. They had a model house which was furnished completely and the Foundation also supplied a magazine.
In Scandinavian countries, modernistic furniture was made primarily from wood. This can be seen in the table made of expensive Karelian wood from Finland’s Alvar Aalto (lot. 109) and the furniture designs of Danish Hans Wegner (lot. 133) and Ynge Ekström (lot. 132). Also in these regions during the 1960’s and 70’s furniture in metal and synthetic materials were made by Verner Panton (lot. 205 & 212), Jørgen Kastholm/ Preben Fabricius (lot. 166) and many others.
Around 1980 the dogma of the modernistic movement of austerity and clean lines was interrupted by the Italian group “Memphis” from Milan, introducing Post Modernism. The founder, Ettore Sottsass had worked together with Alessandro Mendini at Studio Alchimia where they critically engaged Modernisim.
In 1981 Memphis exhibited his work for the first time at the Salone del Mobile in Milan which was an absolute sensation. The works were characterized by curved lines, plastic laminate, kitsch elements and references to other styles, from Art Deco and Surrealism to Pop Art. It was pure “Rock and Roll”, just as the name “Memphis”, derived from Bob Dylan’s song: “Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues again”. It gives me great pleasure to be able to present beautiful examples in metal, glass, ceramics and furniture by Ettore Sotttsass (lot. 240-247) at this auction. There are also works from his pre-Memphis period available such as the re-edition of the Superbox cabinet from 1968 by Poltronova (lot. 247). From his post-Memphis period there is the cabinet he designed in 2000 for the exhibition Italy-Japan of Oak Design Edizione (lot. 246). Other examples of Italian design presented in this catalogue include furniture, vases and fruit bowls by Gaetano Pesce (lot. 288, 284-287). Using polyurethane, Pesce sometimes worked in the colours of the Italian flag. Italy, a designer country, with pre-eminent companies such as Magis, Kartell (lot. 254-259) and Guzzini (lot. 226), established the industrial product designs for use in households.
In the Netherlands it was not until 1993 before a breath of fresh air blew through the work of Dutch designers. At the Salone del Mobile in Milan in a chique old villa conceptual and simple designs were exhibited, for example a bookcase made of multiplex and handicraft paper from Jan Konings and Jurgen Bey (lot. 305) and a crochet chair by Marcel Wanders (lot. 306). The exhibition in Milan was the talk of the town. This design is now world famous and in the early days a renowned Italian newspaper wrote on Dutch Design: “simplicity does not have to be boring”.
The Endless Chair of Dirk Kooy (lot. 318), also initiated by Droog Design, is a 21st century icon. By reusing material, in this case old refrigerators, it moves seamlessly through our environmental awareness. With the help of a 3D printer and a robotic arm, this plastic chair was produced: an example of craftsmanship and technology.
The realisation of this special sale, the preparation of the catalogue, and the arrangement of the auction rooms was due to the accomplished and enthusiastic way that Nicholas le Clercq assisted, for which I thank him enormously.
I would also like to thank Monica Kuiper very much, who worked under the supervision of Philomeen van ‘t Hooft, responsible for the styling of this fine catalogue. Last but certainly not least I would like to thank the staff of the Venduehuis and all employees who in their own way have contributed towards this special sale.