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FrontRunners: Kaufmann House

Admirers of the Kaufmann house consider it a work of art, and Christie’s (www.christies.com) evidently concurs. The auction house will include the Palm Springs, Calif., vacation residence, which modernist architect Richard Joseph Neutra designed for department store magnate Edgar Kaufmann in the mid-1940s, alongside Rothkos and de Koonings in its May 13 sale of postwar and contemporary art in New York City. Christie’s executives believe that bidders will offer as much as $25 million for the 3,200-square-foot structure, an assemblage of long, low blocks that blends neatly with the surrounding desert landscape. Many of the walls comprise floor-to-ceiling panes of glass, a design element common to houses by Neutra and his fellow modernists and intended to blur the boundaries between indoors and outdoors. Joshua Holdeman, head of 20th-century art for Christie’s American branch, notes that the current owners, who are selling as part of a divorce settlement, spent five years and millions of dollars returning the home to its original state. Among other efforts, they had a rock quarry in Utah reopened so they could secure stone that precisely matched the color of the original. “The structure has undergone a restoration to a level that one would restore a painting, not a house,” Holdeman says.

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