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Ettore Sottsass Is in the Spotlight at Phillips

Key pieces by the visionary Italian designer and architect hit the block in London on April 26.

Ettore Sottsass mirror totem Photo: Courtesy Phillips

“This season in London, our sale showcases many of the key moments in 20th-century design and brings to the fore an unprecedented group of early works by visionary Italian designer and architect Ettore Sottsass,” says Alexander Payne, worldwide head of design and deputy chairman for Europe at Phillips.

Sottsass may be best known for his 1969 Valentine typewriter for Olivetti—considered an icon of 20th-century design—and his works created under the aegis of the Memphis Group, which he founded in Milan in 1980. The London sale on April 26 includes signature Sottsass pieces like Totem, no. 18 (1966), his colorful glazed earthenware and painted oak form tagged at £150,000 to £200,000 ($213,350–$284,500), and his mirrored Composizione di elementi di legno colorato e specchio (1959), which was designed for Galleria Arform in Milan. The latter carries an estimate of £80,000 to £120,000 ($113,800–$170,700).

“Unearthing these two historic works by Sottsass provides a unique opportunity to acquire pieces by the master, who was one of the key protagonists of the mid- to late-20th-century design world,” says Payne. “Sottsass had a profound impact on the history of the 20th-century design, and we at Phillips have assembled and curated a unique selection of works to celebrate that.”

Diego Giacometti Lionhead Armchairs

A pair of patinated bronze “Têtes de Lionnes” armchairs, conceived 1979 and executed in 1979-1981, hit the block at Phillips in London on April 26, tagged at £250,000 to £350,000 ($355,600–$498,000).  Photo: Courtesy Phillips

Other highlights include a pair of Têtes de Lionnes armchairs by Diego Giacometti. Conceived in 1979 and executed from 1979 to 1981, the patinated bronze, wrought-iron, and leather chairs are estimated at £250,000 to £350,000 ($355,600–$498,000). A similar pair cast in 1980 sold for €559,500 ($620,144) on an estimate of €200,000 to €300,000 ($221,678–$332,517) at Sotheby’s in Paris this past May.

Wendell Castle Sofa

A stack-laminated walnut and leather sofa by Wendell Castle from 1974 carries an estimate of £140,000 to £180,000 ($199,150–$256,000).  Photo: Courtesy Phillips

Also of note is a rare low Toscano marble table designed by Gio Ponti in 1927 for a new modern-art picture gallery within Villa Vittoria, the Contini Bonacossi residence in Florence. It is pegged at £180,000 to £240,000 ($256,000–$341,400). Rounding out the highlights is a unique three-seat sofa by Wendell Castle. The stack-laminated walnut and leather piece from 1974 carries an estimate of £140,000 to £180,000 ($199,150–$256,000).

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