Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Walter von Nessen Masterpiece at Wright

With last weekend's release of The Great Gatsby, not to mention the film-inspired merchandise currently being sold at Tiffany & Co. and Brooks Brothers, the 1920s is coming back into vogue.  The timing couldn't be better for Wright auction house, which will be selling this extraordinary Art Deco-style chair- the work of American furniture designer Walter von Nessen- at an upcoming auction in June.  The armchair, thought to have been one of a pair, is both important and rare, with a pre-auction estimate of US$200,000-$300,000.

First exhibited in 1928 at the International Exposition of Art in Industry, Macy's answer to the 1925 blockbuster L'Exposition Internationale des Artes Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris, the chair features a curved aluminum back and base, with cast bronze armrests and cut brass ornamentation.  Most striking, at least to me, are both the cut and applied ziggurats, a classic motif of the Art Deco style.  What adds to the chair's allure is its peculiar, and almost tragic, history.  Housed at a movie theater in upstate New York, the chair was sold along with other metals to a scrap metal hauler in the late 1970s.  Thankfully, the hauler recognized that this chair likely had value, so he contacted a couple who had recently sold their important Art Deco collection.  The couple bought the chair, and it has remained in their care for the last forty years.  To think that this chair almost ended up in the scrap metal pile!

The chair, a notable example of the American Art Deco style, has a documented history of its early years.  Featured in a November,1928 article in The Metal Arts magazine, the chair also appears in a period photograph that was included in At Home in Manhattan: Modern Decorative Arts, 1925 to the Depression.

Wright's Important Furniture auction will take place in Chicago on June 6. For more information, please contact Wright.

A photo showing the chair in situ at the Macy's exhibition.  This photograph appears in At Home in Manhattan: Modern Decorative Arts, 1925 to the Depression.

All photos used with express permission from Wright.


  1. Love at first sight. This piece of sculpture and American art will hopefully be purchased by a museum so that we can all view it. Gorgeous piece.

  2. Anonymous12:35 PM

    It is just a fabulous chair and I agree a piece of sculpture. As designers we see so much, but every once in a while you see something so special and fall in love instantly.