Palm Beach Modern Auctions Holds $1.6 Million Sale Of Mid-Century, Contemporary Art And Design

Stellar Prices Paid For Paul Evans Furniture, American Modern Paintings, And Italian Chandeliers

January 12, 2018

A fully curated selection of superior-quality modern art and design awaited guests at Palm Beach Modern’s (PBMA) Nov. 25 Thanksgiving weekend auction, which grossed $1.6 million. Furniture performed powerfully, especially the distinctive 1960s designs of Paul Evans, and art continued its hot streak with a Sam Francis painting commanding an above-estimate $30,720.
“Mid-century furniture was stronger than it has ever been in any of our sales,” said auctioneer and PBMA co-owner Rico Baca. “Looking at the initial numbers, I can say quite confidently that there was a 90 to 95 percent sell-through rate on furniture.”
The category was led by a set of eight Paul Evans leather and metal dining chairs that sold for $48,640 against a pre-sale estimate of $20,000-$30,000, a record for the form. Comprising two armchairs and six side chairs, the desirable seating suite is referenced in two respected books about Evans’ body of work.
“There were staff members on all eight phone lines for the Evans chairs, and there were even more competitors online,” said Baca. “They sold to a phone bidder from France, who was very excited to win them.”
In total, 12 Paul Evans lots were offered, including a monumental bronzed resin, slate, wood and lacquered steel cabinet designed by Evans for “Directional,” which realized $23,040 (est. $15,000-$20,000), and a bronzed resin-over-steel and glass Stalagmite dining table that rose to $10,880 (est. $5,000-$7,000).
“We were so pleased for the consignors of the Stalagmite table,” said Baca. “They are a group of brothers who were young boys when we started our gallery. We knew them because their father did upholstery work for us. As the years passed, they went to work for their dad and also started buying furniture. The Evans table, which they had purchased for only $150, was their first consignment with us. They came to the auction as a family, including their father, to watch as their early investment paid them back many times over.”
Designer chairs seemed to be on many bidders’ shopping lists. A set of six George Nakashima grass-seated dining chairs went for $15,360 (est. $7,000-$9,000), while a set of 12 Mario Bellini/Cassina Italian leather, plastic and metal chairs reached $17,920 (est. $6,000-$8,000). In a different vein, two different pairs of Marzio Cecchi lounge chairs sold for $8,320 and $6,400, respectively. Each duo had been estimated at $2,000-$4,000. Similarly, a pair of Vladimir Kagan/Directional upholstered metal lounge chairs closed at $7,040 (est. $2,000-$3,000).
The next generation of art collectors might well have been seated in the audience; two little girls, ages 6 and 9, clapped excitedly as their parents’ consignment, a Michael Goldberg oil painting originally purchased for $7, soared to $38,400. “I think after the hammer fell there was some talk of a trip to Walt Disney World,” Baca said with a smile. “This was quite a lesson to them about the power of both art and investment.”
Another premier art lot was a signed Sam Francis (American, 1923-94) original acrylic-on-paper work with a stamp from the artist’s estate and backed by scholarship from the Sam Francis Foundation. One of three Francis originals entered in the sale, it achieved $30,720 against a $15,000-$25,000 estimate.
Palm Beach Modern Auctions has enjoyed a 100 percent sell-through rate on all Picasso pottery offered in its sales. Top achievers in this auction included a Chouette (wood owl) vase/vessel that exceeded estimate at $19,200, and a Corrida Sur Fond Noir platter, which settled above estimate at $9,600. “There’s such a strong following for Picasso pottery,” according to Baca. “There are far more buyers than there are sellers, and now we’re receiving Picasso consignments from outside the United States. There were some pieces from France in this sale. This tells us we’re reaching the high end of the market with our prices.”
Five chandeliers in the manner of Stilnovo were consigned and shipped from Italy and offered in consecutive lots. Four were won by a noted British designer, with one of them reaching $12,800 against expectations of $2,000-$3,000.
The event’s Thanksgiving harvest and hospitality theme started with complimentary valet parking, a generous charcuterie buffet luncheon with all the trimmings, and snacks and beverages for guests to enjoy throughout the day. “We really enjoy playing host to those who attend our auctions,” said Baca. “It’s gratifying to see how many people stay from start to finish. We feel that the least we can do is to make sure they feel welcome and that there are plenty of good things to eat and drink during the time they spend with us.”
To learn more, call 561-586-5500 or visit
All prices quoted are inclusive of 25 percent buyer’s premium.
Photos courtesy of Palm Beach Modern Auctions.


More Articles