Take a seat, if you can afford it
Eames auction rakes in more than $660,000
May 26, 1999
By Laurel Shannon
(CNN) -- Retro pays. An auction of Charles and Ray Eames furniture, sculpture, letters, photographs and fabrics in Oak Park, Illinois, on Sunday pulled in more than three times the gallery's pre-auction estimates.
According to a final sale list from the Treadway and John Toomey Galleries, the auction brought in more than $660,000.
"That's pretty good for 150 lots of '50s furniture," gallery owner John Toomey says.
The mid-century American husband-wife design team is perhaps best known for its mod bent-wood chairs and encompassing black leather recliners. But a sculpture brought in the highest bid at Sunday's event -- $130,000 for Ray Eames' jig-saw cut leg splint that was estimated to bring $25,000 to $35,000. (Launch the photo gallery to see it.)
The whimsical, bio-morphic form came out of serious work the couple was doing, experimenting with plywood to make leg splints during World War II. In all, more than 150,000 splints were produced by the end of the war. A prototype Eames leg splint that was estimated at between $1,000 and $1,500 went for $2,500 in Sunday's auction.
In furniture, a classic Eames chair (above) attracted the highest bid: $35,000 for a molded ash plywood chair with "slunk skin" upholstery. ("Slunk skin" comes from an unborn calf, a process frowned on today.) Herman Miller produced the chair between 1948 and 1953. It was estimated to sell for $5,000 to $7,000 at auction.
A set of stacked office storage units with primary colored masonite panels did well, but hardly by a landslide: $27,000, just $2,000 above the estimated high. (Launch the photo gallery to see it.)
Other popular items included a 1945 child's chair (estimate $7,000-$9,000; sold at $15,000), another stacking office storage unit, this one from 1954 (estimate $9,000-$12,000; sold at $15,000) and a 1948 plywood folding screen (estimate $7,500-$9,500; sold at $15,000).
Your tastes don't run that rich? A molded fiberglass chair with spindly metal "Eiffel Tower" legs and striped upholstery sold for $500 ($200 below estimate). The two cheapest items at the auction were a printed silk scarf (estimated $200-$300; sold at $110) and a 1977 book cover designed by Ray and Charles Eames (estimated $200-300; sold at $110).
Eames icons on the block
Treadway Gallery: Eames Auction - May 23, 1999
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