Mid-Century Art + Design - San Francisco

Prints, Paintings, Furniture, and other Mid-20th Century Artifacts. This blog will update our status and inventory. For questions or comments, please contact us at info@dustymodern.com. Or find us on twitter at @dustymodern. We like talking about this stuff.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Knoll and Knockoffs

I should start by saying that we have no Knoll items in stock right now. I'm just thinking about them. The various 1950's-designed, some still in production, Knoll sofas and club chairs are just beautiful. Simple, iconic, really well-made. They were intended for "contract" (office, essentially) uses, but are perfect in the home as well. They're popular, and often one of the first things a mid-century modern fan is turned on to.

A problem with collecting Knoll, however, is that people over-attribute to the company, and don't realize how many near-copies of the sofas and club chairs exist. There were at least eleven companies making furniture that could easily be mistaken for Knoll, and is often called Knoll by uninformed sellers. Companies like Steelcase made almost exact copies of Knoll furniture. Other companies, like Monarch and Metropolitan, made things clearly informed by the Knoll sensibility.

A brief perusal of some early 1960's design magazines reveals the above companies, plus Woodard, Domore, Albano, Lehigh, JG, Edgewood, Macey Fowler, and Directional, all making things that could easily be mistaken for Knoll. Does this mean you can never be sure? No. Many Knoll items retain original tags, some items by these companies may also be tagged. But if it's important to you that your Knoll chair be Knoll, it makes sense to be careful. Me? I don't care too much - a beautiful, simple chair is a beautiful simple chair. But I certainly don't want to pay Knoll prices for a Steelcase knockoff.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

In which I explain how eBay ruins everything

Guy selling a table on eBay decides, "what the hell, I'll try to get $1,000 for this table." Another person selling a similar, easily obtainable table sees this and thinks, "awesome! It's worth $1,000!" He, too, puts it on eBay. Neither one sells, but a third person sees them and says "I'll put mine up for $1,000, too! It's the going rate!" And so on.

Meanwhile, the rest of us find them at estate sales for a few bucks, and sell them for $200. eBay turns economics on its head (at least in the short term), by setting prices based on the hopes of sellers with no concept of what the actual supplies of and demands for the things really are. Of course, sometimes people will bite, and then economics just becomes a matter of chance. And we all want to win the lottery.

Rant over.

Oh, and here's a picture of a six-foot George Nelson for Herman Miller Steelframe unit, new upholstery. A few small tile dishes, too.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Hans Burkhardt Prints

Hans Burkhardt (1904-1994) was born in Basel, Switzerland, then came to the U.S., where he studied at Cooper Union and the Grand Central School of Art. From 1929 to 1936, he shared a studio with Arshile Gorky, who purportedly expressed that he had faith in only two young artists – Burkhardt and De Kooning. Burkhardt was an art professor at the University of Southern California, UCLA, and California State University at Northridge.

As I believe is true for many regional artists, his move from New York to California reduced his "art world" profile, so he is perhaps less well-known than he should be. Nonetheless, Burkhardt’s work can be found in the collections of many major art institutions, including the Guggenheim, Met, and Whitney museums in New York, the Corcoran in D.C., and the L.A. Museum of Contemporary Art.

We have two small signed prints by Burkhardt, dated 1978 and 1985.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Answer is Risom

Jens Risom worked as a designer for Knoll beginning in 1941. He was drafted into the U.S. Army soon thereafter. On his return, he created his own company, Jens Risom Design. His ad campaign, featuring photographs by Richard Avedon and the tagline "The Answer is Risom," led to terrific sales. I scanned this ad page from the May 1954 issue of "Interiors."

Kørbing Lounge Chairs

I posted these last week, but wanted to say a little bit more about them. They were designed by Kay Kørbing and put into commission aboard the MV Assedo (Kørbing did a great deal of work furnishing cruise ships). In 2003, the ship was taken out of commission and broken in India. These chairs were salvaged from the ship by Peter Knego.

The chairs came to me in awful shape. The legs were rusty; the upholstery was demolished. Since then, the legs have been sandblasted and powder-coated (a painting technique requiring a high-temperature oven). The upholstery, straps, and cushions have been completely replaced.

They're as nice a pair of lounge chairs as I've ever seen. Click on the picture for a larger image.