Object lessons

Object lessons: from a 'pendulously lobed' Buddha head to a Japanese-Italian boxing ring

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Our pick of highlights from the next fortnight's auctions and fairs

Ubunji Kidokoro,  bamboo armchair (1937) WA Design at PAD London,  30 September-6 October €22,000 Japanese-French Modern design represents a minimal, purest aesthetic, as typified by this bamboo chair by the Japanese designer Ubunji Kidokoro. The clean lines and cantilevered form of Kidokoro’s chair were to influence the French designer Charlotte Perriand's bentwood chaise longue design. Kidokoro’s bentwood creation was itself influenced by European design—that of Alvar Aalto’s cantilevered “31” armchair (1931). A.B.
Ubunji Kidokoro, Bamboo armchair (1937). WA Design at PAD London, 30 September-6 October. €22,000

Japanese-French Modern design represents a minimal, purest aesthetic, as typified by this bamboo chair by the Japanese designer Ubunji Kidokoro. The clean lines and cantilevered form of Kidokoro’s chair were to influence the French designer Charlotte Perriand's bentwood chaise longue design. Kidokoro’s bentwood creation was itself influenced by European design—that of Alvar Aalto’s cantilevered “31” armchair (1931).

Simone Leigh,  Shower Cap (2013) 20th Century and Contemporary Evening Sale, Phillips, London, 4 October Estimate: £40,000-£60,000 Known for her work that focuses on the continued marginalisation of black women, the young Brooklyn-based artist Simone Leigh has moved firmly into the spotlight in the past three years, with solo shows at the New Museum and Guggenheim in New York, alongside winning the 2018 Hugo Boss Prize and featuring in this year’s Whitney Biennial. Unsurprisingly, her prices have also firmed up—works are now valued at around 15 times their 2013 estimates. This ceramic work made from porcelain, plastic and cobalt evokes ancient African sculpture, which Leigh often borrows from, combining a traditional form with political comment. K.J.
Simone Leigh,  Shower Cap (2013). 20th Century and Contemporary Evening Sale, Phillips, London, 4 October. Estimate: £40,000-£60,000

Known for her work that focuses on the continued marginalisation of black women, the young Brooklyn-based artist Simone Leigh has moved firmly into the spotlight in the past three years, with solo shows at the New Museum and Guggenheim in New York, alongside winning the 2018 Hugo Boss Prize and featuring in this year’s Whitney Biennial. Unsurprisingly, her prices have also firmed up—works are now valued at around 15 times their 2013 estimates. This ceramic work made from porcelain, plastic and cobalt evokes ancient African sculpture, which Leigh often borrows from, combining a traditional form with political comment.

This little Buddha head is unusual in that it is carved in a mottled grey jade—they are nearly always bronze. Although only 6.4cm tall, the elongated head has “a powerful physical presence comparable to Liao period gold and silver funerary masks, with the details of the eyes, nose and mouth being typical”, says Rasti Chinese Art founder Nader Rasti. At the time, China was ruled by the nomadic proto-Mongol Qidan (Khitan) people and this head, with its “pendulous earlobes”, is influenced by this culture.
Chinese head of a Buddha, Liao Dynasty (907-1125). Rasti Chinese Art at Fine Art Asia, Hong Kong, 4-7 October. Around $80,000

This little Buddha head is unusual in that it is carved in a mottled grey jade—they are nearly always bronze. Although only 6.4cm tall, the elongated head has “a powerful physical presence comparable to Liao period gold and silver funerary masks, with the details of the eyes, nose and mouth being typical”, says Rasti Chinese Art founder Nader Rasti. At the time, China was ruled by the nomadic proto-Mongol Qidan (Khitan) people and this head, with its “pendulous earlobes”, is influenced by this culture.

Chéri Samba, Le collège de la Sagesse (2005) Modern and Contemporary African Art, Bonhams, London, 3 October Estimate: £30,000-£40,000 Chéri Samba, who was included in the 2007 Venice Biennale, began his career as a billboard sign painter; his works often record life around his hometown of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This painting, which was bought in 2011 by a collector of Congolese art, is inscribed with text written in both French, the official language of the DRC, and Samba’s mother tongue, Kikongo. The word bubble at the bottom of the canvas—a ‘Samba signature’—begins, “every nation is exalted by their own language”,  a pointed reference to having pride in your native tongue. K.J.
Chéri Samba, Le collège de la Sagesse (2005). Modern and Contemporary African Art, Bonhams, London, 3 October. Estimate: £30,000-£40,000

Chéri Samba, who was included in the 2007 Venice Biennale, began his career as a billboard sign painter; his works often record life around his hometown of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This painting, which was bought in 2011 by a collector of Congolese art, is inscribed with text written in both French, the official language of the DRC, and Samba’s mother tongue, Kikongo. The word bubble at the bottom of the canvas—a ‘Samba signature’—begins, “every nation is exalted by their own language”, a pointed reference to having pride in your native tongue.

Elizabeth Catlett, Seated Woman (1962) African-American Fine Art, Swann Auction Galleries, New York, 8 October Estimate: $100,000-$150,000 The earliest wood sculpture by the African American artist Elizabeth Catlett to surface at auction, Seated Woman (1962) was produced in a pivotal year: she obtained Mexican citizenship and was deemed an “undesirable alien” in her home country of the US; had her first solo exhibition in Mexico; and won the Tlatilco prize in Mexico’s first sculpture biennial for the work Figura (1962). Its provenance is defined by firsts, too, as it is consigned by Michigan congressman George Crockett Jr—known for founding one of the first racially integrated law firms in the US—and his wife, Ethelene Crockett, the first African-American woman obstetrician in Michigan and the first woman to be president of the American Lung Association. Swann achieved the record for Catlett in 2009 with the large-scale sculpture Homage to My Young Black Sisters (1968), which fetched $288,000. G.Ai.
Elizabeth Catlett, Seated Woman (1962). African-American Fine Art, Swann Auction Galleries, New York, 8 October. Estimate: $100,000-$150,000

The earliest wood sculpture by the African American artist Elizabeth Catlett to surface at auction, Seated Woman (1962) was produced in a pivotal year: she obtained Mexican citizenship and was deemed an “undesirable alien” in her home country of the US; had her first solo exhibition in Mexico; and won the Tlatilco prize in Mexico’s first sculpture biennial for the work Figura (1962). Its provenance is defined by firsts, too, as it is consigned by Michigan congressman George Crockett Jr—known for founding one of the first racially integrated law firms in the US—and his wife, Ethelene Crockett, the first African-American woman obstetrician in Michigan and the first woman to be president of the American Lung Association. Swann achieved the record for Catlett in 2009 with the large-scale sculpture Homage to My Young Black Sisters (1968), which fetched $288,000.

Masanori Umeda, Tawaraya (1981) Memphis Design: the Zanone Collection, Wright, Chicago, 3 October Estimate: $10,000-$15,000 One of three Japanese designers in the Italian design movement known as Memphis, Masanori Umeda created this boxing-ring seating unit for the group’s first exhibition at the Arc 74 showroom in Milan in 1981. Umeda met the Italian designer Ettore Sottsass, who founded the radical design group, when he worked in Milan as a consultant for Olivetti in the 1970s. Karl Lagerfeld had an edition of Umeda’s boxing ring seating, while another set the record for the designer in 2010 when it sold for €24,700 at Dorotheum. G.Ai.
Masanori Umeda, Tawaraya (1981). Memphis Design: the Zanone Collection, Wright, Chicago, 3 October. Estimate: $10,000-$15,000.

One of three Japanese designers in the Italian design movement known as Memphis, Masanori Umeda created this boxing-ring seating unit for the group’s first exhibition at the Arc 74 showroom in Milan in 1981. Umeda met the Italian designer Ettore Sottsass, who founded the radical design group, when he worked in Milan as a consultant for Olivetti in the 1970s. Karl Lagerfeld had an edition of Umeda’s boxing ring seating, while another set the record for the designer in 2010 when it sold for €24,700 at Dorotheum.

Sanyu, Nu Rose sur Tissus Chinois (around 1930) Modern Art Evening Sale, Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, 5 October Estimate: HK$35m-HK$45m The Chinese-French artist Sanyu began painting nudes in oil in the 1930s, finishing just 19 in total. This work, making its debut on the block, is one of just seven nudes from the period to come to auction in the past four decades. Sanyu travelled to France in 1920 to study at the Ecole de Paris under a government-sponsored programme for artists, where he spent the remainder of his life. The painting “pays homage to the tradition of classical Western masterpieces in Sanyu’s distinctive style”, says Felix Kwok, Sotheby’s head of sale for Modern and Asian art, who adds that the artist’s oil paintings “are very rare and competition for his work in the secondary market always comes up with a very strong result—it’s a trophy piece among collectors”. G.Ai.
Sanyu, Nu Rose sur Tissus Chinois (around 1930) Modern Art Evening Sale, Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, 5 October. Estimate: HK$35m-HK$45m.

The Chinese-French artist Sanyu began painting nudes in oil in the 1930s, finishing just 19 in total. This work, making its debut on the block, is one of just seven nudes from the period to come to auction in the past four decades. Sanyu travelled to France in 1920 to study at the Ecole de Paris under a government-sponsored programme for artists, where he spent the remainder of his life. The painting “pays homage to the tradition of classical Western masterpieces in Sanyu’s distinctive style”, says Felix Kwok, Sotheby’s head of sale for Modern and Asian art, who adds that the artist’s oil paintings “are very rare and competition for his work in the secondary market always comes up with a very strong result—it’s a trophy piece among collectors”.