MACKINTOSH: One of the most dramatic results of the series cropped up in Christie’s Important Decorative Arts auction on November 8, and it was one that would appear to have little to do with fashion, economics, or shifts in buyers’ confidence.
This 87-lot event included two Charles Rennie Mackintosh chairs designed in 1904 for the bedroom at Hous’hill Nitshill, home of Miss Cranston of Glasgow Tearooms fame, Mackintosh’s biggest patron. Both had the bonus of an excellent provenance, having been acquired by the vendor’s family at the 1933 auction of Hous’hill, and were offered with the original bills from that sale.
One chair was in oak and had come from the Blue Bedroom, the other in sycamore from the White Bedroom. Although ostensibly similar in style, the latter was, in fact, a much more subtle and complex design than the latter, and this wasn’t really reflected in the estimates – which were each pitched at £25,000-35,000 apiece.
In the event, all the attention focused on the second chair, which was pursued by collectors and dealers to no less than £105,000, the successful buyer being a determined private collector who already has pieces from Hous’hill, underbid by the Fine Art Society who were acting for an American institution.
The Fine Art Society managed to secure the oak chair for another client, by contrast, for a much more modest mid-estimate £28,000, a price they reckoned to be something of a bargain.
Perhaps the oak example would have made more had the order of selling been reversed, for some potential customers may have been holding back to bid on the sycamore piece.