Wednesday, November 2, 2011

seeking out the best in art and design: shopping the NY auctions with themodernsybarite


have i got a treat for you today, nicies!
it's with great pleasure that i welcome back the fabulous art expert, interior design guru & delightfully charming soul, richard rabel, as guest blogger. richard's unsurpassed expertise in the world of things beautiful will just thrill you, and you'll want to rush over to follow his inspiring art & interior design finds on his magnificent blog: the modern sybarite.

check out his first guest post: outdoor sculpture hopping in NYC. his 2nd: design shopping in Soho.  and today's article - shopping the NY auctions. thanks so much, richard! {and TUNE IN TOMORROW for a super-special treat with richard!} 

Hello, Hello! Today, I bring you my last post in the trilogy of features that rikrak asked me to write in mid-summer. The first was in mid-August highlighting some of the outdoor sculptures so prevalent in Manhattan parks in the summer.  The second was published in mid-September and it dealt with my favorite home design shops in SOHO.  I hope you really enjoyed them!

Today’s post features shopping the Fall auctions in New York.  As an interior designer and art advisor based in New York City, I know a thing or two about buying art, design and decorations at auction. New York is great for this type of shopping because you have all sorts of auction houses for different wallet sizes.  On one hand you have Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips selling museum quality pieces.  On the other hand you can get very, very, very good deals on art and decorations at “second-tier” auction houses based in NY such as Doyle, Swann and Bonhams.  I will focus this post on the latter houses and on lots I would consider buying for decorative purposes for around US$1000.


images via Doyle NY


Our first stop is on the Upper East Side at Doyle New York on East 87th street.  On the 20th of September, they had their 20th Century Design sale.  What grrrrrreat finds.  First, I found a lovely, lovely organic sculpture by American artist Larry Young, signed and numbered for US$1408. It’s soo cool.  I love the sensuous shape and decorative nature of the piece.  I also digged lot 144…  a group of 5 blue mercury glass vases which are sooo very chic today.  Although the lot had a US$400-600 estimate, I was able to get them for $313 … yay!!!  I’ll have to store them but will find a perfect home in no time.  These would look wonderful as a group on a table top or perhaps I will break them up and pair 3 different sizes on a buffet?  Hmmm … what to do?


The next stop is Swann Auction Galleries on East 25th street.  Swann specializes in works on paper (documents, photographs, prints, drawings, etc.), so it is the perfect place to find awesome photographs.  On October 18th, they have their photograph sale and I was allowed a peek preview of their offerings. I so much enjoy going to their photograph sales.  It’s like travelling through places and time without leaving New York.  The only problem is that there was very little estimated under US$2,000.  So the trick is to mark my catalogue and attend the auction, hoping to get my faves for below the printed estimate! Lot 80 is Drahomir Ruzicka’s Dreams of Distant Lands (est. US$1400-1800) which shows a young man sitting along the waterway and staring at The Normandie.  It looks like it could be the late 30s or very early 40s, so not a time when one could just jump on a plane and go anywhere. Dreaming was a prevalent activity.  Another photo I mischievously really liked is lot 191, Brassai’s Jardin d’enfant (est. US$2500-3500)It’s impossibly innocent and cute. There is something about photos from the 30s and 40s that attract me to them.  Maybe it is the artists capturing a sense of wholesome innocence that we have lost today.



The last stop in my hop through the auction houses in Manhattan is Bonhams in Midtown.  On the 26th of October they have their European Paintings sale.  I must say, I really was not attracted to anything with the exception of lot 82, Three Studies of a young girl by British 19th century artist John Linnell. The sketch is marvelous and is signed and dated.  The condition appears stupendous, although I would have to examine it closer to confirm my assumption.  This is a lovely art piece for girls of any age.  With an estimate of US$800-1200, it could be that it goes for nothing.  Again, one to keep an eye on!

I’m running out of money, so I really, really should stop shopping … whether in SOHO or at auction as we did today.  It is probably best to now say hasta luego and hope you all have enjoyed my posts.  A warm felt THANK YOU to the rikrakstudio for hosting me during these last 3 months. I truly appreciate it.

With gratitude and friendship,

PS: To continue learning more about art + design, do visit me at , and sign up for my daily posts and/or follow me on Twitter @modernsybarite.  I will help train your eye so when you see a bargain you will jump to the occasion with determination and confidence. You don’t need a diploma on art to have a good eye … you just need practice at seeing good things over and over and over and with time, you too will have a nicely developed aesthetic.


richard rabel

Based in New York City, Richard Rabel is consistently asked by his clients for his advice on art, design and decoration.  With this in mind he began providing his clients with livable, warm and unique interiors that reflect a 21st century lifestyle and aesthetic. He shares his aesthetic on his website/blog

Speaking several languages, having lived in seven countries and spanning a ten year career as a senior officer and specialist in a London-based international auction house as well as twenty years of art and design study and over thirty years of international travel, Richard has had access to the most extraordinarily exquisite spaces around the globe from San Francisco to Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires to Prague, Mexico City to Geneva, Istanbul to Hong Kong, Paris to New York all of which have cultivated his eye and contributed to defining his exacting taste and modern aesthetic.

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  1. You're simply the best. I now have to walk through doors sideways .. my head is too big from all the accolades!!!!


  2. I'd love to get to the Art Auctions in NYC! One day. I love that mercury glass collection.

  3. a wonderful post, loved learning and seeing the beautiful works that are out there. thank you for this!!


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