Talking Shop

Market Report Summer 2020

Carolyn Pastel

Carolyn Pastel of Pastel Advisory reviews the current state of the collectible design market

Serving as a much needed barometer for the state of the market, sales in London, Paris, and New York over the past six weeks have set new records in collectible design, amid a season marked by change and uncertainty as fairs and galleries closed in response to the global pandemic. The impressive results delivered a message of strength and positive outlooks for the future.

A Polar Bear Sofa and Pair of Chairs (1947/1962) by Jean Royère sold at Christie's Paris in June for €1,090,000 and €1,150,000 respectively. Photo © Christie’s Images Ltd. 2020

The auction houses quickly and seamlessly pivoted to an online-only format. Rapid digital advancements, including behind-the-scenes conversations with specialists, IG Live interviews, and virtual tours, among other innovations, demonstrated the power of technology to make art and design more accessible and discoverable. The ability to connect and engage from anywhere around the globe resonated with collectors.

Singe I and Singe II (1999) by Francois-Xavier Lalanne sold at Sotheby's New York in July for $3,500,000 and $3,980,000 respectively. Photo © Sotheby's

In late June, Christie’s Paris Design realized the highest total for a various owners sale with a superb private collection of works by Jean Royère that accounted for 75% of the total sale value. A month later, Sotheby’s New York Design auction realized $20.2 million against its presale estimate of $10.2 million, setting a new high mark for a various owners Design auction. Although works by Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne made up a significant portion of the total sales value at Sotheby’s New York and Paris auctions, 60% and 51% respectively, the depth and breadth of the market was evident in the healthy competition across all categories—from Arts and Crafts to mid-century and contemporary.  Phillips New York set six new auction records that included Marcel Wanders’s iconic Crochet Chair, an exquisite Lucie Rie footed bowl, and a richly textured conceptual sculpture by the clay artist Ron Nagle, whose first major museum survey at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive opened this past winter.

Ceiling Light by Stilnovo sold at Phillips New York in July for $25,000. Photo © Phillips

For the design market as a whole, the genuine interest in re-examining movements once seen as niche and embracing young designers new to the secondary market indicate a collectorship that is ripe for further growth and appreciation. The virtual art market has provided a critical stop-gap, but we are all eager to return to a time when we can reconvene in-person and feel inspired by the physical world. Looking forward to seeing you at Design Miami in December. In the meantime, see you online! ◆

Footed Bowl (circa 1978) by Lucie Rie sold at Phillips New York in July for $225,000. Photo © Phillips

Rhinocéros IV (1990) by François-Xavier Lalanne sold at Christie's Paris in June for €430,000. Photo © Christie’s Images Ltd. 2020


Pastel Advisory is an independent art consultancy firm specializing in 20th- and 21st- century decorative arts and design, offering clients guidance for acquisitions, deaccessions, collection management, and appraisals.