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The Kaufmann Desert House: Architecture as Art

Categories: Architecture + Interiors, Art + Graphics

Along with the 1986 mask-like Andy Warhol Self-Portrait and the Mark Rothko red and yellow no.15 (1952) Christie’s Contemporary Art Department will auction one of the finest examples of 20th century Modernist houses at its Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale on May 13. 

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Lot #42, estimated to fetch between
$15,000,000 and $25,000,000, will be the Kaufmann Desert House, designed in 1946 by Richard Neutra. Built in Palm Springs, California for  Edgar J. Kaufmann a Pittsburgh department store magnate and philanthropist who had earlier commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to build Fallingwater in Pennsylvania, the Kaufmann Desert House quickly became recognized as a Modernist masterpiece.

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Owned for the last fifteen years by Beth and Brent Harris, (who bought it from Barry Manilow) it has been lovingly restored to its original Hollywood-on-vacation, Palm Springs glamor with the help of architects Marmol-Radziner. Now Christie’s is offering buyers the opportunity not just to purchase real estate or even an architectural gem but the promise of "complete immersion within a work of art", which may go someway to alleviating the pain of such a huge price tag. 

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To see more of the restored Kaufmann House you can watch this beautiful video available online. Or you can read more about it in Christie’s "seperate (sic) catalog" ($50). Not to be snotty but I would have expected an auction house of the caliber of Christie’s to know how to spell separate! However that in no way detracts from the perfection of the house: its relationship to the surrounding desert landscape, the walls of glass allowing the indoors to merge seamlessly with the outside, the low profile and the neutral color palette.

Mid-century modernist architecture has been undergoing a resurgence in the past few years. On May 13 2008 we will find out how just how far it has gone.

One Comment to "The Kaufmann Desert House: Architecture as Art"

  1. Very Barry Manilow, it reminds me those trendy sets in Charlie’s Angels…

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