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.
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.
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.
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.