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    This eight-panel screen, circa 1921-23, by Eileen Gray is estimated at $1,500,000-2,500,000. Image courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd., 2012. (Click to enlarge).

    A magnificent eight panel screen by Eileen Gray (1878-1976) comes up at Christie’s in New York this winter.  It is one of the highlights of the Steven A. Greenberg Collection, Masterpieces of French Art Deco to be auctioned on December 12 and 13.  This museum quality collection chronicles a unique chapter in 20th century design. The focus is one some of the most distinguished artists associated with the historic Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in 1925 –  Jean Dunand, Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann, and Jean Dupas. Two important lacquer screens by Eileen Gray, perfect complements in their rarity and stature to the works of these artists, constitute another key facet of the collection.

    Unlike her contemporaries Dunand and Ruhlmann, Eileen Gray never courted publicity, preferring to work for a very small circle of clients. Two key clients were Mme Mathieu Lévy and Mme Jean Henri-Labourdette. The former commissioned Gray to fully refurbish her apartment.  A central feature of the work, executed between 1919 and 1922, was a series of lacquer wall panels with a decoration of fine sweeping and intersecting lines. The Eileen Gray screen illustrated here is one of three variations on a theme with incised linear decoration in a deep brown lacquer ground. It defines a moment where the artist has evolved from the figurative to the abstract, with linear graphics as a constant. It was among the works bought by Mme Labourdette from the artist and remained in her family’s possession until acquired in the 70s by Paris dealer-collector Jean-Claude Brugnot. He sold it at auction in New York where it was bought by Steven Greenberg. The estimate for the piece is $1,500,000-2,500,000.  The auction of around 210 lots is expected to bring in more than $15 million.

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