Peter’s Auction Pick of the Day: Sam Maloof and Garry Knox Bennett

February 20, 2014

Three lots of masterful modern design featured in the February 23, 2014 Modern Art & Design Auction have attracted considerable attention during our Auction Preview these past few weeks. Each of these designs come from the American craftsmen Garry Knox Bennett and Sam Maloof.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Wall-mounted clock cabinet (1972- GKB #20) (Executed 1972), Garry Knox Bennett

Furniture designer and woodworker Garry Knox Bennett (b. 1934) is known for combining wood with unconventional materials such as plastic, metal, and Formica to create playful and unique pieces of furniture. Executed in 1972, this clock is believed to be the first Bennett ever created. In the signature on the back, Bennett refers to Ambrose Pillphister, his painter alter ego who painted the front of this piece.

The Bennett clock epitomizes the Bay Area craftsman aesthetic. Its combination of rough-hewn woods and cloud-shaped forms capture this artist’s cool demeanor. I especially like his laid-back description on the back, “A little rough/But who gives/A shit?/C+,” and the inscription “Get Nixon” really helps to inform the viewer as to the mindset of the Northern California craftsmen in the early 70s.

Aaron’s Belly-Button Clock, a clock with similar materials from this same period resides in the permanent collection of the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina. A native of Oakland, California, Bennett was honored with a major retrospective of his work at the Oakland Museum in 2004.

Check out the LAMA Instagram to see a video of this clock in motion.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Rocking chair (executed 1982), Sam Maloof

Sam Maloof’s iconic Rocking chair (Lot 291) is perhaps the gold standard of furniture craftsmanship, and this is a rare and important example from 1982. Most often made from walnut, Maloof would sometimes employ the softer and more sculptor-friendly rosewood for his most famous creation. Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton each owned one of his signature rockers while in office.

Though Sam Maloof’s business card stated simply, “woodworker,” the Smithsonian Institution described him as “America’s most renowned contemporary furniture craftsman,” and Maloof’s work is in the collections of several major American museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.  The undulating curves and elegant simplicity of Maloof’s works are quintessentially modern while somehow evoking the lost truthful character of America’s frontier.


Detail of Rocking chair (executed 1982), Sam Maloof

The “Hemingway of Hardwood” – as a national magazine once dubbed him – created some of the most organic and tactile works of living sculpture in the history of design.  Visitors to our showroom this preview can’t resist running their hands over the undulating backs and arms of the rocker and dining set. Our clients aren’t alone in this; upon first touch of his own Maloof chair, Ray Charles proclaimed, “It had soul.”

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Dining table (executed 1968), Sam Maloof

The same can be said for Lot 293, Sam Maloof’s stunning Dining table and chairs, (1965-1969), commissioned by the same private collectors who ordered the above rocker. Each dining chair, with its glorious vestigial arm rests, is a masterclass in craft, while each perfect angle, corner, and surface of the table invites one to linger. To top it all off, the gorgeous fuchsia upholstery (in excellent original condition) perfectly offsets the traditional walnut with a dash of fresh and fabulous 60s Hollywood.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Spindle back chairs (executed 1969), Sam Maloof

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

End chairs (executed 1965), Sam Maloof

Lot Information:

Lot 287
Garry Knox Bennett
Wall-mounted clock cabinet (1972- GKB #20)
Executed 1972
Fir, silver-plated brass, and clock components
Signed “GKB/Anno/72”; etched “A little rough/But who gives/A shit?/C+/Ambrose Did/This Part/My First/Clock to Dave/& Barbara-May/They enjoy” verso; inscribed “Get Nixon” verso
49″ x 11″ x 7″
LAMA would like to thank the artist for his assistance in cataloguing this work

Provenance: Gump’s Gallery, San Francisco, California; Private Collection, California (acquired directly from the above)

Estimate: $6,000 – $9,000

Lot 291
Sam Maloof
Rocking chair
Executed 1982
Rosewood and ebony
Signed “No. 22 1982/Sam Maloof f.a.c.c./made for/Barbara Gardner”
41.5″ x 27″ x 45.75″

Provenance: Private Collection, California (acquired directly from the artist)

Literature: Adamson, Jeremy. The Furniture of Sam Maloof. New York: Norton Company, 2001. p 192.

Estimate: $30,000 – $50,000

Lot 293
Sam Maloof
Dining table and chairs (9)
Two end chairs executed 1965; six spindle back chairs executed 1969; dining table executed 1968
Walnut and upholstery
Each spindle back chair branded “Designed Made Maloof California” and “12.69”; each spindle back chair branded with a number “118” through “123”; each end chair branded “Designed Made Maloof California” and “6 65 2″
Dining table: 28.5″ x 92.25″ (137.75″ extended) x 45″; Spindle back chairs each: 38″ x 20.75″ x 20″; End chairs each: 40″ x 21″ x 20”
Comprised of eight chairs (six spindle back chairs and two end chairs) and dining table with two leaves

Provenance: Private Collection, California (acquired directly from the artist)

Estimate: $50,000 – $70,000

For more information, or details on how to bid, please contact a LAMA representative.

Leave a Reply