LAMA BLOG

Peter’s Auction Pick of the Day: Roy McMakin

October 7, 2014

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Unique desk (Executed c. 1986), Roy McMakin, Modern Art & Design Auction, October 12, 2014

Artist and designer Roy McMakin (b. 1956) dissolves the border between art and utilitarian object in his custom-made and small-batch furniture collections. In the 1980s, McMakin owned a bustling showroom called Domestic Furniture on Beverly Boulevard, where he attracted customers such as artist John Baldessari, and Lisa Eisner, former fashion editor at Vogue and Mademoiselle. The Unique desk (c. 1986) was the center of business at the showroom, and LAMA is pleased to offer this piece, in addition to several other exceptional McMakin designs, in the October 12, 2014 Modern Art & Design Auction.

 From Peter Loughrey, Director of Modern Design & Fine Art:

“As a young antique dealer in the 1980s, my gallery was just a few blocks away from Roy McMakin’s Domestic Furniture showroom on Beverly Boulevard. I often would stop in and walk around just to soak in the unique ambience of functional design with fine art overtones. The 80s art scene in Los Angeles was awash in conceptual work, but there was almost no other furniture purveyor that successfully wove high concept into daily utility. McMakin’s designs from this period recall the straightforward functionality of Gustav Stickley’s American Craftsman designs, the exposed edges and construction of Charles and Ray Eames, and the quirky proportions of Frank Gehry. Even then I knew these pieces would be a hit on the collectible resale market someday. Almost thirty years later it’s clear to me that the appeal of these works is as strong as ever.”

The design of the Unique desk from the Domestic Furniture showroom is straightforward, yet its details are delightful to observe and experience. McMakin painted the rectangular desk a saturated blue, leaving unpainted areas which demarcated where office supplies such as notepads and folders might be placed. The permanently raised drawer is where the Domestic Furniture catalogue would be displayed.

McMakin’s playful approach to designing furniture is underpinned by a conceptualism absorbed from his studies at the UCSD with avant-garde artists such as Allan Kaprow and Eleanor Antin. Other important influences include Hard Edge painter John McLaughlin, whose impact can be seen in the Unique desk, American architect Irving Gill, and the Art and Crafts movement. His designs subtly manipulate scale and dimension to create furniture that is meant to be noticed, and never taken for granted—a knob much too big for its drawer, or a tiny ottoman paired with an overstuffed lounge chair, for example. There is an undeniable sense of wit and whimsy in his work.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Wing armchair (Designed 1989), Roy McMakin, Modern Art & Design Auction, October 12, 2014

For the Wing armchair (1989), McMakin played with the lines and proportions of the prototypical upholstered armchair to create a charming lounger that approaches the anthropomorphic. The side panels of the chair back swell out at an angle, resembling wings or ears. The arms extend out, as if to meet the sitter’s tired arms halfway at the end of a long day. The first McMakin piece that Baldessari acquired was a chair identical to the Wing armchair, rendered in blue fabric. Baldessari recalls of his first time at the Domestic Furniture showroom: “I instantly fell in love with a large blue upholstered armchair. […] That was when my addiction began.” McMakin would go on to create an extra-large custom bed for the six-foot-seven artist, and a made-to-order dining table and chairs, among other commissions and orders.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Fecund sofa (Designed 1988), Roy McMakin, Modern Art & Design Auction, October 12, 2014

McMakin’s sense of visual play and punning enlivens the Fecund sofa (1988), featuring a plush seat cushion emblazoned with embroidered letters spelling out the word “fecund.” The item was a custom order for Eisner, an influential fashion personality and frequent shopper at Domestic Architecture. With its overstuffed cushion and chaise lounge form, the sofa encourages a languid pose and alludes to female sensuality, fullness, and richness. The sofa also obliquely refers to Eisner’s brimming family life and career, as she has been noted for inspiring icons and designers including Madonna, Tom Ford, and Isaac Mizrahi.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Fecund sofa (Designed 1988), Roy McMakin, Modern Art & Design Auction, October 12, 2014

In an apropos nod to the humor that McMakin utilized in his own work, he was asked to design the set for “The Tonight Show,” hosted by comedian Jay Leno in the 1990s. Eventually, McMakin was asked by clients to overhaul interiors and remodel or design entire homes. In 2003, McMakin’s impressive body of work and career trajectory was traced in an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Examples of his innovative pieces can be found in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

References:
Darling, Michael. Roy McMakin: A Door Meant as Ornament. Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art, 2003. Print.
McMakin, Roy, et al. Roy McMakin, When is a chair not a chair? New York Skira/Rizzoli, Matthew Marks Gallery, 2010. Print.

Lot 240
Roy McMakin
Unique desk
Executed c. 1986
Custom
30″ x 86″ x 36.75″
Illustrated: McMakin, Roy, and Matthew Marks. The Art of Roy McMakin, When is a chair not a chair?. New York: Rizzoli, 2010. p 26.
Estimate: $10,000 – $15,000

Lot 241
Roy McMakin
Wing armchair
Designed 1989
Domestic Furniture Co.
41″ x 37″ x 40″
Literature: Darling, Michael. Roy McMakin: A Door Meant as Ornament. Exhibition Catalogue. Los Angeles: MOCA, 2003. p 32.
Estimate: $4,000 – $6,000

Lot 242
Roy McMakin
Fecund sofa
Designed 1988
Domestic Furniture Co.
35″ x 61″ x 36″
Estimate: $5,000 – $7,000

Lot 243
Roy McMakin
Dining table
Designed c. 1990
Domestic Furniture Co.
29.5″ x 53.25″ diameter
Estimate: $3,000 – $5,000

Lot 244
Roy McMakin
Cove tables (2)
Designed c. 1990
Domestic Furniture Co.
Each: 20″ x 19″ x 19″
Literature: McMakin, Roy. Domestic Furniture Co. Furniture Catalogue. San Diego: Commercial Press, 1988. np.
Estimate: $1,500 – $2,000

Lot 245
Roy McMakin
Cove table
Designed 1987
Domestic Furniture Co.
16″ x 19″ x 19″
Literature: McMakin, Roy. Domestic Furniture Co. Furniture Catalogue. San Diego: Commercial Press, 1988. np.
Estimate: $500 – $700

Lot 246
Roy McMakin
Cabinet/Desk
Designed 1986
Domestic Furniture Co.
62.25″ x 36.5″ x 27″
Estimate: $5,000 – $7,000

Lot 247
Roy McMakin
Dining table
Designed 1999
Domestic Furniture Co.
29.5″ x 92″ x 47″
Estimate: $3,000 – $5,000

Lot 248
Roy McMakin
Buffet
Designed c. 1990
Domestic Furniture Co.
41″ x 44″ x 21.5″
Estimate: $3,000 – $5,000

Lot 249
Roy McMakin
Barstools (2)
Designed 1986
Domestic Furniture Co.
Each: 30″ x 14″ x 14″
Estimate: $1,500 – $2,000

Lot 250
Roy McMakin
Sanvito barstools (2)
Designed c. 1990
Domestic Furniture Co.
Each: 26″ x 18.25″ x 14″
Estimate: $1,000 – $1,500

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

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