LAMA BLOG

Peter’s Auction Pick of the Day: Sam Maloof

October 1, 2016

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA) is delighted to announce the auction of a group of three designs by celebrated woodworker Sam Maloof on October 9, 2016. Self-taught, Maloof first began working with wood as a child and excelled in his craft from an early age. After serving in the US Army, Maloof returned to California in 1945 where he set up a workshop in his home garage and started to produce furniture from salvaged materials. Influenced by the homegrown American Craft tradition, Maloof’s reputation for fine craftsmanship and exquisite detailing grew during the 1950s. Many of his walnut chairs were chosen for the interiors of the ‘Case Study Houses’, the series of housing experiments by leading architects like Charles Eames, Richard Neutra and Eero Saarinen. The visually striking, simple rounded forms of his furniture complemented the high polish of these modernist houses, adding softness and tactility in contrast to their glass walls and sharp corners. Maloof went on to become America’s most important craftsman, creating furniture for US presidents, celebrities and industrial magnates.

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

“I first encountered Sam’s work in the homes of collectors – he was the most well-known of the California studio craft-makers. I have fond memories of visiting him at his amazing hand-built compound in Rancho Cucamonga, California. Sam was one of the first people who encouraged me to start my company back in the early 1990s; he allowed me to photograph some of my material in his house, knowing that using this backdrop would help sales. I got to know how his work progressed from the 1950s to the 80s. Like a lot of craftsman, his earlier works were a study in economical craftsmanship. By the time of the 1980s and 1990s, he was famous–a national treasure–and he was making furniture for captains of industry, US presidents and celebrities. It was natural, then, to see his craftsmanship move from a sense of economy to a sense of luxury.

The rocking chair, desk and chair in the sale come from this very luxurious period, where he was able to source exotic and dramatic cuts of wood. He was becoming a maestro at this time, showing off his incredible abilities. The curves, detailing and joinery of the rockers from that time were really his very best work – here was a master craftsman who had tremendous experience and was showing off his virtuosity.”

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Lot 157, Sam Maloof, Rocking chair, 1991
October 9, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

 

The pieces for auction include a desk, armchair and one of Maloof’s iconic rocking chairs, all created between 1991–1992. Carved from comfortable, hard-wearing walnut, the chairs are embody the elegant simplicity of Maloof’s designs, which place function first. Maloof eschewed nails and metal hardware, opting for skilfully executed mortise and tenon joints instead. According to one of Maloof’s anecdotes, he dropped one of his chairs from the roof of his house to see if the joins survived the fall, which they did. The desk on offer here has been crafted from Fiddleback maple, adorned with distinctive ebony detailing. The warmth and tactility of its gently curved edges recall the principles of the English Arts and Crafts movement, which championed the dignity of handmade, crafted objects above standardized and mass-produced products, made by machines. Maloof’s attention to detail was legendary and rather than employing hundreds of technicians, he had a hand in every object that left his workshop, working in strictly limited production. He described spending from two to three weeks on one chair, emphasizing that “I won’t let anything out of the shop unless it’s the way I want it…  I can just glance at a thing and tell if it’s all right.” Each of these remarkable pieces bear the hallmarks of Maloof’s classic aesthetic.Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Lot 156, Sam Maloof, Desk, 1992
October 9, 2016 Modern Art & Design

Maloof’s work is held in major collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Lot 158, Sam Maloof, Sculpted side chair, 1992
October 9, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

“Sam Maloof dies at 93; designer and builder of simple, beautiful furniture”. Los Angeles Times. J. Eastman. May, 23 2009. Web, Sept 9, 2016.

The Furniture of Sam Maloof. J. E. Adamson and Sam Maloof. 2001. 59.

Lot Information:

Lot 156
Sam Maloof
Desk
Executed 1992
Fiddleback maple and ebony
Studio
Signed, dated, and inscribed “No. 7 1992/Sam Maloof f.a.c.c./made for Navabeh/and Burt”
29.5″ x 49.75″ x 26″
Estimate: $10,000 – $15,000
October 9, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot 157
Sam Maloof
Rocking chair
Executed 1991
Walnut
Studio
Signed, dated, and inscribed “No. 9 1991/Sam Maloof f.a.c.c./©”
45″ x 26.25″ x 44.25″
Estimate: $20,000 – $30,000
October 9, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot 158
Sam Maloof
Sculpted side chair
Executed 1992
Walnut
Studio
Signed, dated, and inscribed “No. 6 1992/Sam Maloof f.a.c.c./©” and “Made for/Burt Borman/February 1992″
30.5″ x 23.25″ x 21.25”
Estimate: $5,000 – $7,000
October 9, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot 158
Sam Maloof
Sculpted side chair
Executed 1992
Walnut
Studio
Signed, dated, and inscribed “No. 6 1992/Sam Maloof f.a.c.c./©” and “Made for/Burt Borman/February 1992″
30.5″ x 23.25″ x 21.25”
Estimate: $5,000 – $7,000
October 9, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

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