Better By Design: Inaugural Avant Garde Sale Adds Lustre to £2.1M Series

Better By Design: Inaugural Avant Garde Sale Adds Lustre to £2.1M Series

A Review of our Fine Art & Design Sales at the Mall Galleries

The best of Modern Art and Design generated an impressive total of £2.1m during our Travel & Vintage PostersLalique, Avant Garde : Art from 1890 to Now and MODERN MADE auctions held across three days at the Mall Galleries in London from 26 to 28 April 2023.

The 678 lots included in the four sales, for the first time, the Avant Garde - Art from 1890 to Now auction featuring 63 works from some of the most progressive art movements of the 20th and 21st centuries.


Avant Garde Mall Galleries April 2023


The highlight of the sale was Mädchen Mit Katze (Girl with Cat) (1942) painted by Polish artist Jankel Adler (1895-1949) when he was in exile in Britain during the Second World War. Adler was very much part of the German avant-garde in the 20s and 30s, before his work was declared “degenerate” by the Nazis. His arrival in Britain injected real-world experience of European Modernism into a British art scene often reliant on catching the latest movements second-hand.


JANKEL ADLER (POLISH 1895-1949) | MÄDCHEN MIT KATZE (GIRL WITH CAT), 1942 | Sold for £105,200* 


View Mädchen Mit Katze


Mädchen Mit Katze was selected for reproduction in Stanley William Hayter’s 1948 monograph on Adler, by which time it had been acquired by the collector Peter Watson, an important patron of the arts at a time when many artists struggled to make ends meet, whose collection of British and European Modern and Contemporary art was second to none. The painting had an estimate of £50,000 - 80,000 but led the series when it took £105,200*.

The carefully curated Avant Garde - Art from 1890 to Now sale on April 27 featured 63 works from some of the most progressive art movements of the 20th and 21st centuries.


Composition by John Tunnard
JOHN TUNNARD (BRITISH 1900-1971) | COMPOSITION, 1947 | Sold for £42,700*

View Composition, 1947


One of the major ‘discoveries’ in this sale was a prime period work by British proto-Surrealist John Tunnard (1900-1971). The meticulously painted gouache on paper - Composition, 1947 - was acquired by the vendor’s father directly from the artist in the 1960s and had not been seen in public since. Likely painted during the Second World War and finished just after, this other-worldly landscape combining futuristic structures with ancient megaliths is one of just 13 known gouaches dated 1947. Of a similar style and quality to others held in American museum collections, it is generated plenty of interest at its guide of £30,000 - £50,000 and sold for £42,700*.


ET UNE CARAFE À BOUT DE BRAS, C.1891-93 | Sold for £32,700*


View La Mère de L'Artiste ⇒


Another strong result for a work on paper was the £32,700* bid for small watercolour by Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940) featuring the artist’s mother. It was painted during the initial decade of the artist’s career, at a time when Vuillard and his widowed mother lived and worked together from series of modest rented apartments: he using his bedroom as a studio while she ran a dressmaking business from the dining room.

A work that remained with the artist until he died, it was initially sold as part of the artist’s estate in 1940. It was acquired by the vendor’s family in 1977 and had, again, been off the map for decades, until Lyon & Turnbull had it authenticated by Archives Vuillard and included in the forthcoming supplement to the artist's catalogue raisonné.



AMEDEO MODIGLIANI (ITALIAN, 1884-1920) | HEAD OF A GIRL | Sold for £50,200*

View Head of a Girl


Continuing the theme of ‘rediscoveries’, the sale also included a drawing by Amedeo Modigliani, on the market for the first time in 91 years – which sold for £50,200*. The delicate pencil sketch of a girl had all the hallmarks of Modigliani’s style – the face reduced to an elemental minimum, inspired by both African masks and Cycladic figures, with beautiful almond-shaped eyes, left empty. The drawing was originally in the collection of the Modern British painter Christopher ‘Kit’ Wood, who first visited Paris in 1920, just a few months after Modigliani had died. Wood later sold the drawing to his London dealer, Alex Reid and Lefevre Gallery - at the time the place to go for contemporary European art. In 1932 the dealer sold this drawing to a private collector: it had remained in the same family ever since.





Modern Made Mall Galleries April 2023


The desk on which John le Carré wrote some of his last novels sold for £21,420*. This small piece of literary history sold for close to twice its estimate at the MODERN MADE sale that followed on 28 April.




View Le Carré's Writing Desk ⇒


This modernist maple and brushed steel desk and ensuite document chest were designed by Chinese architect Chi Wing Lo (b.1954) for Italian firm Giorgetti. The two pieces were acquired by Le Carré (David Cornwell) from his friend of almost 50 years, Gerald Moran, and were used in his workspace in London as he penned all of his final novels from the end of 2009 until he died in 2020.

On the desk, he wrote A Delicate Truth (2013), A Legacy of Spies (2017, the companion volume to The Spy Who Came In From The Cold), Agent Running In The Field (2019), Silverview (published posthumously in 2021) and his memoir, The Pigeon Tunnel (2016). Within the drawers of the chest, Le Carré safely stored his manuscripts during the editing process.


MM Mall Galleries April 2023


The successful MODERN MADE format combines work across a range of mediums from Modern & Post War Art to Contemporary Crafts. 

A post-war sculpture offering that included well-received works by George Kennethson, Elizabeth Frink and Denis Mitchell was led a series of works by Robert Adams (1917-84). 

LOT 138 | § ROBERT ADAMS (BRITISH 1917-1984) THREE CIRCULAR FORMS (WALL SCULPTURE), 1961 | £8,000 - £12,000 + fees


View Three Circular Forms


The 2.73m high Three Circular Forms (Wall Sculpture) was included in Adams' career-defining one-man presentation at the Venice Biennale in 1962. As his biographer Alastair Grieve writes in The Sculpture of Robert Adams (1992), Adams was given two light, airy galleries in the British Pavilion, one to show historic work, the other for more recent pieces conceived with the Biennale in mind. “There were three works with large, flat planes, roughly circular, stacked above each other and balanced in relation to each other. Three Circular Forms followed from the wall-mounted sculptures with vertical rods supporting three planes”. Also shown as part of the artist’s retrospective at the Camden Arts Centre in 1971, its importance in the oeuvre was reflected in the price of £30,200*.

Adams has been described as “the neglected genius of post-war British sculpture”. Whilst not widely known outside of artistic circles, he was one of the foremost names of his generation. This work and other had been acquired by the owner in the 1960s from the Gimpel Fils gallery in London.

The much smaller 27cm high Rectangular Bronze Form No 6 and Rectangular Bronze Form No 3, both conceived in 1955, sold for £18,900* and £11,340* respectively. Both were made in an edition of just six pieces.


LOT 41 | § BREON O'CASEY (BRITISH 1928-2011) | BATHER | £6,000 - £8,000 + fees
BREON O'CASEY (BRITISH 1928-2011) | BATHER | Sold for £18,900*


View Bather


Another sometimes overshadowed British modernist is Breon O’Casey (1929-2001). Among the most versatile of the St Ives group of artists (he moved to Cornwall after watching a film about Alfred Wallis in the 1950s), he was represented here in number of different media - as a painter, printmaker, weaver, sculptor, and jewellery maker. His 26cm bronze Bather sold for £18,900*.


MM Mall Galleries April 2023


A cache of art and design objects consigned by legendary British textile artist and designer Ann Sutton (b.1935) were well received. Making room with the sale of 43 lots from her very personal art collection, she chose to part with some of the cutting-edge furniture created for her Arundel studio by former student Jim Partridge (b.1953). The artist cabinet-maker recalled that the pair worked together on a new kind of furniture that, while certainly not fine cabinet making, had plenty of attitude.


JIM PARTRIDGE (BRITISH 1953-) | DOUBLE SEAT, 1984 | Sold for £5,040*JIM PARTRIDGE (BRITISH 1953-) | DOUBLE SEAT, 1984 | Sold for £5,040*


View Double Seat, 1984 ⇒


A two-seat plank bench (£5,040*) and a warped stool (£3,024*), both from 198, as well as a bookcase from 1987 (£4,284*) were all included in the sale. Made in the saw-cut and scorched oak that became Partridge’s signature, he described these pieces as pioneers of “a new language for woodworking. I had exhibited this work before, but Ann was the first to buy it, to understand, trust and encourage the qualities I was hoping to achieve”.

A total of 22 lots by Partridge included a series of small-scale domestic wares - an egg rack (1986) and a toast rack (1984) sold for £819* and £693* respectively - and a series of bowls with estimates sold for prices between £403* and £1,386*.

JIM PARTRIDGE (BRITISH 1953-) | SIX BOWLS | Sold for £1,764*JIM PARTRIDGE (BRITISH 1953-) | SIX BOWLS | Sold for £1,764*


View Six Bowls ⇒


Ann Sutton herself has often pushed the boundaries of what can be ‘woven’, enlarging the possibilities of the geometry of warp and weft. When as a student in the 1950s she heard a senior and much-fêted craftsman scoff that modern weavers would even work with barbed wire if they could, Sutton interrupted from the lecture hall: “Why not?” One of her immediately recognisable framed weaves comprising multiple threads arranged vertically titled Double Knots Colour I from 2020 sold at £1,764*.





Lalique Mall Galleries April 2023


Competition for 150 lots of Lalique glass offered on 27 April came from the UK, US, Canada, Europe, Japan and Australia.

RENÉ LALIQUE (FRENCH 1860-1945) | GRANDE BOULE LIERRE VASE, NO. 877 | Sold for £25,200*
RENÉ LALIQUE (FRENCH 1860-1945) | GRANDE BOULE LIERRE VASE, NO. 877 | Sold for £25,200*


View the Grand Boule Lierre Vase ⇒


Attracting a good level of interest was the 36cm high Grand Boule Lierre with low relief leaf and vine decoration. This is a particularly early mould blown piece, numbered 877 in the René Lalique catalogue raisonné and designed in 1912, shortly after René Lalique (better known at the time as a superb artist jeweller) changed medium and began to produce decorative glass. In clear and frosted glass with slight sepia staining, it sold for £25,200*.

RENÉ LALIQUE (FRENCH 1860-1945) | ARAS VASE, NO. 919 | Sold for £22,680*
RENÉ LALIQUE (FRENCH 1860-1945) | ARAS VASE, NO. 919 | Sold for £22,680*


View the Aras Vase ⇒


Both a 33cm high Nanking (No.971) vase and the 23cm Aras (No.919) vase were designs from Lalique’s fashionable pomp in the mid-1920s. The 1925 Nanking, formed of patterns of adjoining triangles picked out in black stain, more than doubled its estimate to sell at £18,900*.


Lalique Mall Galleries April 2023


Among specialist Joy McCall’s favourite pieces in the sale, the 1924 Aras vase depicting macaws in flight and perched amongst foliage was seen here in a remarkable cased jade and white enamelled glass. An unusual and beautiful variation, it sold for £22,680*.





Poster Mall Galleries 2023


It was a classic image from the golden age of travel that topped the 50 lots of Travel & Vintage Posters on 26 April, AM Cassandre’s Normandie selling for£12,600*. Perhaps the artist’s greatest poster design, the image of a towering ‘floating palace’ was commissioned in 1935 to mark the opening of the ocean liner’s service with the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique.


A.M. CASSANDRE (1901-1968) | NORMANDIE | Sold for £12,600*

A.M. CASSANDRE (1901-1968) | NORMANDIE | Sold for £12,600*


View Normandie ⇒


A Scottish scene for LNER sold £12,096*. Over the Forth to the North from 1928 depicts the iconic railway bridge that, crossing the Forth estuary in Scotland, had the world’s longest span when it opened in 1890. Henry George Gawthorn's bold Art Deco style scene in shades of blue conveys the industrial aesthetic and structural impact of this remarkable feat of engineering.


HENRY GEORGE GAWTHORN (1879–1941) | THE FORTH BRIDGE | Sold for £12,096*
HENRY GEORGE GAWTHORN (1879–1941) | THE FORTH BRIDGE | Sold for £12,096*


View The Forth Bridge ⇒


The sale also featured Art Deco travel posters by Norman Wilkinson, whose 1927 "Royal Highlander" Approaches Aberdeen took £8,190*, and Charles Paine, designer of the 1921 London Underground posters for the Boat Race (£8,190*) and the penguins at London Zoo (£5,292*).




View "Royal Highlander" Approaches Aberdeen 


Consultant specialists Sophie Churcher of Tomkinson Churcher commented that “strong results were seen across all subject matters, with the top prices for posters by some of the best graphic designers and illustrators of the 20th century. We are particularly pleased with the group of 16 Scottish railway posters which were 94% sold and made a total of nearly £36,000 against a pre-sale estimate of £18,000*.”



Contemporary & Post-War Art


Characterised by competitive bidding, strong results and a high selling rate, our auctions that include Contemporary & Post-War Art are among our most popular auctions. Our strong private client base and excellent international marketing reach have seen these sales which take place across the UK grow into flagships of our company.


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The Lalique Department


Lyon & Turnbull’s Design Department is delighted to have introduced Lalique as a new biannual sale category in April 2021. No other auction house offers specialist sales devoted entirely to the work of René Lalique.

Senior Specialist, Joy McCall heads these sales as she previously did at Christie’s, London for many years. She has over 25 years of experience selling Lalique and brings to the process her knowledge and expertise together with a personal passion for the subject.


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Modern Design


Lyon & Turnbull is a leading auction house in Modern, Post-War and Contemporary Design, holding specialist live and online Design auctions in London and Edinburgh that are known for their international reach and strong results. 20th and 21st Century Design is a buoyant and exciting area of the market. With a wealth of experience, our Modern Design team offer expertise encompassing a range of media including ceramics, furniture, sculpture, lighting and textiles, holding auctions offering exceptional and important design from the last 100 years


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