On December 9, a collection of Frank Lloyd Wright furniture, drawings, and glasswork will hit the market for the first time ever. Listed through Christie’s, the collection is being sold by the Steelcase Corporation, an American furniture manufacturer with a unique tie to the famed American architect. In the mid-1930s, Wright was working on his seminal corporate design, S.C. Johnson’s Johnson Wax Headquarters, when “Steelcase was approached by Wright to manufacture furniture for [the building],” Michael Jefferson, a senior vice president at Christie’s and international senior specialist in 20th century design, tells AD. Later, in the mid-’80s, the manufacturer bought the Meyer House—a Wright-designed home in Grand Rapids, Michigan— restored the property, and opened the home to the public for tours.
The pieces included in December’s auction primarily span these two projects and include the executive desk master and executive arm chair master from the S.C. Johnson project and windows from the Meyer house. Also up for auction are original drawings done by Wright when he was designing furniture for both projects, including schematics for an officer’s chair from the S.C. Johnson building and the sofa and living room table from the Meyer house.
“This is the first opportunity to purchase works related to the Meyer May House and likely the only opportunity to acquire a desk or chair of this type designed for the S.C. Johnson & Son Administration Building,” Jefferson says. Both projects represent vastly different moment’s in the architects career. The Meyer House is a prime example of his Prairie School era, an earlier moment in the architect’s career when commissions most often came from the upper middle class. Generally, these properties feature hip roofs with long eaves, art glass ribbon windows, and strong horizontal lines. Wright designed multiple residential structures in this style for about 15 years in the early 1900s before shifting focus to more democratic architecture. The S.C. Johnson building, on the other hand, is considered Wright’s corporate masterpiece and to this day is regarded as one of the most notable American offices in existence. “The sale is an illustration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s evolving genius over decades,” Jefferson says.
The sale will be split into 12 lots, with each item auctioned separately. Steelcase says it plans to use some of the proceeds from the auction to invest in works from underrepresented minority and global artists so its corporate art collection can continue reflecting the diversity and global culture of today. For Wright fans, the sale represents a unique opportunity to own not only completed works, but also processual ones. “The pieces that we offer—drawings, windows, and furniture—show the process that Frank Lloyd Wright and his clients used to produce masterpieces,” Jefferson says.