The arrival of the Charles and Ray Eames show at the Library of Congress appears to have fueled collectors' appetites. At two auctions timed to coincide with the traveling exhibition, Eames collectibles broke records.
At a Treadway Gallery auction in Oak Park, Ill., four lots topped the charts on May 23. A sculpture made by Ray Eames from a plywood leg splint brought $130,000, five times the low estimate. The Eameses sold 150,000 splints to the Navy in the 1940s; this was one of three turned into art.
A dining chair upholstered in the hide of an unborn calf brought $35,000; a rare model storage unit, $27,000; and a child's chair, $15,000. The chair, the first piece of Eames furniture to go into production, originally cost $2.10.
Of the 150 pieces offered, many came from the collection of Charles Stewart and the late Robert Breeze of Mount Rainier, Md.
In Los Angeles the preceding week, a sale by Los Angeles Modern Auctions brought the previous record of $129,000 for a rare prototype of a chair designed by Charles Eames with Eero Saarinen for a 1940 Museum of Modern Art competition.
"People ask how this stuff they cranked out could cost so much," says Eames Demetrios, grandson of Charles Eames, who runs the Eames Office in Venice, Calif. "It's like books. You can read the same words in a paperback, but first editions make the money."
CAPTION: Charles Eames with Eero Saarinen, circa 1940s. The undated photo sold at auction for $1,500.
CAPTION: Child's chair, originally $2.10.
CAPTION: Dining chair upholstered in unborn calf hide.