Harry Bertoia - Design Evening New York Thursday, December 13, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Fairweather Hardin Gallery, Chicago, acquired from the artist, 1978
    Hokin Gallery, Bay Harbor Islands, Florida
    Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1981

  • Literature

    June Kompass Nelson, Harry Bertoia Sculptor, Detroit, 1970, fig. 72 for similar examples
    Nancy N. Schiffer and Val O. Bertoia, The World of Bertoia, Atglen, 2003, throughout for similar examples
    Gilberto Granger, ed., Harry Bertoia: Decisi che una sedia non poteva bastare, Milan, 2009, pp. 37, 40, 71, 114, 119, 185-87 for similar examples
    Celia Bertoia, The Life and Work of Harry Bertoia: the Man, the Artist, the Visionary, Atglen, 2015, throughout for similar examples

  • Catalogue Essay

    During the early 1960s, Harry Bertoia moved away from furniture design and began focusing on more sculptural works. His exploration into sound sculpture, a process he called “Sonambient,” added a new dimension to his fluency in materials. These bold and dynamic sculptures, ranging from a few inches to twenty feet tall, incorporate a flat drilled metal base fitted with metal rods made from bronze, beryllium copper, aluminum, Monel, or in the present example, Inconel and brass. The musicality of the sculpture is embedded within the dexterity of the materials when they are moved together. Each sculpture has a unique reverberating tonal quality.

    Adjacent to his studio in Bally, Pennsylvania, Bertoia created a Sonambient Barn, which was a space dedicated to arranging and experimenting with his sounding sculptures. In addition to using his hands to stretch, bend and strike the sculptures, he was also interested in how they responded to natural elements. "I build sculptures that can move in the wind, or that can be touched and played,” Bertoia said. The material and scale of each piece creates a distinctive emotion Bertoia described as, “Joy, suffering, happiness, sorrow — if you happen to have a bit of metal in your hands, you just shape it.”

    Through his investigation of various dimensions and materials Bertoia taught himself to play these sculptures like an instrument, which eventually led to his creation of Sonambient orchestras. He later released a series of albums that have since become renowned in the world of experimental sound art. The experiential and physical nature of Bertoia’s "Sonambient" sculptures, in addition to their elegant aesthetic, add to the meditative sounds created by this monumental designer and artist.

Property from a Distinguished Private Collection


Monumental "Sonambient" sounding sculpture

circa 1977
Inconel, brass.
85 x 12 x 12 in. (215.9 x 30.5 x 30.5 cm)
Together with a certificate of authenticity from the Harry Bertoia Foundation.

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $125,000

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Design Evening

New York Auction 13 December 2018