Josef Albers - Design / Design Art New York Wednesday, December 13, 2006 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Estate of Herbert Bayer, Montecito, CA, USA

  • Exhibited

    Museum of Modern Art, "Bauhaus 1910-1928," New York, 1938

  • Literature

    Bauhaus, Zeitschrift für Bau und Gestaltung, vol. 4, Dessau, 1927, illustrated p. 1; Herbert Bayer, Walter Gropius, Ise Gropius, eds., Bauhaus 1910-1928, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1938, illustrated p. 135; 50 years Bauhaus, exh. cat., Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart, 1969, p. 106, cat. no. 226; Museum of Modern Art, The History and the collection, New York, 1985, p. 429, fig. 702; Klaus Weber, Die Metallwerkstatt am Bauhaus, exh. cat., Bauhaus-Archiv Museum für Gestaltung, Berlin, 1992, p. 130, ills. 16 and 17; Bauhaus-Archiv, Experiment Bauhaus, Berlin, 1988, p. 140, fig. 130; Torsten Bröhan and Thomas Berg, Design Classics 1880-1930, Cologne, 2001, illustrated p. 99; Nicholas Fox Weber and Martin Filler, Josef and Anni Albers Designs for Living, exh. cat., Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, New York, 2004, p. 107

  • Catalogue Essay

    A student and eventual professor at the Bauhaus, Josef Albers worked with many mediums such as glass, metal, furniture and typography. In 1923, Albers was selected to teach the one-year preliminary design course at the Bauhaus, along with László Moholy-Nagy. Moholy-Nagy’s appointment was indicative of the shift away from hand-craftsmanship and towards the machine aesthetic.

    Albers’ tea glass and saucer are emblematic of this new marriage of art and industry. The present lot combined industrial materials and techniques with vernacular form, exemplifying the Bauhaus’ philosophy of the mid-1920s. The tea glass' form stems from traditional types used in Eastern Europe and Russia where tea is most commonly drunk from a glass, as opposed to a ceramic, vessel. The tea glass has two handles; one horizontal handle and one vertical handle, in order to accommodate both the person passing the cup as well as the person receiving the cup. This two-handled design reflects upon the designer’s belief that a one-handled cup was impractical and awkward to pass from one person to another.

    There are two extant examples of this piece, one in the Museum of Modern Art in New York which was a gift from Josef Albers and the present lot. Two other versions in an incomplete state, without the stirrer, can be seen in the collection of the Bauhaus-Archiv in Berlin but the saucers are of a different shape and made by a different, possibly later, porcelain manufacturer.

  • Artist Biography

    Josef Albers

    German-American • 1888 - 1976

    Josef Albers was a German-American artist and educator, best known for his series Homage to the Square. His rigid, geometric works focus on the interplay of color and shape, and Albers is considered one of the fathers of both Minimalism and Conceptual Art. 

    Albers was born in Bottrop, Germany, and relocated to Munich in 1919 to study at the city’s Academy of Fine Arts. Albers began his career as an educator at the famous Bauhaus in 1922, first as a stained glass instructor and then as a full professor in 1925. Working at the Bauhaus brought Albers into contact with many other famous artists of the period, including Kandinsky and Klee. When the Nazis forced the Bauhaus’ closure in 1933, Albers left Germany and settled permanently in the United States. 

    For ten years, Albers (and his wife, fellow artist Anni Albers) taught at Black Mountain College, a progressive school in North Carolina. Between his time there and later at Yale University, Albers taught a number of artists who would later become quite famous, including Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Eva Hesse, Ruth Asawa and Richard Anuszkiewicz.

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Extremely rare and important tea glass with saucer and stirrer

Heat-resistant glass, chrome-plated steel, ebony, porcelain.
Glass: 2 1/4 x 3 1/2 in. (5.1 x 8.9 cm); saucer: 4 1/4 in. (10.5 cm) diameter; stirrer: 4 1/4 x 1/2 in. (10.8 x 1.1 cm)
Glass: manufactured by Jenaer Glaswerke Schott & Gen., Germany; saucer: manufactured by Staatliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Meissen GmbH, Germany; steel ring: manufactured by Krupp AG, Germany; saucer: stamped with crossed swords and point(Pfeiffermarke); steel ring: stamped with “V2A” “Krupp.”

$60,000 - 80,000 

Sold for $268,000

Design / Design Art

14 Dec 2006, 2pm
New York