Rudolph Schindler - Design New York Wednesday, July 29, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Elizabeth Van Patten, Los Angeles
    Private collection, Los Angeles

  • Literature

    "Portfolio," Building Types, March 1937, p. 29
    Marla C. Berns, ed., The Furniture of R.M. Schindler, exh. cat., University Art Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara, 1997, pp. 57, 124
    Judith Sheine, R.M. Schindler, London, 2001, pp. 94, 161
    Michael Darling, et al., The Architecture of R.M. Schindler, exh. cat., The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2001, pp. 57, 130
    Marilyn F. Friedman, Making America Modern: Interior Design in the 1930s, New York, 2018, pp. 122-23

  • Catalogue Essay

    In 1934, Elizabeth Van Patten commissioned California-based modernist architect Rudolph Schindler to design a residence for three women in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. The three separate apartments of the interior would be joined by communal spaces, for which Rudolph employed new furniture designs meant to provide the users with more flexibility. Rather than using custom built-ins, he designed Schindler Units, a group of seating designs based on the principle that furniture could easily be moved around, rearranged and reconfigured from room to room, adapting to changes in the home or the user’s needs. Each Unit was of asymmetrical design and without definite orientation, allowing it to be "individualized" for each use. The present Unit chair and ottoman from the Van Patten house, would have originally overlooked the Silver Lake, or, when sharing an ottoman with a sofa of similar design, turned to be conversational with other occupants of the house.

    The Schindler Units were fabricated in plywood, an industrial material that was beginning to come into use for furniture construction as a main wood rather than a hidden, secondary wood. They were intended for mass production, and while a number had been produced for Schindler’s residential projects in the 1930s, they never realized full mass market potential, rendering them rare examples of Schindler’s modernist design ideals.

    An example of the present model chair belongs to the permanent collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.


"Unit" chair and ottoman, from the Van Patten residence, Los Angeles, California

circa 1934
Limed oak plywood, fabric upholstery.
Chair: 27 1/2 x 35 x 36 in. (69.9 x 88.9 x 91.4 cm)
Ottoman: 14 1/2 x 21 x 21 in. (36.8 x 53.3 x 53.3 cm)

Together with receipt addressed to Elizabeth Van Patten and dated March 16, 1936.

$15,000 - 20,000 

Sold for $32,500

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New York Auction 29 July 2020