Scott Burton - Design New York Wednesday, December 7, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Scott Burton took an unconventional path to his career in furniture design. First working as a critic for Art News and Art in America, in the early 1970s he began making performance art that incorporated found objects before finally creating stand-alone furniture in rigorous geometric forms that dissolved the boundaries between art and design. While his contemporary Donald Judd created minimalist furniture outside his sculptural practice, for Burton furniture-making was his sculptural practice.


    The present lot, Five-Part Storage Cubes, is a departure from Burton’s body of work in a number of ways. Whereas the majority of his designs take their color and pattern from the inherent qualities of the material at hand, such as sparkly grey granite, green marble, or striated plywood, Burton crafted Five-Part Storage Cubes from painted wood in bold, saturated colors. Burton also primarily focused on table and seating forms, whereas the present work is a storage piece, meant for an interior space as opposed to the public outdoor spaces that informed many of his commissions.   


    Scott Burton sitting on one of his furniture designs, 1983.
    Artwork © 2022 Estate of Scott Burton/ Artist Rights Society (ARS), NY.


    On the other hand, Burton’s fundamental interest in the interaction of art and people – a through-line from his earlier forays in performance art – remains at play with the present work. Burton believed that art should ''place itself not in front of, but around, behind, underneath (literally) the audience.'' Standing nearly five feet tall and finished on all sides with cabinets facing in all directions, Five Part Storage Cubes takes up space, inviting the viewer to explore it from all sides. Despite its mass and stature, it also exhibits movement and dynamism, with the cubes seemingly floating upwards.


    As an avid student of design history, Burton took inspiration from Constructivism, the Bauhaus, and the De Stijl movement – most notably the furniture of Gerrit Rietveld, whose interest in intersecting rectilinear planes clearly informed the composition of Five-Part Storage Cubes.

    • Provenance

      Daniel Weinberg Gallery, Los Angeles, acquired directly from the artist
      Thence by descent to the present owners

    • Literature

      Brenda Richardson, Scott Burton, exh. cat., Baltimore Museum of Art, 1986, illustrated p. 58
      Jiri Svestka, ed., Scott Burton: Sculptures, 1980-89, Düsseldorf, 1989, p. 50

Property from a Private American Collection


“Five-Part Storage Cubes”

Painted wood.
53 x 57 x 43 1/2 in. (134.6 x 144.8 x 110.5 cm)
Number 1 from the edition of 2.

Full Cataloguing

$15,000 - 20,000 

Sold for $17,640

Contact Specialist

Benjamin Green
Associate Specialist

Associate Head of Sale
+1 917 207 9090



New York Auction 7 December 2022