Shapiro sale to test modern design appetite

By Jane O'Sullivan | The Australian Financial Review | Wednesday 4 November 2015

Shapiro's design sale in Sydney will test how much the surging interest in mid-century design has improved the market for Australian designers such as Schulim Krimper.

The sale on November 10 includes eight pieces by the late cabinetmaker from Victoria that were part of a large commission to furnish the Sydney home of Janek and Joyce Landau in the 1950s. His work comes to auction regularly but this Sydney provenance is highly unusual.

Auctioneer Andrew Shapiro says the market for Schulim Krimper's​ work went quiet for a few years after his death in 1971, but is now picking up again as mid-century design takes centre stage. "Now we're finding people with the interest in mid-century design are looking at Krimper in the same way they look at [Grant] Featherston or Gordon Andrews or other mainstream designers," he says.
The sale is one of three 20th and 21st century design sales at Shapiro this year. "Personally, I don't think there's any energy in brown furniture any more," Shapiro says. "It's just not where people are putting their money for home furnishings."

The available property stock is one reason. "A lot of value right now, at least in Sydney and probably in Melbourne, is in 1950s and 1960s apartments," he says.

Then there are the art collectors. "Serious collectors of modern and contemporary art are… buying very high quality modern and contemporary furniture. Nothing brings down the quality of a painting more than badly designed furniture in the same room."


He also points to the role of lifestyle magazines in educating audiences about designers and the importance of feature pieces. But while these magazines have paid a lot of attention to iconic designers like Featherston – and there is plenty of Featherston in this sale – Shapiro believes local buyers have always had a "high passion for Australian made". He foresees a day when Krimper "will be considered probably one of the best furniture makers in mid-century Australian design".

A 1950s bookcase, estimated at $8000 to $12,000, is similar to pieces held by the National Gallery of Victoria and other public collections. There is also a chess table, estimated between $3000 and $5000.

The Shapiro sale also includes 14 pieces of furniture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and reproduced in 1994, including a cantilevered sofa exemplifying Wright's interest in geometric forms and strong lines. It's estimated at $6000 to $9000, however Shapiro notes that if it was of the period, it would be selling for $250,000.

While the market for 20th and 21st century design is growing, Shapiro says there are still entry-level opportunities. Two Schulim Krimper card tables (the Landaus liked their bridge parties) are expected to go for about $3000, and there is a folding screen by Caroline Casey estimated at just $1500 to $2500. Her work is in public collections but "people haven't caught on they should be collecting it," Shapiro says.

20/21C Art and Design

Auction Tuesday 20 November 6pm

View the full catalogue and results online