Am Isamu Noguchi fossil marble table, commissioned in 1948 by Mr. and Mrs. Samuel C. Dretzin, sold for more than twice its high estimate today at Christie’s Important 20th Century Decorative Art & Design sale, making $2,882,500 with buyer’s premium. It had been estimated to sell for between $800,000 and $1.2 million and is, according to the accompanying text, the “most important piece of Noguchi furniture ever to come to public sale.” According to the Artnet database, it is the most expensive work of Noguchi ever sold in a design sale and the third-highest price ever realized for a work by the artist.
The Dretzins were most likely referred to Noguchi by Sydney Katz, who was designing their summer home in Chappaqua, N.Y., which was featured in House & Garden in February 1950. And it was reportedly Ginny Geiger, the Dretzin’s daughter, known for rubbing elbows with young designers in New York, who likely brought the Dretzins in contact with Katz.
This wasn’t the first commission that Noguchi took on for private clients. In 1939, he designed a glass-top rosewood table for A. Conger Goodyear, then president of the Museum of Modern Art. That table would evolve into the renowned design produced by Herman Miller.
But while the sculptor took on these design commissions, he refused to distinguish between fine art and applied art. He once said, “Even the first table I made for Conger Goodyear was not exactly utilitarian. I thought of it as sculpture that was a table. After all, you can say that the earth is a table. We feast upon it. You can also say that it is utilitarian, this earth.”